Sometimes, you need to change your scenery, just for a few days or even for a few years or for good, but you want to make sure that you will be able to practice your bike riding hobby in the same conditions as what you are used to or even better.
Look no more, we concocted you a list of some of the best biking cities in the US!
All the cities that we have selected for this list had to comply with five indispensable characteristics that make a city a great place to bike according to us. Without further due, those five must-have features are:
- A quality bikeway network
- A bike share program
- An impressive panel of nice places and parks to explore (by bike obviously)
- A nice selection of biking events
- And last but not least,
We examined dozens of great biking cities in the USA with those five qualities, and we narrowed them for their seriousness with our 5 points to the lucky number 7!
Shall we begin?
The approximate 200 miles of bikeways (last estimated in 2018) sure make a pale figure if you compare them to our other featured cities, but they are in constant progress and are part of a 30 years plan that aims to ensure safe bike rides all over Boston.
Impressive Bike share
To make those rides more accessible, of course, Boston offers its own Bike share system: Bluebikes. This bike share system is quite original as it links several cities in addition to Boston, such as Arlington, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Newton, Revere, Salem, Somerville, and Watertown. So you can bike your way all through these municipalities.
You can find more than 3000 bikes, dispatched in more than 350 locations!
Are you ready to enjoy it??
If you want to use it regularly for short rides, it is the best deal that you can find, but if you plan on riding it for more than 45min, I would advise you to rent a bike in a bike shop! Do you want to know where to find one? Look at this list!
History and nature
Boston is not a big city, but this is a town that has witnessed quite some history!
You can find some ideas of where to ride on Bluebikes with some themed rides. I am sure you will enjoy them as you can cultivate yourself with some historical facts and ride!
There are so many other trails that you can wander along! The most famous are the Charles River Bike Path (between 13 and 23 miles), the Arnold Arboretum (a little less than 5 miles), the Minuteman Bikeway Path (approximately 11 miles), the Stony Brook Reservation (from 2 to 12 miles), or the Mystic River Greenway (around 4 miles)…
Sport and Charity
In Boston, you have so many events you can attend according to your liking and abilities!
As in several of the best biking cities in the US we mention here, Boston holds a Triathlon. If you want to participate, you can choose between two options: the Olympic (longer distances) or the sprint race (shorter distances). What is special about this triathlon is that you have the possibility to compete as a relay team!
So, if you want to participate and let’s say you don’t want to swim or run, you can find two buddies to enroll with who will do those parts! So you wanna try this ride?
Do you want to learn about more options? Of course you do! If I were you I would want more too!
The city of Boston is actively invested in the yearly festival Bike to Work Day that it organizes! This event encourages and empowers newcomers or people who were afraid to bike to work to do so. It also celebrates biking commuters. Participants are invited for a breakfast and to get a T-shirt at one of the dedicated locations. You don’t have to live there to enjoy it, so enjoy the ride!
You can also find several kinds of charity rides such as the Bike MS: Great Maine Getaway 2021 that raises money to fight sclerosis, the Annual Mattapan on Wheels Bike-a-thon which proposes a ride to raise funds or work around a more friendly neighborhood, or the Bikes Not Bombs’ Bike-a-thon that fights for :
- “ The reclamation of bikes for use in unique local and international social justice projects;
- Opportunities for youth and adults to gain hands-on skills while working to build a more sustainable world;
- Meaningful jobs and professional mentorship for Boston teenagers and young adults; and
- The expansion of a thriving, equitable bike culture, locally and globally. “
I will stop there, but I am sure you will find some other events that will fit you.
Regular and steady improvements
As I told you, Boston has a big 30 years plan that is due by 2030, and it entails many different aspects.
- A great effort is planned to improve the comfort and safety of the cyclists with better bike lanes that would allow a better and safer connection between residential, working, studying and outdoor recreational areas. (Yeah, just this!)
- On infrastructure, so many things are in progress we won’t mention them all here, but i’ll give you some more intel about it.
- Every year, 80 bike racks get installed on the streets.
- There is a vision zero program that aims at making crossroads safer and putting some priority corridors. In some streets of the city, there will be some limited access for cars according to the time of the day.
- There is also a plan to expand the bike share system… I will stop there because it goes on and on and I already mentioned the most important parts, but if you want to know more, I invite you to look at The Go Boston 2030 project!
- Every year, 80 bike racks get installed on the streets.
With more than 300 miles of bikeways in the whole city, Chicago also includes close to 90 miles of buffered or barrier-protected lanes according to the Organisation Chicago Complete Streets. Is that enough to keep you occupied for a while?
One of the biggest bike share
Chigaco has one of the biggest bike share systems in the US (6000 bikes over 600 stations). Divvy allows you to pick and drop a bike in one of the hundreds of stations in the Chicago Area. The plus of Divvy is that you can choose between a pedal-assist e-bike or a classical ride.
Are you ready to adventure yourself on a ride?
A Diversity of Rides
Some very popular rides are both North and South Lakefront trails. By going North, you will enjoy the beaches of Lake Michigan but you will also be able to check a few attractions of the city.
Whereas by going South, you will be able to join different cultural sites, attraction points, and recreational zones. But there are obviously other trails that you can follow. You can go pretty much anywhere by bike and enjoy whatever you are interested in: culture, food, adventure….
Want to get more ideas? Visit Things to do in Chicago!
Events for all
Don’t worry about finding an interesting event in Chicago, you will find hands full of them without even trying too hard! This is our selection :
- The Major Trail Keepers is an annual fundraiser/festival that celebrates the anniversary of the victory of Marshall “Major “Taylor, of the world 1-mile championship in Montreal in 1899. He was the first African-American to become a sports hero. During this event, you can take part in the trail of your choice to commemorate this event and to promote and support bike-friendly projects in Chicago. The event occurs in August.
- Chicago Critical Mass, in an event happening every month on the last friday. It is free of charge and you can join thousands of cyclists and enjoy a great ride through the streets of the city!
- You are a multifaceted athlete and enjoy more than cycling? You can also participate in the Transamerica Chicago triathlon and illustrate yourself swimming, running and pedaling! (Actually, you can choose different types of trials and find a challenge made for you).
- In the fall period, you can also enjoy the event Bike the Drive, organised by non-profit advocacy organization Active Transportation Alliance which works at improving the walking, cycling and public transportation experience in the city of Chicago.
Improving seriously since 2011
In Chicago, the bike friendly policies began to take place in 2011 and have been building up ever since.
The plan of the city council develops itself in 3 points (I quote) :
- “to provide a bicycle accommodation within half-mile of every Chicagoan;
- to provide more bikeways where more people live; and
- to build more infrastructure where ridership is high, while establishing a strong backbone of infrastructure where ridership is currently lower.”
Madison takes great pride announcing that the city holds more bikes than cars, indeed, it shelters 200 miles of trails, that does not even count the bikeways in the city! Very hospitable with bicycle riders, this little city has nothing to envy the bigger cities mentioned in this list. Indeed, Madison is one of the 5 cities that received Platinum status from the League of American Bicyclists in 2015, for being bike friendly! So, did I poke your curiosity?
Little but inventive
Of Course, Madison also has its own bike share program! Its name is Madison BCycle and it holds more than 40 stations for more than 350 bikes. Yes, it seems little in comparison to the other best biking cities in the US mentioned here, but let’s keep in mind that Madison is much smaller and much less populated too!
Plus, Madison BCycle are electric-assist bikes for your comfort, you can choose to turn it on or not! Another plus, if you choose one of the artsy ones, some of the money you paid will go to a charity, isn’t it inspiring to ride on?!
Well, if you need or prefer to rent a bike in Madison for a few days, here you will find a list of specialized shops!
Trails for nature lovers
Trails around and in Madison are full of promises! You have so many trails accessible, directly from the city and they can be very long (well obviously depending on your standards….)! Of course, exploring the city by bike is a GREAT option, but exploring the nature-oriented or park trails sounds even greater to me!
So if you prefer to explore the city, I can only invite you to refer to the bike maps of Madison page, where you will find all the bikeways of Madison and if needed where to find a station to get a BCycle!
For nature lovers, the many options might make you dizzy!
You can choose to go on the famous Lake Monona Loop where you will bike on the shore of the lake and enjoy crossing different parks such as the Botanical Park, or the Winnequah Park.
Or you can choose to take the 51-mile long Military Ridge Trail to appreciate its spectacular views. Moreover, you can make your ride even more adventurous since from this trail, you can access the Quarry Ridge Trail system, which is a terrific park for riding lovers who want to improve or practice skills on different types of trails.
Low profile on Events
Finding biking events in Madison can be a little bit trickier than in other towns mentioned here, but it doesn’t mean that they are not there.
The most famous bicycle function in Madison is the bike to work day that actually lasts a week! Yep, a week when riders are welcome anywhere with discounts and/or treats from local businesses that want to take an active part in promoting a healthier lifestyle in the community. This shows how important biking is in this city! The event usually takes place in September, if you want to plan a trip at this moment of the year.
In other moments, you can easily find several group rides as well, going from different parts of the town from specialized sites such as cycling activities near Madison one, or from the Madison Bicycle center.
The latest will also be able to guide you on other kinds of biking events and indicate the best trails since it is run by the city of Madison and by Madison Freewheel Bicycle Co (a biking charitable organization). So don’t be shy and pay them a visit to get more info while you are there.
Looooooong term planning
Concerning the continuing development of the city as a bike friendly space, Madison keeps working on several aspects. This is a continuous project, but a big part of it is due to 2050. The project is articulated around several lines :
- planning more projects and programs to keep developing biking facilities and increasing the number of bicycles being ridden. Several state agencies, counties and governments are working together toward that goal.
- installing bike racks in the whole city. A service dedicated to this task exists, and calls involved citizens to signal when they notice that a place would be a convenient bike parking place.
- making more bikeways and protected lanes. (Some streets are under tests for now).
- installing Signal Detection Indicator for Bicycles in some locations, to give priority to riders and make intersections safer.
- reviewing and updating the maps.
According to minneapolismn.gov, you will find in your riding adventure in Minneapolis 16 miles of on-street protected bikeways, 98 miles of bike lanes, and 101 miles of off-street bikeways and trails! That’s a lot to explore and wander through! Don’t you think?
Rides within reach
Minneapolis’ bike share system Nice Ride is quite an impressive network as you can find 3000 bikes over 400 stations! It is affordable as long as you respect the time limits of your pass. Therefore, it is very practical for short rides for commuting from one place to another, but if you want to go on a trail or enjoy a long ride, you should consider renting a bike in a shop. You can even find several options on the website of Meet Minneapolis, City by Nature.
A delightful mix of parks, city and trails
In Minneapolis, you can explore no less than 180 parks! Yes 180, I did not add a zero by mistake. And all those parks count around 55 miles of biking and walking paths to wander through them. As you do, you will encounter nature sanctuaries, lakes, gardens, and playgrounds.
If you’re more of a city person and enjoy seeing pieces of art in the city, you have the option to take 7 different self-guided tours taking between 20 mins and 2 hours. You will see at least 10 pieces of art for each tour. See more info about it here!
As a plus, you can easily go to another very friendly biking city in the US, that is St Paul. This represents an approximate 9 miles ride to go from Minneapolis to St Paul.
Minneapolis is definitely a place to bike through where you can enjoy breathtaking views of a beautiful blend of mother nature and city lines. Hop on your bike and enjoy the rides…
Strong community events
You have a few options offered to you in Minneapolis such as :
- one of the many events organised all year long in Theodore Wirth Park by the Loppet Foundation and or by the Minneapolis Off-road Cycling Advocates (MOCA).
- The bike shop Behind bars is also a very proactive creator of biking events all year long for different kinds of publics offering different rides every week.
- If you are interested in long rides and Randonneuring, The Minnesota Randonneurs are the ones you want to follow on their events. They organise rides weekly.
These are just a handful of events out of hundreds all year round, you will easily find something for you.
11 strategies and 10 years plan
To make life easier for bicycle riders, buses and trains have been equipped with bike racks for two-wheels non-motorized bicycles, and you can find secured bike parking with lockers in most stations, transit centers, parks, and ride locations.
But what is the city of Minneapolis doing now?
The plan now consists of 11 strategies/actions that are to be put in place during the next ten years. To say it very simply the plan is to extend protected bikeways and make them safer. The ultimate goal is to make the city risk-free for everyone no matter the age or the level of cycling so that more and more people prefer riding a bike to their destination.
To expand the network of bikeways and greenways, the project is to create new paths, and better connect the existing ones.
The idea is to total 81 miles of protected lanes on high traffic streets, 51 miles of neighborhood greenways (street with a limitation of speed for motor vehicles with a priority for cyclists), and 9 miles of new trails connecting to the shores of the Mississippi river, or to old train rails to be converted in trails. There is also a will to enable people to go to and from different cities and regional interest points by trails and bike lanes.
To make safer the bikeways, of course, it is planned to design better crossings, and bike lanes, but offering an educational program for those who don’t feel safe riding yet is not just an option but a real set goal, as well as including the community and measuring the improvement made and the ones to do still.
Learn more about the transportation action plan!
In 2014, New York City counted more than 1,200 miles of bike lanes, including 83 protected miles.
Since then and until 2019, NYC developed this network with an average of 62 miles of bike lanes, containing an average of 20 miles of protected bike lanes every year.
The biggest Bike share of the US
New York City also has a bike share system: Citi Bike. Actually, it is even the biggest in the US today with 20,000 bikes that you can find in more than 1300 stations all over the city. It is great for short trips, but if you want to do sightseeing bike rides, renting a bike will be cheaper.
City rides and tours
In NYC there are fewer trail rides that you can do in comparison to the other best biking cities in the US mentioned here, but, there are still so many rides that you can do just for the pleasure of sightseeing/riding that I doubt that you will get bored!
One of the most popular rides that you can do in the Big Apple is the loop of Central Park. But with 843 acres, you can definitely ride more than that and explore some other paths there!
Some other very famous and popular rides of the city are the Hudson River Greenway, the Brooklyn Greenway, or even exploring Governor Island. But there are so many other options that we won’t mention them all.
On the other hand, if you like hearing about some local stories and cultural facts about the city, you can of course pay for a tour, and get all this valuable information!
Diversity of sporty events
In terms of events in New York, you will never have time to get bored!
For versatile and sporty people, you already have 2 triathlons that you can attend: the New York City Triathlon, and the former Central Park Triathlon: Rock the Beach Triathlon. Are you ready for them??
For those who also like taking part in races, there are several that you can look up and sign up to! You can get some examples on this bike rental shop’s website.
You can also find some charity events like the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, which attracts many riders. The event aims at raising money to provide free education opportunities around cycling to the citizens of the Big Apple.
Twice a year, there is the Brooklyn Bike Jumble, an event where you can find pieces to repair/make your bicycle and where you can seek advice from professionals.
See you have plenty of biking things to do in NYC!
New projects every year
Just like the other best biking cities in the US mentioned here, New York takes cyclist safety very seriously and develops and plans each year new projects to make it safer to ride a bike in its streets.
As I mentioned, the development of the bike lane network has been growing steadily with 62 miles of the lane of which 20 protected miles between 2014 and 2019.
From the summer of 2019, the objective became to grow it by 30 miles of protected lanes per year and to increase by 75 miles of lanes where the risks for cyclists is higher. But this is just about the infrastructure.
On another side, some other projects are developing targeting education, police enforcement, trucks, parkings…
With more than 385 miles of bike lanes, we can’t deny that Portland is a very bike friendly city. Some of those lanes are even called bike boulevards!
Simple and practical
There are so many places where you can explore biking in Portland or around it that we will just mention a few.
- You can of course explore by yourself the city of Portland in many different ways. If you want some ideas of tracks to follow, I invite you to check this map with the best bike rides in Portland.
- If you like to be guided by people who know their way around the city and its surroundings, you can also decide to undertake one of the multiple themed tours proposed by different rental companies.
- For mountain bike riders of every level, you will take great pleasure pedaling through the options offered by the Columbia River Gorge. 30 miles outside of the city, these trails include gorgeous views and great enjoyments.
- For those who prefer an easier track, you can take the Springwater trail on the Willamette, which is very popular for its wildlife and soothing atmosphere. Moreover, from this trail, you can access a Wildlife refuge, and several parks.
But these are just the tip of the iceberg and you can find so many more options to enjoy riding, I am sure you will find several that will enchant you!
Profusion of events
In Portland, you have quite some choice to enjoy a nice ride!
- Every June You can take part in Portland’s edition of the World Naked Bike Ride, where you’ll ride in your birthday suit (or not or maybe body painted) with thousands of riders. This is the world’s largest edition of this epic world ride as it attracts around 10K of people!
- Since 2008, Portland has been holding a free-of-car event inspired by Bogota’s Sunday’s events. It takes place one Sunday a month from 11am to 4pm between May and September. On these days, miles of road are reserved to pedestrians, cyclists and rollers-skaters. On these occasions, the parks get filled with local food vendors, animations for all, and (very important for cyclists) bike repair points. Get more info!
- The next event I’ll talk about is a one month event! Pedalpalooza offers over 100 rides to share with inventive locals!
This is a very short selection of all the possibilities that you can encounter as events to ride, if you want some more ideas check out the official biking events guide and surprise yourself with all the possibilities!
Portland has a great agenda to continue developing safer conditions of traffic for all, and developing walking and biking in the city. This plan is so huge that it is due by 2035!
The Portland Bureau of Transportation is still :
- implementing more bikeways and sideways
- improving security on those that exist.
- doing regular maintenance on the existing tracks.
In addition, the city answers to most of the needs of its bike riders, with the installation of bike racks and renting lockers for gears in lots of different locations (you have to live there and apply to get one, but this is still great, right?!).
More info about this? Check the Portland bicycle resources!
San Francisco, California
Counting 356 miles of trails just for the San Francisco Bay Trail, the city of San Francisco is impressively well equipped in trails and bikeways for the safety and comfort of bicycle riders. You can even find a cycling highway there! Plus as you will see, San Francisco makes a continuing effort to keep growing and improving the safety and experience of the continuously growing number of riders in the City by the Bay.
Huge and freeing system
The Golden City makes evidently no exception in our list and has an important bike share program called Bay Wheels. It counts 400 stations and an estimated 4500 bikes available.
The program is quite practical on several points. Installing the app is not necessary, and you don’t have to pay by card, you can pay cash in a designated area and fill out a prepaid card for when you need to use a bike. You also have the choice between an e-bike or a regular one. But there is still the same problem as always, if you don’t want to pay penalties, you must ride the bike less than 45 minutes at a time, which is quite a buzz killer when you want to enjoy a nice trail ride…
Parks, city and legendary rides
As I was doing my research for this article, if there was something REALLY easy to find, it was the multitude of trails to explore in San Francisco!
You can explore the park of the Presidio that is quite diverse and also gives you access to several museums, parks that are connected to each other on the shore side, and most importantly, it connects to the Golden Gate Bridge. Because who on Earth goes to San Francisco and doesn’t go to the Golden Gate!?
On another note, if you want to go on big adventures, once you have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, and reached the location of Sausalito, you can decide to push on the 25-mile trail of Paradise loop where you will keep on seeing breathtaking views.
If you would like to explore the city in itself, there are several neighborhoods that you should visit, such as Twin Peaks, Mission District, or the Embarcadero… But if I were you, I would be very curious to ride San Francisco’s coastal Great Highway that connects Lake Merced Park to Lands End Lookout.
The golden city’s biking community is pretty active and offers quite some events you can partake in!
- Just like the city of Portland, San Francisco holds a Sunday Streets Event, a serie of 10 Sundays per year from March to September that are car-free Sundays celebrating a healthy lifestyle while enjoying the city by bike, or by foot. Each Sunday is dedicated to one area of the city which invites you to explore properly. Here is a fun and safe way to discover the city.
- Every month, you can participate in an East Bay Bike Party. In every edition, you will have a new theme for the ride and a new “guide”, Every time, the itinerary is different and you will enjoy having fun bike partying!
- Regularly, you can also find a few community event on the website of San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, offering group rides such as group rides for women or non-binary people, or cycling lessons for people of all ages and levels, or even some webinars/info nights….
- If you want to pedal more, you can also choose to enter into the Marin Century, a great challenging road cycling ride for different kinds of riders from beginners to experts with 5 distances to choose from. The event is hosted in Stafford Lake Park in Novato about 27 miles from San Francisco and promises you some great views and challenges!
I am sure you will find even more options with a little research.
3 years at a time
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), in difference with some other best biking cities in the US on our list, prefers to plan for 3 years at a time. Indeed, they measure constantly 4 metrics to check the efficiency and the progress made by the installations in place. The aim is to plan during the 3 years what is actually needed by people now or in the near future, having in mind the impact that technology might have on traffic.
Among the metrics, (1) improving safety, comfort, & connectivity for all people traveling by bike, (2) implementing & use of bike parking, (3) expanding bike education & access, and (4) ensuring SFMTA’s project’s delivery, accountability & transparency are the core metrics of the studies to make improvements.
The SFMTA says in its 2019 Bike Program Report that “Potential improvements include:
- striping and signing changes,
- signal hardware or timing modifications,
- addition/modification of raised elements such as safe-hit posts and concrete islands,
- addition of colored markings, bike boxes, wayfinding, and bike turn lanes.
Five to ten projects are designed and implemented each year.”
The finish line
There you know better about all these cities that we have selected as our best biking cities in the US. With that said, please keep in mind when settling or traveling somewhere, to get informed about the biking laws and customs applicable where you are or will be. They can sometimes differ from place to place. This will increase your safety and empower you to get an enjoyable ride! You can usually find this info on the website of the city or of the Department of Transportation.
So, where will you plan your next adventurous great ride?
Need more inspiration to take your bike for a ride?