The Best Bike Cities in North America: Boulder, Colorado

You don’t have to give up the amenities of a large urban environment just because you prefer traveling on two wheels over four

Boulder, Colorado.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Boulder enjoys 300 days of sunshine each year, which makes it the perfect playground for mountain bikers and commuters alike. Added to that is an innovative approach to cycling infrastructure in an urban context that sets this city apart from other leading cycling cities in the United States.

Part of the Colorado Front Range, Boulder is one of three cities in the state—the other two being Denver and Fort Collins—that possess a robust cycling culture. Boulder residents enjoy a vast network of over 300 miles of bike lanes and paths connecting urban riders to almost wherever they need to go both inside and outside of the city. A recent survey (PDF) shows that over half of local residents found bike paths to be safe, and 44 percent of residents felt the number of bike lanes on city streets and bike path maintenance was better than could be expected. On an average day in 2008, city staff counted 3,574 bicycles in the downtown core.

Boulder has made the all-essential realization that making cycling easy is the only way to get large numbers of people excited about it. Buses have bike racks. The B-cycle bike share program allows you to rent a bike for a half-hour or a few hours (picture rows of bikes for hire locked into a rack with a payment kiosk at one end) for a relatively small fee—perfect for those short trips in a city that would be faster and less costly on two wheels than four. And paths have been created—thanks to the Mountainbike Alliance’s Partnership Initiative Program—to get cyclists from the city to the outdoor mountain biking playground that is the Front Range without having to drive.

City Hall deserves much of the credit. Around 15 percent of their annual transportation budget goes toward bicycling projects, such as wider curbs and paved road shoulders to enhance safety for riders. Signal detection loops at traffic intersections cue the change of a red to a green light when a cyclist rolls onto the detection area installed below the pavement (similar to the current signal detection infrastructure used for cars at intersections). The length of a green light and signal change patterns have also been modified to accommodate cyclists along bike routes.

Bike-safe drain covers and proper signage are part of this city’s approach to making roads safer for cyclists. And 75 underpasses make it possible for cyclists to circumvent roadways and enjoy an uninterrupted trip from point A to point B.

As a result, around 10 percent of trips to work in the City of Boulder are made by bicycle—that’s almost 20 times the national average, according to the U.S. bicycle industry sponsored advocacy organization Bikes Belong.

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