Top 10 U.S. Cities for Family Cycling

Most of us live where we do because it is where we grew up, where our families are, or where our jobs are. For folks who are looking at relocating though, or who value family cycling, you might want to consider moving to one of the Rascal Rides Top 10 Best Cities in the U.S. for Family Cycling.

At the top of our list is Davis, CA (population 65,622). For those familiar with Davis, this will come as no surprise. The city has an impressive level of bike infrastructure including bike lanes on 95-percent of its arterial roads, bike-only roundabouts, and bike-detecting traffic lights. The city was the first community to earn the Platinum Bicycle-Friendly designation from the League of American Bicyclists back in 2006.

In fact, today, there are only 5 platinum cities in the U.S.—Davis, Madison, Boulder, Fort Collins, and Portland–and all are listed in our Top 10 list. For the entire list, and how we ranked them, keep reading.

Top 10 U.S. Cities for Family Cycling

Davis, CA
Photo by Naoto Sato / CCBY2.0

The data

How did I pick these cities? Data of course! I used the 2016 Benchmarking Report from the Alliance for Biking & Walking. The cities listed here are both large and medium sized cities that ranked well in both the number of bike/pedestrian fatalities per 10K commuters, and the % of commuters who bicycle to work.

Safety is, in my opinion, the most important factor for family cycling so I have weighted its importance highest.   Parents are not going to haul their kids around town, or send them to school on bike if they don’t feel confident that they can do so safely.

The second data set I used has to do with percentage of commuters who bicycle to work. While not directly related to family cycling, this information is still useful. One can assume that cities where lots of people are commuting to work have adequate levels of cycling infrastructure for getting people where they need to go. If people feel comfortable biking to work, they probably feel comfortable biking their kids to daycare also.

Why Family-Friendly Bike Infrastructure Matters

Boulder, CO
Kevin Standlee / CCBY2.0

Why should you want to live in a city with family-friendly bike infrastructure? In addition to the fun associated with the freedom to get around on two-wheels, cities that are bike-friendly have healthier communities and stronger economies.

Healthy communities.

It only makes sense that cities where people ride their bikes are going to have healthier citizens. In addition to the physical benefits of cycling, people who commute by bike also have an “improved sense of well-being.”

These health benefits apply to children as well. In areas that have invested in improving bike infrastructure, there are marked improvements in the numbers of kids biking to and from school as well as subsequent BMIs of those children. This is particularly true for under-privileged kids.

Strong economies.

Cities that invest in bicycle infrastructure are creating jobs. For every $1M spent on bicycling-specific projects, 11.4 full-time jobs are created. Compare that to 7.8 full-time jobs for every $1M spent on road-only projects. Cycling is also good for local businesses since bicyclists are much more likely than car commuters to spend money at local shops and restaurants. Finally, neighborhoods with strong cycling infrastructure have high property values.

And The Winners Are……

Bike/ped fatalities per 10K commuters % of commuters that bike to work
1 Davis 0.9 20.3
2 Boulder 1.1 10.8
3 Fort Collins 0.8 7.4
4 Burlington 0.6 6.8
5 Eugene 1.9 8.0
6 Madison 1.9 5.2
7 Washington, DC 1.6 4.0
8 Missoula 3.2 6.4
9 Portland, OR 3.4 6.1
10 Bellingham 1.3 2.9


Davis, CA
Zane Selvans / CCBY2.0

Where do we go from here?

If you’re thinking of relocating your family, you might want to consider one of the cities on this list. If you’re happy where you are, and your city isn’t on the list, don’t despair. The good news is that bike advocacy is on the rise around the U.S. as people become more aware of the negative environmental effects of a car culture.

If you’re interested in advocating for improved bicycle infrastructure in your city, begin with one of these resources:

Please consider sharing this post on Twitter or Facebook, and tell us about the state of family cycling in your city.

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