10 Other Great Biking Cities

Sunday, October 1, 2006

City biking can be more than bus fumes and potholes; in some metropolitan centers, urban cyclists can enjoy clean bay air, lighted paved routes and even shower stations to rinse off the bike sweat. We asked Adventure Cycling Association (800-755- 2453, http://www.adventurecycling.org), a nonprofit bike organization in Montana, and Bicycling magazine (http://www.bicycling.com) for their suggestions on the most bike-friendly cities in the country. Their picks:

¿ Portland, Ore. The city of outdoors enthusiasts has 164 miles of bike lanes, 66 miles of bike paths, 30 miles of bike boulevards (low car volume) and ample parking for two-wheelers. For a standout ride, ACA recommends Forest Park, one of the nation's largest urban parks, while Bicycling magazine suggests the 18-mile route from the Willamette River downtown to the rural town of Boring. Info: City of Portland Office of Transportation, http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation.

¿ Seattle. Not even the rain can stop bikers from cruising 28 miles of multi-use paths, 25 miles of on-street lanes and miles of signed bike routes. A favorite is the Burke-Gilman Trail, a rails-and-trails project that opened in 1978 and continues to expand. The city is also building the Chief Sealth Trail, which will cross southeast Seattle, and the Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club is constructing a mountain bike park under Interstate 5. Info: Seattle Department of Transportation, http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/bikeprogram.htm.

¿ San Francisco. What's better than riding the cable cars? Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge. Adds Jim Sayer, executive director of Adventure Cycling: "Most of the neighborhoods and attractions are close together and easy to get to by bike. Despite San Francisco's reputation for hills, you can use the city's expanding bike network with great signage to steer you to less-hilly routes from the bay to the sea." Info: San Francisco Bicycle Program, http://www.bicycle.sfgov.org/site/dptbike_index.asp.

¿ Davis, Calif. This college town has more bikes than cars, 100-plus miles of bike lanes and paths, and a $7.5 million bike tunnel that travels beneath I-80. In addition, you can cycle from downtown to the University of California, Davis, campus and on to Sacramento -- without having to dodge auto traffic. Info: City of Davis, http://www.city.davis.ca.us/topic/bicycles.cfm.

¿ Boulder, Colo. Sayer calls Boulder "the classic mountain bike town," and the city has the numbers to back up that claim: 150-plus miles of bike paths and 192 miles of bike lanes. In addition, the bike paths follow the storm drainage system, so you can ride virtually everywhere without crossing the street. To toughen up the legs, pedal up to the Flatiron Mountains, or for a "wild biking experience in the city," Sayer recommends the 18-mile Boulder Creek Path. Info: City of Boulder, http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=705&Itemid=311.

¿ Tucson. Year-round sunshine and 325 miles of bike lanes make for ideal cycling conditions. Work it on the Mount Lemmon Hill Climb, a 26-mile one-way ride with a constant 5 percent grade, or coast on a piece of public art, the Broadway Bicycle-Pedestrian Bridge, which is shaped like a diamondback rattlesnake. Info: City of Tucson, http://dot.ci.tucson.az.us/bicycle.

¿ Madison, Wis. Madison's bike plan dates back to 1975, but the city is still building trails (at last count: 35 miles of off-street bike paths, 35 miles of on-street bike lanes and a 120-mile network of signed bike routes). For example, you can bike from downtown to the lakeshore and around farmland, says Sayer, adding that "Madison has exceptional signage and an innovative share-the-road program." Info: City of Madison, http://www.ci.madison.wi.us/transp/bicycle.html.

¿ Chicago. Mayor Richard M. Daley (also a biker) hopes to make Chicago America's top cycling city by 2015; with 315 miles of bikeways and the McDonald's Cycle Center in Millennium Park (indoor parking, showers, repairs, rentals, etc.), he's on his way. Info: Chicago Department of Transportation's Bicycle Program, http://www.chicagobikes.org.

¿ Austin. The city that produced Lance Armstrong has myriad bike programs in the works, including, of course, the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, a six-miler that will connect the eastern and western portions of the city. For now, you can bike any number of routes, such as the hilly Dam Loop, Shoal Creek Trail (with a creek crossing) and Mary Moore Park trail, where bikers can stop and have a picnic or throw some hoops. Info: Austin City Connection, http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/bicycle/default.htm.

¿ Philadelphia. Philly loves its brothers and its bikers: The $3.7 million Bicycle Network Plan will create a web of bike routes incorporating 300 miles of city streets and major cultural and commercial sites. One of the most popular rides is the Schuylkill River Trail, which stretches 22 miles from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the Valley Forge National Historical Park. For mountain biking, the Wissahickon Park has some of the most challenging terrain in the region. Info: Bicycle Network, http://www.phila.gov/streets/the_bicycle_network.html.

-- Andrea Sachs

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