12 Great Cities for Cycling
Whether you like to pedal around on city bike paths or log several miles a week in training, there are cities where you can pursue the passion of cycling within easy reach of your rental.
Cycling for recreation and fitness has really taken off in the United States in the past ten years. American cities are not only reacting to but also planning for residents’ desire for safer and more plentiful bike paths, bike lanes and cycling opportunities.
Here are some cities to check out if you love cycling, and why you’ll love living there . . .
Texas’ own Music City has long attracted folks who love the outdoor lifestyle, its temperate winter climate and natural water features all part of the draw. Add to that a rolling terrain and multiple bike trails and you’ve got a recipe for happy cyclists. The Lance Armstrong Bikeway shares its moniker with the city’s most famous resident, while the Shoal Creek Bike Trail and Southern Walnut Creek Bike Trail offer additional pedaling opportunity. Austin’s south side is home to the 3-mile Veloway. Loop 360 is also easy and affords beautiful views, as does the Willow City Loop, which bursts with spring bluebonnets. Serious cyclists head for workouts on FM 2222, a 10-mile challenge that will have you bragging if you successfully make the climb. A host of cycling events keep calendars full, for riders of all skill levels.
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With the Flatiron Mountains as a backdrop, scenic Boulder has a vibrant bike culture you simply can’t miss. Mountain biking, road cycling, infamous community events, bike share programs, gorgeous trails, and even 24-hour bicycle-related vending machines are all part of the package. If you live here, you can be part of the massive community which commutes by cycle, thanks to the city’s temperate climate. The leisurely Boulder Creek Path winds its way along the city’s namesake creek, toward Boulder Canyon, while mountain bike options are really exciting. Check out Marshall Mesa with its Flatirons views; the Canyon Loop Trail, with views of Boulder Canyon; and the steep challenges of Walker Ranch Loop, west of the city. Cyclists of all skills levels – even toddlers – can have fun on two wheels at Valmont Bike Park.
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Lovely Boston now brims with recently-created opportunity for cyclists. The Charles River Esplanade (aka the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path) is a stunning urban greenway with views galore – of the Boston skyline, local boats, and the famous colleges of Cambridge. The city has its own bikeshare program if you can’t yet purchase your own bike. Boston’s enticing cycling destinations include the rolling 3.5 mile Franklin Park loop; the gorgeous Emerald Necklace and The Fens (designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead of Central Park fame); the 7-mile run from Audubon Circle to Chestnut Hill Reservoir; the 5-mile Southwest Corridor to Jamaica Plain; and the 7.7 mile stretch from the JFK Museum to scenic Castle Island.
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Chicago’s 200 miles of bike lanes and its 18.5 mile Lakefront Trail help contribute to the city’s reputation as a great city for cycling. Chi-town has seriously invested in cycling as part of its infrastructure, offering residents a wildly popular bikeshare program, more than 13,000 bike racks and sheltered bike parking at its metro rail stations. Off-road dedicated routes include the North Shore Trail, the Dawes Park Trail, the Northerly Island Park Trail and the city’s signature Lakefront and Riverfront Trail, which stretches for scenic mile after mile.
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More than 85 miles of paved trails connect Denver cyclists with local attractions, beautiful parks and even hundreds of miles of dirt trails. Move here with your bike and The Greenway Trail will probably become a big part of your life: it runs for an astounding 30 miles, linking some outrageous riverside parks that line the South Platte River. Denver’s Cherry Creek Bike Trail is popular and pretty, its 40 miles containing the Front Range Trail, an off-road trail which will (sit down for this one) eventually stretch from Colorado’s northern border with Wyoming to the New Mexico state line.
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The smallest metro on our list, beautiful Greenville, SC has been making all sorts of national lists. Cycling is huge here, thanks in part to renowned champion cyclist resident George Hincapie (former training partner of Lance Armstrong) whose own Gran Fondo event attracts thousands of cyclists each fall. Local terrain is rolling, due to being in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The countryside is hard to beat for pleasure rides, but the city’s paved Swamp Rabbit Trail stretches for 15 miles from Greenville Technical College through Cleveland Park and downtown, to Furman University, the quaint town of Travelers Rest and on toward the North Carolina state line. Cycling events happen throughout the year, and support for the sport is obvious by the number of relevant local shops (find Pedal Chic) and social clubs.
Tons of new apartments are opening downtown in 2017; check Greenville apartments.
It might be more famous for its four-wheeled vehicles but Indianapolis is very popular with the cycling crowd. Indycog, the city’s bicycle advocacy, has created a cool map that not only shows the bike lanes and greenway trails, but also ranks each of the city streets in terms of accessibility, traffic and other factors affecting cyclists. A panoply of community and competitive bike events stud the summer calendar; the most memorable might be July’s 19-mile N.I.T.E. Ride, its after-party lasting until the wee hours. And if you like pedaling from brewery to brewery, you will love living in Indianapolis.
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Prince’s hometown has actually been ranked as high as #2 for Bicycling Commuting Cities in the USA. Summers and fall are fantastic for cycling, and with the right clothes, you can enjoy your sport in spring, too. (Fatbike events even happen in January!) The Minneapolis Bike Map – available in bike shops and libraries across the city – is heavily laced with options for pedaling: off-street bicycle trails, on-street bike lanes, shared lanes. Bike shops are plentiful and cycling events from May through October are too numerous to count.
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The City of Portland has published a killer bicycle map, clearly showing dedicated and shared bike lanes, neighborhood greenways, no-car paths and even tricky intersections. The most popular bike path is undoubtedly the one lining both sides of downtown’s Willamette River, and traversing both the Hawthorne and Morrison Bridges. Several bike clubs organize rides and special social events, while bikeshare programs and bike shops are plentiful. Currently, 350 miles of bikeways exist and 50 more miles are planned. Over 7% of Portland commuters do so by pedaling: the highest rate of any U.S. city. Bicycling magazine and the League of American Biyclists have both ranked this city #1 for cycling.
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The hills of San Francisco are easier to navigate on bike with the handy-dandy map offered by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Shared and protected bike lanes are clearly marked, thanks to a true dedication to the cycling community. “The city by the bay” has also installed bike corrals on several of its streets. Best of all, San Francisco has even timed its street lights to about 12 mph, slowing cars so cyclists can pedal the full length of busy routes without a hassle. What more could you want? Fast and friendly” cyclists will be welcomed to the San Francisco Cycle Club, which races other clubs when it’s not planning or hosting its own social events.
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Seattle’s Cascade Bicycle Club has a whopping 14,000 members: the largest cycling club in the USA. While road and path cyclists cross all demographic lines, the mountain bike scene is also alive and well, thanks to a couple of killer urban parks. Seattle’s not flat, but dedicated two-wheel commuters comprise 4% of the population. Seattle is bursting with bike shops, bike rental companies and bikeshare programs. Summer brings a wealth of cycling events, and residents love the Burke-Gilman Trail, a 20-mile-long former rail bed along Lake Washington’s shoreline. Several gorgeous regional cycling routes are reachable via public transportation.
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A champagne introduction might start with a DC Cycling Concierge tour. But you’ll also enjoy simply exploring Rock Creek Park Trail, the Anacostia River Trail, the Capital Crescent Trail, the Custis Trail and the W&OD Trail. The bike-friendliest neighborhoods, each winning a Washington Area Bicyclists Choice Award for 2017, are Capitol Riverfront / Yards Park; NoMa; and Golden Triangle (in D.C.); and Crystal City (in adjacent Virginia). Social and competitive rides happen throughout much of the year, and several local businesses – including District Taco, The Java Shack and Vigilante Coffee Company – cater to two-wheeling patrons.
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