A big consideration for people as they choose a home is their commute to work every day, so what better way to celebrate this year’s Bike to Work Week than by highlighting the cities with the most bikeable downtowns?
We looked at Bike Score ratings of downtown neighborhoods across the country to see which cities offer the best biking commutes for their residents, and reached out to their local government officials to find out what they have done to reach such high scores. We also talked to our agents and found out that bikeability is not going unnoticed for local homebuyers who increasingly factor a daily bike commute into their home search.
To see the full ranking of the top 10 most bikeable downtowns among major cities with more than 500,000 people, as well as information on local bike-focused transportation initiatives, take a look at the report below.
1. Center City West, Philadelphia, Pa. – 96.4
Center City West, the heart of Downtown Philadelphia, topped our list with a 96.4 Bike Score. Redfin agent Minh Che says the city’s urban dwellers increasingly use a combination of bicycling, public transit and car-sharing programs to navigate downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.
“It’s not uncommon for my home-buying clients to bike from one home to the next during home tours or on a weekend open house outing,” said Che. “For a couple of recent clients, a garage was a must-have, not to park cars, but to store bikes. Buyers today see bike routes and bike storage as an important amenity, more so than previous generations.”
The city has more than 440 miles of bike lanes, according to Mayor Jim Kenney’s Deputy Managing Director for Transportation and Infrastructure, Clarena Tolson, giving Philadelphia the most bike lanes per square mile of any large city in the country. And in downtown specifically, she says nearly 5 percent of people use a bicycle as their main form of transportation.
In addition to increasing downtown bike lanes, the city is expanding its Indego bike sharing program to more Philadelphians. “We are committed to an inclusive and equitable bike share program that serves all citizens of the city,” said Tolson. “The program provides stations and connectivity to some of our more challenged communities with the intent of connecting those communities not only to downtown, but to our parks and waterways. In our transportation system we believe access equals opportunity.”
As the bike network grows, safety continues to be a concern as well as an increasing priority for bicyclists and governments, in Philadelphia and elsewhere across the country. Tolson says that bike fatalities decreased by 25 percent in Philadelphia from 2010 to 2014, and education has been a big part of that. “One of the keys to bicyclist safety has been greater education and appreciation for bicyclists as people who deserve to share the road, so we’ve made that a focus.” Tolson says that as more bikers get on the road, awareness of road-sharing grows and our streets become safer for everyone.
2. El Presidio, Tucson, Ariz. – 95.8
The El Presidio neighborhood located in downtown Tucson is a historic district, home to City Hall and to many of the city’s jobs. Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild says the city has been working to improve bikeability across the downtown neighborhoods.
“Tucson is a gold-level bike-friendly city according to the League of American Bicyclists, and we’re working to get to the next level. Tucson’s downtown has protected bike lanes, which we’re expanding, and many bike parking facilities. A number of downtown businesses offer discounts and incentives to customers who bike to their location. We’re also working with the private sector to launch a bike share program in downtown Tucson,” said Mayor Rothschild.
Redfin agent Sara Fischer says bicycling in Tucson is popular among residents, despite the hot climate. “Because Tucson enjoys such beautiful sunny weather almost year round, biking through this historic district allows you to enjoy all of the sights and sounds of our amazing southwest desert surroundings.”
3. Downtown, Austin, Texas – 93.4
Austin is rapidly growing as people—especially millennials—flood in from major cities and tech hotspots around the country. And those newcomers are entering a highly competitive market where every extra dollar put toward an offer on a home counts. That’s part of why new residents are foregoing the expense of a car and putting the money toward a condo or house near downtown where daily bike commuting is easy, according to Redfin agent Andrew Vallejo.
“I’ve worked with three clients in the past two weeks who do not own a car and rely on biking and walking to get to work and other parts of the city. Our downtown corridor is so bike-friendly that it’s possible for people to easily get to their jobs every day, especially if they live in a neighborhood near downtown like Zilker or East Austin,” Vallejo said.
The city of Austin has an Active Transportation Division that specifically focuses on connecting bicyclist and pedestrian pathways and making it safe for residents to commute to work via bike. Austin Mayor Steve Adler has also worked to increase the number of protected bike paths in the city.
“Building protected bike paths downtown has been great for Austin. Not only has it made getting around downtown safer and quicker for cyclists, but the protected paths have moved them out of harm’s way and relieved traffic congestion. Having a bikeable downtown has made everything better in Austin,” said Mayor Adler.
4. Downtown, Denver, Colo. – 92.6
The city of Denver operates a program called Denver Moves, which is aimed at enhancing the city-wide bicycle network to be more attractive to cyclists of all abilities. This year, the city updated that plan to include a network of enhanced on-street bicycle facilities downtown—such as protected or buffered bike lanes and marked intersections—and identified key corridors that link downtown to some of the city’s hottest neighborhoods like Cheesman Park and Washington Park West.
“We have many clients who have relocated to Denver, in part, for its bikeability. Denver has more than 20 miles of bike lanes in downtown alone and 85 miles of paved trails throughout the city connecting the central business district to many of Denver’s most popular neighborhoods. With over 600 bike racks downtown and the ability to transport your bike on both our Light Rail and Regional Transportation District bus systems, the city makes it easy and convenient to commute by bike,” said Redfin agent Megan Leddy.
5. Downtown, Portland, Ore. – 92.3
Portland residents have been thinking about bikeability for a long time; the Portland City Council adopted the official Bicycle Master Plan back in 1996. More recently the city adopted a plan for 2030, which sets the stage for a vastly expanded bicycle transportation program.
“Portland has done such a fantastic job of creating designated bike boulevards throughout the city and the result is that commuting via bike into the downtown core is easy, safe and efficient, and is why we have one of the heaviest volumes of bike commuters in the country. Once you get downtown by bike, the combination of bike boulevards, designated paths and an abundance of bike racks gives the downtown biking community easy access to food carts in NW Portland, the waterfront park in the Pearl District and the hip breweries in the up-and-coming Central Eastside Industrial District. Our roadways are becoming more congested with vehicles, so commuting by bicycle is also currently one of the fastest ways to commute to downtown,” said Redfin agent Michael Morris.
6. Old Louisville, Louisville, Ky. – 89.9
Bicycle education is a key focus for the city of Louisville, which ranked sixth on our list. The city provides bicycle safety classes for individuals and brown bag lunches for businesses who want their employees to learn more about daily bicycle commuting.
The city has also improved its local bike infrastructure. “Louisville has invested in bike lanes to meet the huge demand from the community, and this ranking shows we’re getting results,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer “Those lanes have given residents a healthy, safe option to travel between neighborhoods and to downtown. But the work is hardly done. Our city is in the process of rethinking how we connect, and bicycles are a major part that strategic mobility plan.”
7. Downtown, Washington, D.C. – 88.2
Washington, D.C., takes bicycle safety seriously—it has committed to a Vision Zero Initiative, with the objective of reaching zero fatalities and serious injuries to travelers of the transportation system by the year 2024. As part of the initiative, citizens can report transportation hazards around the city via the Vision Zero Safety Map so that they can be promptly corrected by city officials.
“D.C. was one of the first cities to adopt a bike share system, and it’s taken off in popularity both with locals and tourists,” said Redfin agent Steve Centrella. “With the increase in dedicated bike lanes, as well as improvements to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, it’s easier for residents to commute downtown by bike, and we’re seeing a growing number of residents who bike as their primary means of transportation.”
8. Downtown, San Jose, Calif. – 87.3
San Jose residents are part of the Bay Area Bike Share network, which also operates in San Francisco, Palo Alto and other cities in the region. The bike share program aids the city’s efforts to increase bicycling until it accounts for 5 percent of all trips by 2020 and 15 percent of all trips by 2040. The city is also building a 400-mile on-street bikeway network to make getting around town easier and safer.
“In addition to recent improvements in biking infrastructure, San Jose also has a budding bike culture,” said Redfin agent Ashley Rabello. “One prime example is the San Jose Bike Party: a nonprofit group that brings together cyclists in the community for monthly rides and group excursions. Also, for those who don’t live right downtown, many bike enthusiasts opt to bike to public transportation as a way to shorten their commute without having to get in a car.”
9. Downtown, Indianapolis, Ind. – 86.7
Part of what makes downtown Indianapolis such a bike haven is the Indy Bike Hub at the YMCA. The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis partnered with the city government and Bicycle Garage Indy to create a centrally located hub where commuters can store their bikes during the day, repair their cycles in the bike shop or shower before work in the locker rooms.
“Biking has gotten a lot more convenient in Indianapolis over the past few years,” said Redfin agent Jake Johnson. “People have really taken to the Indiana Pacers Bike Share program, and there are a few well-used trails that lead to downtown that make commuting especially easy. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail connects different parts of the downtown core, and the Monon Trail gives residents in northern parts of the city like Meridian Kessler and Carmel a quick bicycle route to jobs downtown.”
10. The Loop, Chicago, Ill. – 84.2
Chicago has more than 200 miles of on-street protected, buffered and shared bike lanes, more than 13,000 bike racks and sheltered bike parking areas at Chicago Transit Authority bus and train stations throughout the city to make commuting to downtown a possibility for residents living in even farther outlying areas. The city also operates the popular bike share program Divvy.
According to Redfin agent Niko Voutsinas, Milwaukee Avenue is an especially popular route for cyclists to get to and from downtown every day, and is full of bike commuters come rush hour. But for many of these cyclists, there’s more to consider than just adequate roadways.
“A lot of my clients are pretty serious bicyclists, so good storage is a major priority when they look for a home. If you own a $10,000 bike, you’re not going to want to just lock it up outside every night—you’re going to want interior storage, so many of my buyers factor that in when deciding on a home. Can they set up a hoist system to hang their bikes in their loft? Is there a private garage that can fit multiple bicycles? These are all non-negotiables,” said Voutsinas.
Bike Score measures whether a location is good and safe for biking on a scale from 0–100 based on four equally weighted components:
- Bike lanes
- Destinations and road connectivity
- Share of local workers’ commutes traveled by bicycle
To establish the top 10 list, Redfin ranked the Bike Scores of downtown neighborhoods across the country among cities with populations larger than 500,000.