Austin ranks seventh on list of best cycling cities

***Update***

And now Nathan Wilkes with the City of Austin’s Active Transportation Department provides a more accurate update – “More than 10 percent of Austinites who live within an 8-square-mile area around downtown now commute by bike.”

 

 

***Update***

Writer Ian Dille clarifies that more than 10 percent of Austinites who live in an 8-square-mile section of downtown – not within 8 miles of downtown Austin – commute by bicycle. The figure comes from the City of Austin’s Active Transportation department. He says the error will be corrected on the magazine’s website.

***

 

Arlene Mav, of Australia, left, and Jane Jones, of the United Kingdom, right, stop along the hike and bike trail below the Lamar Boulevard Bridge to take a picture of a goose hanging out in the shade of the bridge on Monday. (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN / RODOLFO GONZALEZ)

Arlene Mav, of Australia, left, and Jane Jones, of the United Kingdom, right, stop below the Lamar Boulevard bridge to take a picture of a swan on Monday. (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN / RODOLFO GONZALEZ)

 

Take a bow, Austin. You rank near the top when it comes to bicycling and swimming according to recent national polls.

Last week Austin was named the fourth best swim city in America. Today Bicycle Magazine named us the country’s seventh best bicycling city.

That’s up four positions from 2014 in the magazine’s “America’s 50 Best Bike Cities” list, which is released every two years. (See my blog from 2014 here.)

It also puts us ahead of Fort Collins, Colorado. I spent a few days in Fort Collins earlier this year, and the city’s bike-centric personality impressed me. Cyclists can easily ride to the city’s popular breweries, use a bike share system, listen to a radio program about bikes and brews, and find out about bike-themed activities through one big umbrella organization.

A couple of comments from the magazine’s editors about Austin gave me pause, though. One, they wrote that “more than 10 percent of Austinites who live within 8 miles of downtown commute by bike.” Two, they noted an upcoming bond issue that includes millions for trails and bike lanes.

Whoa. Really?

According to a report from the U.S. Census released in 2014, Portland, Oregon topped a list of American cities as far as percentage of bike commuters. It’s 6.1 percent included all commuters, not just those living downtown. Still, Austin as a whole didn’t even rank in the top 15, and the average percentage of commuters across the country was 0.6 percent. (Read more here.)

I checked with Mercedes Feris, executive director of Bike Austin, a non-profit organization that promotes biking in Austin and offers regular group rides. Feris raised her eyebrows at the commuter number, but said that the city’s ranking pleased her.

“Bike Austin is excited to hear that Austin is now in seventh place, up from 11th from last year,” Feris told me. “Protected bike lanes are proven to make our city safer for bicycling and encourage a more diverse population to take up bicycling as a mode of transportation. We applaud our city leaders who recognize this and thank them for their support.

“Now, let’s get Proposition 1 passed so we can become number one.”

Which brings me to the magazine’s comment about that bond issue. We don’t know yet if it will pass or fail, so why does the magazine think it makes us a better bike city? What if it fails?

The story makes no mention of Austin’s summer heat, either. They’ve probably never ridden up Lamar Boulevard at 6 p.m. on an August afternoon like I have.

According to a press release, magazine editors based their rankings on data from the U.S. Census and Department of Transportation. They also consulted with experts from People for Bikes and the League of American Bicyclists, and spoke with cycling advocates and everyday riders. Then they put wheels to the pavement and pedaled their way through the cities for a first-hand experience.

No matter how accurate the results, I’m happy to see Austin making steady progress.

Here’s to more.

For more information on top-ranking cities, go here.

America’s 50 Best Bike Cities (Complete List)

1. Chicago, IL

2. San Francisco, CA

3. Portland, OR

4. New York, NY

5. Seattle, WA

6. Minneapolis, MN

7. Austin, TX

8. Cambridge, MA

9. Washington, D.C.

10. Boulder, CO

11. Denver, CO

12. Fort Collins, CO

13. Indianapolis, IN

14. Salt Lake City, UT

15. Philadelphia, PA

16. Madison, WI

17. Boston, MA

18. Eugene, OR

19. New Orleans, LA

20. Pittsburgh, PA

21. Oakland, CA

22. Tempe, AZ

23. Tucson, AZ

24. Los Angeles, CA

25. Arlington, VA

26. San Jose, CA

27. Boise, ID

28. Long Beach, CA

29. Gainesville, FL

30. Chattanooga, TN

31. Louisville, KY

32. Saint Paul, MN

33. Grant Rapids, MI

34. Alexandria, VA

35. Albuquerque, NM

36. Cincinnati, OH

37. Sacramento, CA

38. Tallahassee, FL

39. Columbus, OH

40. Miami, FL

41. Cleveland, OH

42. Columbia, MO

43. Atlanta, GA

44. Lincoln, NE

45. Tampa, FL

46. Milwaukee, WI

47. Salem, MA

48. Scottsdale, AZ

49. Thousand Oaks, CA

50. Detroit, MI

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