Reviewing our City Ratings methodology

March 13, 2019

Fort Collins: The top-rated city in 2018.


The countdown is on to the release of the 2019 City Ratings in May. As you eagerly anticipate our findings, and look ahead at new projects to increase your score next year, we’d like to explain exactly what the numbers mean.

PlacesForBikes takes a data-driven approach to identifying the best U.S. cities and towns for bicycling to help city leaders pinpoint improvements, and make riding better for everyone. Using feedback from everyday bike riders, city staff, open-source maps and publicly available data, we score five key factors: Ridership, Safety, Network, Acceleration and Reach.


How the Ratings Work

We use Community Surveys, City Snapshots, the Bicycle Network Analysis, the U.S. Census American Community Survey, the Physical Activity Council‘s recreational bike riding report, and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System‘s fatality data in order to score all ~47,000 U.S. cities and publish results on those that have at least three of six data sources. Each city is scored on a five-point scale, and overall scores are composed of our five factors that provide a balanced view of success.

Our overall City Ratings score leader from 2018 was Fort Collins, CO.




1. Ridership reflects how many people ride bikes, both for recreation and transportation. For this score, we measure bicycle commuting, recreational bike riding and perceptions of bike use.

Our highest Ridership score from 2018 was Portland, OR (3.9)
Put simply, high ridership scores reflect places where a lot of people ride for fun and to get from A to B. Portland continues to make biking more appealing for everyone by upgrading on-street bike lanes to be fully protected, with a special focus on underserved areas. The city is also experimenting with creative ways to encourage people to walk, bike and use transit.

2. Safety considers fatalities and injuries of people on bikes as well as those walking and driving. Perceptions of safety are also given weight.

Our highest Safety score from 2018 was Fort Collins, CO (3.7)
Fort Collins stands out for its comprehensive approach to improving biking infrastructure. Their high safety score reflects their dedication to a complete network, and the ability for all ages to get around on protected and low-stress bikeways. Not only is the infrastructure on the ground, but people also reported feeling safe in their community surveys.

3. Network evaluates how well the bike network completely connects people to each other and to local destinations using comfortable routes — including whether people think they can get to the places they want to go on a complete, connected, comfortable bike network.

Our highest Network score from 2018 was Boulder, CO (4.1)
Boulder’s high network score reflects its sustained commitment to building low-stress bicycling networks and encouraging higher ridership citywide. A complete network allows people to conveniently get to where they need to go safely. Many networks become fractured and are deemed less-safe at intersections. Boulder has constructed numerous under and overpasses so that intersections are avoided entirely.

4. Acceleration assesses how quickly a community is improving its biking infrastructure. This score is based on reported growth in bike facilities, bike share, and events. It also includes perceptions of progress.

Our highest Acceleration score from 2018 was New Orleans, LA (4.6)
Thanks to Bike Easy and Connect the Crescent, New Orleans is moving quickly to build more bike infrastructure. City leaders (along with strong teams of volunteers) are putting the work in to get pop-up demonstrations on the ground, and gaining support from the community for new projects.

5. Reach measures how well the network serves all members of the community. Reach compares the gap in network quality between neighborhoods that are typically underserved with the city as a whole. It also assesses the gender gap in bicycle commuting.

No matter the size of a city or town, all places have a variety of residents. Because equity is such an important part of infrastructure, we’re not yet celebrating a specific city or town for its Reach score. Instead, we’re encouraging all places to continue to work on serving all parts of the community. By understanding how the bicycle network functions differently between neighborhoods, we can begin to identify opportunities to address the inequalities that are present.

Feel free to download any of our data, compare cities and look at top-rankings for each category. And stay tuned for more build-up to our May release of the 2019 City Ratings!



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