I enjoy bicycling the most in cities that provide separate lanes for bicyclists - Portland and Boulder come to mind. In addition to bicycle lanes, what other governmental/civic actions ensure a safe and desirable environment for bicycles?

Also what are the natural characteristics that contribute to an ideal bicycling location? For example, some coastal cities may have extensive bicycle lanes and paths running parallel to the ocean, making them terrific place for rides.

Are there specific conditions or circumstances that make some towns bicycle unfriendly?

  • 1
    Hi, I know the downvotes and closure seems harsh but Stack Exchange isn't for this sort of subjective chat. You'll probably have better luck in the 'General Discussion' section of one of the larger cycling forums. Mar 20, 2013 at 7:14
  • Civic attitude, I suspect. Mar 20, 2013 at 15:35
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    This is definitely not an easy question, but I think it's not necessarily a subjective one. Certainly someone could make a comparison of cities where a large portion of the community commutes by bicycle to cities where almost no one cycles and examine the social attitudes, geographical features, legal factors, etc. of both. I'm sure you would see some trends from which you could draw a good, subjective answer.
    – jimchristie
    Mar 21, 2013 at 1:05

2 Answers 2


Here is my list of things I look for in no particular order by the way. Perhaps # 3 leash laws are the most worrisome to me. I've taken off riding in a new town and encountering a loose though friendly Lab or German Shepherd is enough to put my bike back on the car rack.

Recent jury convicting a dump truck driver that killed a SOB (Senior on Bikes) rider and a judge that punished an SUV driver that harassed two roadies were big steps in the right direction.

Pro biking civic / governmental aspects

  1. An aggressive bike path/bike lane plan and agenda
  2. Published bicycle maps (free)
  3. Aggressive leash laws (dog control)
  4. Balance of commute and recreational trails and paths
  5. Bicycle shop friendly city council
  6. Public transportation friendly to bikes with on-board racks and policy
  7. Actively seek bicycle races/rides through the town
  8. Police, courts and juries bicycle friendly
  9. Active bicycle training program
  10. Roads well marked for bicycles
  11. Dangerous choke points identified where possible and remediation when practical
  12. Sponsors one or more bike to work days, weeks or months


  1. Balance of flat and hilly (<6% grades) and some extreme >6& Grades
  2. Great scenery, mountains, hills, lakes, rivers and oceans
  3. If its flat or extreme, promote it

Commercial support

  • Bike friendly restaurants and cafes
  • Bike racks secured to prevent theft
  • Bicycle shops
  • Outdoor and recreational stores have big bicycle sections

Towns that are bicycle unfriendly

  • We feel it is inhumane to put a dog on a leash. . .
  • No effort to accommodate anything on the road without an engine.
  • @informafickerl THANKS, I don't seem to be able to use the bullet feature.
    – Joe
    Mar 23, 2013 at 22:37

Down vote notwithstanding, here are some thoughts:

Living in Boston and bicycle commuting both 4- and 3-season for 15 years, I'd say there at least four factors, governmental, NGO, population, and environmental.

The NGO aspect would be - how many organizations there are, and how actively do they advocate on behalf of cyclists. In Boston/Cambridge/Somerville, and Massachusetts at large there are at least two, Mass Bike, and The Boston Cyclists Union. I'm not a "joiner" so it's possible there are others, say, Bikes-not-Bombs, that have a different agenda, but still, a degree of visibility, and advocacy.

Because Boston metro has a very significant student population, and conversely tight parking situation, many people ride bicycles. By way of sheer numbers, organizations have a significant number of folks they can represent, as well as interest and energy to recruit from.

The governmental aspect would be, how interested in alternative transportation is the current state and local administration? Is there a "Bike Czar" appointed by the city that acts as liaison to facilitate communication between constituents and DOT, or the mayor's office. How interested is the city or state, in facilitating alternative modes?

Beyond that, how conducive to cycling is the geography, and the weather? The Dutch live on flat land in a maritime environment that tends to favor the widespread adoption of the bicycle. Combine those with the impossibility of parking and you have something of a perfect storm. Portland if I'm not mistaken, has a similar maritime weather pattern, as does Boston. An educated population, and short distances to major areas helps as well.

On the other hand, Minneapolis is frigid and spread out, but there is a huge cycling community. They have a significant "rails to trails" movement to re-purpose unused arteries that run far and wide. Native infrastructure matters.

Boulder has a larger hippy/ hipster/ outdoorsperson population that take to the bike.

So, sitting here pondering it, you get the sense there are many factors at play.

Ride it like you stole it!

  • I've never heard of a "Bike Czar" position local, but locally we do have Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Boards (BPABs) that fulfill a similar role, except with each city council member appointing a member (and a couple special members), instead of a single mayoral appointment. That may reflect a difference in mayoral power between Boston and the California cities I'm more familiar with.
    – freiheit
    Mar 20, 2013 at 18:26
  • There is a lot more than hippies that make Boulder, CO a great bicycle town, typically rated in the top 5 nationally in polls. They do many if not all of the things I mention in my lists below. Ft Collins, CO is not far behind.
    – Joe
    Mar 20, 2013 at 19:43

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