Whether you’re an avid cyclist or a casual rider, there’s no better month to pedal your bike with pride than May because yes, it’s National Bike Month! This is when bike enthusiasts from all over the nation spread the coolness of the biking culture through local events, group rides and hugely successful mainstay Bike Month traditions like Bike to Work Week and Bike to Work Day (May 16).
According to the League of American Bicyclists, “more than half of the U.S. population lives within five miles of their workplace”—and with the gridlock so many Californians face every day, it’s no surprise that more and more people are finding that hopping on their bikes is far more pleasant than sitting in traffic. Not to mention, biking is good for your health, good for the planet’s health and it’s really kind of fun—especially if you live in one California’s best towns for biking. And we have quite a few of those to tell you about. We also have a few towns that aren’t the greatest places to ride either (unless you really enjoy darting around moving cars) and we’ll make mention of those towns, as well.
So get your gear tuned up, fill your water bottle and grab that helmet because we’re taking you on a whirlwind tour of the Best (and a couple of the Worst) biking towns in the Golden State.
BEST CALIFORNIA TOWNS FOR BIKING
Just outside of Sacramento is Bicycling.com’s top “small-bike-friendly” city: Davis, California. Residents of this charming area like to brag that there are more bikes than cars here—and with 95% of the arterial roadways boasting bike lanes, there may as well be! Need more proof that Davis is all about cycling? Take a look at their city symbol—yes, it’s a bicycle.
All it takes is one look at San Francisco’s setup and you know: this is a city that values its cyclists. Not only do the city commuter rails allow bikes, but there’s also a bike shuttle that runs across the Bay Bridge during the dreaded rush hour commute. Since San Francisco is a bustling city, there is always a risk of serious accidents for cyclists, but the city’s newly adopted “Vision Zero” strategy focuses on substantially reducing cyclist (and pedestrian) fatalities with a goal to end ALL traffic-related deaths within 10 years.
The Long Beach community in SoCal is a great biking town—and it’s only getting better. In just the last year, the city added 16 miles of new bike lanes and will be creating 20 more in the coming year. There is also a new downtown Bike Boulevard under construction as well as 400 new bike racks already in place. That’s some major commitments to the biking lifestyle. Long Beach landed at #23 on Bicycle.com’s 2013 Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities in the nation, but with all of these new improvements, it could shoot up the list before you know it.
The Silicon Valley’s San Jose is #29 on Bicycle.com’s 2013 Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities in the nation with 400 miles of street bike lanes already laid out. And that’s not all—the city is also expanding the impressive Guadalupe River Park Trails (called the River Walk to those in the know), which will eventually form a whole link of trails that will connect with other trails and transportation hubs, creating an amazing biking option for commuters. To top off what is clearly city-wide bike fever, they even have a Friday night “Bike Party” that attracts thousands of cyclists every third Friday of the month for a 15–30 mile ride through South Bay.
WORST CALIFORNIA TOWNS FOR BIKING
San Luis Obispo
Let’s start off by saying that San Luis is actually listed as “Bicycle-Friendly” by the League of American Bicylists. What puts it on our “Worst” list however, is the number of traffic-related injuries every year. This relatively small town is the seventh “worst in the state for bicyclist injuries and deaths per 1,000 residents when compared with 262 cities with population over 25,000” according to the California Office of Traffic Safety. That’s some scary stuff. Experts say the high rate of accidents could be attributed to the number of older drivers and the influx of cyclists due to its “bicycle friendly” status. Whatever the reason—stay alert when riding.
LA is a spectacular city—it has glitz, glamour, natural beauty—and 167 miles of on-street bike lanes. And that’s pretty okay…but it’s not good enough. When it comes down to it, LA is still a car-town and that means it’s not the safest for cyclists. 2012 statistics state that a third of all traffic-related deaths within LA County were pedestrians and 3% of those fatalities were on bikes. Not good. But there’s hope: the city is looking into a long-range Bicycle Plan with focuses on safety and the completion of bikeway networks throughout the city.
With gas prices and environmental concerns both steadily increasing, having the option to commute by bike is becoming more and more important to city dwellers. Tell us, is it something you’d consider phasing into your daily life? Let us know your thoughts!