New Ranking: Fort Collins, Boulder, Colorado Springs Better Than Denver for Biking

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One of America’s most respected bike advocacy groups just ranked Fort Collins, Boulder, and Colorado Springs ahead of Denver for bicycling.

As Streetsblog USA’s Angie Schmitt reported Friday, PeopleForBikes has a new system to compare biking in cities across the country. The data-driven approach mixes cities of all shapes and sizes, but controls for geographic area so cities with far-flung boundaries like Denver aren’t disadvantaged.

Shout out to Fort Collins, which PeopleForBikes ranked first in the country, and Boulder, which came in third. Colorado Springs came in 23rd and Denver came in 27th, behind cities like Cleveland and Tucson. (Note that scores are rounded for simplicity, and the order in which cities are listed reflects the full, un-rounded score.)

Here’s how Denver ranked in the five categories making up its overall score:

  • Ridership: 16th
  • Safety: 125th
  • Network, or how well connected the bike system is: 82nd
  • Reach, or how easy it is for people of every age and ability to bike: 122nd
  • Acceleration, or how quickly cities are improving bikeability: 55nd

Ridership is obviously a strong suit for Denver — the only one — despite a poor showing in other areas. These rankings aren’t entirely surprising given the 26 people who have lost their lives biking in the city since 2005, according to Denver PD.

The island of a bikeway on South Broadway isn’t helping the city’s connectivity or progress scores, and a tepid pace on protected bike lane installation isn’t helping its “reach” score.

Still, no ranking like this is ever definitive. For example, while recreational cycling is weighted low in this analysis, it does count for something, and that could skew the results in favor of Colorado Springs. Denver should be focused heavily on biking for transportation.

The rankings were wrought from a bevy of qualitative and quantitative data. PeopleForBikes analyzed surveys from city officials and the public, measured bike infrastructure in miles and quality, pulled commuting habits from the Census, and gauged safety using local and national databases that track injuries and deaths.

What’s your experience? Do these rankings ring true?

  • TakeFive

    I couldn’t say why but this analysis seems to put bigger cities at a disadvantage. Denver has been rated much higher elsewhere. Forbes gives Denver one of three Golds with only Portland achieving Platinum. Interesting that this analysis has Denver tied with Phoenix.

    D.C. has always been highly rated and I know SANDAG continues with their $200 million ongoing investment and the City of San Diego has its own plan as well. Denver’s status should accelerate next year when the bond initiative starts kicking out funding.

    Btw, OT, but the Colorado legislature has reached a compromise on transportation. Republicans blinked. Chamber initiative pending…

  • Ben Schumacher

    This seems pretty accurate to me; more people biking than previous cities I’ve lived in, but not much more infrastructure in the last 10 years. Bigger cities should be able to afford building infrastructure a lot faster, at least more than a few miles per year.

  • JerryG

    I have to call BS on that listing. I have lived (and biked) in Boulder. I have lived and biked in Milwaukee, the Boston area (Boston, Cambridge, Somerville), Columbus, and Atlanta. Lastly, I have biked (but not lived) in Denver. There is no freakin’ way that Atlanta is a better bike city than all of those save Boulder. No. Way. Maybe their numbers play out that way, but it cannot possible reflect bikeability.

    • TakeFive

      JerryG… you’ve lost me. Where are you coming up with your Atlanta rating? I don’t see it on the ‘peopleforbikes’ site. Atlanta is listed 4th in ‘Acceleration’ but is listed behind 19 other cities for ‘overall’ score from what I’m seeing.

      • JerryG

        TakeFive…I am not comparing Atlanta to those 19 other cities raked higher, but to those cities that I had listed: Denver, Milwaukee, Columbus, Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville (MA). I have bike in all of those cities, including Atlanta, and I would not rank Atlanta higher than those cities. According to the ‘peopleforbikes’ listing, they think Atlanta does rank higher.

        • TakeFive

          Gotcha… fwiw, someone on a Phoenix thread looked at the methodology and noticed how the ‘acceleration’ category which looks at the next three years created an outsized impact on many cities.

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