A Rising Tide for Walking and Biking in California and Its Cities

Long Beach may not have a ciclovia style open street event, but Vice-Mayor Robert Garcia is front and center when the Long Beach Grand Prix allows cyclists to use its closed course the day before the race. Image: ##http://lbpost.com/news/2000003501-the-return-of-the-grand-prix-ciclovia-of-long-beach#.U2Qmr61dUs0##Long Beach Post##

We’re #3! Long Beach may not have a ciclovia style open street event, but Vice-Mayor Robert Garcia is front and center when the Long Beach Grand Prix allows cyclists to use its closed course the day before the race. Image: Long Beach Post

This week, the League for American Bicyclists released its nationwide “benchmarking” report on the state of active transportation throughout the country. The report contained good news for those working to make California a more safe and attractive place to bicycle. California rose ten spots to #9 in the state to state comparisons, scoring nearly 54 points out of a possible 100.

“We are excited and encouraged to see real progress in states like California, Minnesota and Utah,” said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. “Overall, we still see a lot of opportunity to realize the huge potential of bicycling to promote health, economic development, and quality of life.”

The news was even better for some of California’s major cities.  An earlier report listed the most “bicycle friendly cities” in America. Two of the top three cities, and six of the top twenty cities for bicycling are in California: San Francisco (#1), Long Beach (#3), Sacramento (#11), Fresno (#12), San Jose (#16) and San Diego (#20).

Parking-protected bike lanes, such as the one on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, is one reason San Francisco moved to the top of the list. Photo: Mark Dreger/Flickr

“Finally. San Francisco beat Portland at biking,” half-joked SF Weekly in its San FranCycle section. The article notes that San Francisco is a relatively safe place to bicycle compared to other American cities, that the city is a leader in bike paths and can correlate how the relationship between bicycle investment and business growth.

Long Beach, which declares itself “the most bicycle friendly city in America” on a sculpture on its City Hall, was particularly excited by its ranking.

“We’re obviously very proud of our efforts to be the most bicycle friendly city in the nation,” writes Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster. “Our investments have resulted in a healthier, more active population and a boost to our economy.”

The Bicycle Friendly States ranking is based on a number of key indicators, including infrastructure and funding that provide on-the-ground bicycle facilities; education and encouragement programs that promote bicycling; and passage and enforcement of bicycle-friendly laws that make it safe and comfortable for people of all ages to ride.

The League uses similar metrics for its Bike Friendly Cities list, but only ranks cities with populations over 100,000. That excludes two of California’s most bicycle friendly enclaves: Davis, CA which has a world class bicycle network but only 65,000 residents and Santa Monica which was featured by the League for being a Gold-Level Bicycle Friendly Business, but has roughly 90,000 residents.