August 14, 2012
Pedaling through a major U.S. city is not just the province of daredevil bike messengers. With warmer weather and rising gas prices, there’s never been a better time to hop on a bicycle, especially while you’re on vacation. “It’s also a way to really be local,” suggests Nicole Freedman, director of bicycling programs for the City of Boston, “because when you bike you can stop wherever you want, you can talk to people.”
Urban areas across America are establishing dedicated bike lanes and trails at an unprecedented pace, and though U.S. cities may still be playing catch-up when it comes to bike-share programs (the Vélib’ system in Paris, launched in 2005, already includes 20,000 bikes at 1,800 stations), it may surprise you how many of the handy hop-on-hop-off systems are already functioning on this side of the pond: Boston, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. all have successful bike shares in place, while New York City, San Francisco and St. Petersburg are launching high-profile programs this year. Jeremy Rothschild, director of marketing for B-cycle, a bike-sharing outfit in Chicago, sums up the two-wheel appeal: “It’s magic…a bike that’s there when you need it and gone when you don’t.”
Along with established or in-the-works bike shares, our Top 10 Cities for Cycling, all with populations over 100,000, feature an abundance of great rental shops, municipal bike racks, exciting trails, and dedicated bike lanes.
Katie Adamson of Visit Denver says that the 300,000 rides logged during the two-year (and counting) lifespan of Denver’s bike-share program have translated into 13.5 million burned calories, a $990,000 savings on gas and parking, and 1.1 million pounds of greenhouse gases avoided. Yep, biking is good for our health, our pocketbooks and our planet. And as you’ll see, it actually looks like fun.