While the pandemic continues to disrupt much of Austinite life, the city’s numerous hiking trails and sheltered bike paths have managed to keep things open to cyclists. These and other elements are why Austin is one of the 25 most bike-friendly cities in the country, according to a new study by SmartAsset.
To determine which cities in the country are the most bike-friendly, SmartAsset examined 100 of the largest cities based on the following five metrics:
- Bike Score. This is a measure of how suitable a city is for cycling on a scale from 0 to 100. The data comes from walkcore.com.
- Percentage of commuters who cycle to work. The data comes from the 2018 annual American community survey by the Census Bureau.
- Cyclist deaths per 100,000 population. The data comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for querying and reporting vehicle accident data and covers the five-year period from 2014 to 2018. This number is measured at the county level.
- Kilometers of protected bike paths. The data comes from PeopleForBikes.org.
- Income after housing costs. This is the median household income minus the median annual housing costs. The data comes from the US Census Bureau’s 2018 annual American community survey.
Each city in the study was ranked for each metric, with the bike rating and five-year cyclist deaths per 100,000 population doubled, and then assigned an overall rating. A zero went to cities that weren’t particularly bike friendly and a 100 went to the best of the group.
Austin finished 17th with an overall score of 62.26. Its 30 km of protected bike paths eclipsed Portland, Oregon (5.3 km) – the one city that scored 100 points in the study and took first place – but she was way below her companion in the Pacific Northwest in terms of fitness, the city is for cycling (54.0 to 82.4), the percentage of commuters who bike to work (1.4 percent up to 5.3 percent of Portland) and the deaths of cyclists per 100,000 population (1.04 to 0.48).
However, both cities matched fairly well in terms of post-housing income, with Austin at $ 54,659 and Portland at $ 56,009.
There is certainly room for improvement, but Austin has already done so proactively – even during the pandemic. In May, the city launched Healthy Streets, a program that provides low-traffic spaces for cycling and other outdoor activities, while also allowing for appropriate social distancing. So far, six streets have been decorated with traffic cones and other physical obstacles to slow traffic and create a safe area. The city has also installed temporary bike lanes on Congress Avenue that run from Riverside Drive to 11th Street.
Elsewhere in Texas, Plano allied with Austin at NO. 17 in the study’s ranking. Only 0.4 percent of residents bike to work and there are zero miles of protected bike lanes, but Plano has a low death rate (0.60) and the income after housing metric is the second highest in the study at $ 74,976. (San Francisco is number one at $ 87,728.)
Plus, Plano ranked higher than Austin at one point based on how good the city is for cycling.
Austin and Plano may not be at the bike-friendly heights of the study’s top cities just yet – Portland, Oregon; Minneapolis; Seattle; St. Paul; and Boston round out the top 5 – but you can definitely get on your bike and ride the streets of both cities with confidence.