Whether it's the sign of a still-struggling economy, an increased appreciation for physical fitness or concern over environmental destruction, people in cities across the U.S. are increasingly turning to biking for more than just recreation. According to data from The League of American Cyclists, between 2000 and 2011, bicycle commuting rose by 47 percent!
And it turns out the city governments are getting on board too. Both Chicago and New York City recently implemented bike-sharing programs that have seen pretty solid success with only a few setbacks.
Of course, some cities are more bike-friendly than others, which includes measures like the number of protected bike lines, trails and bike-only streets as well as the availability of bike shops, racks and service stations. In no particular order, here are some of the cities both large and small that have been consistently named as some of the country's most bike-friendly cities:
Portland, Ore.: Portland's bike culture – which was established long before that of other cities due to some excellent infrastructure – is alive and well. An impressive 8 percent of citizens use bikes as their primary form of public transport, while 10 percent use it as a secondary form. Portland also hosts various biking events and races each year. It has 65 miles of bike paths, 175 miles of bike lanes and almost 30 miles of low-traffic biking boulevards.
Minneapolis: Minneapolis really pampers its cyclists with indoor bike parking and on- and off-street bike facilities to make sure that residents continue to enjoy the city's 120 miles of biking facilities both on-street and off. The cities flat terrain is likely a boon for bicycling enthusiasts.
San Francisco: Since 1973, the City by the Bay has had one of the highest percentages of commuters on bike. On its 2011 Bike to Work Day, a whopping 75 percent of traffic on the busy Market Street thoroughfare downtown consisted of cyclists. San Francisco also has commuting incentives for those who take the Caltrain from the suburbs with their bikes in tow and then hop on their bikes upon getting off the train to cycle the rest of the way to work.
Chicago: In total, the city of Chicago has more than 300 miles of bikeways, which include on-street bike and shared lanes. Plus, the city has a lakefront trail that stretches 18.5 miles along Lake Michigan. You can bike from nearly the north end of the city to the south without having to share space with automobile traffic.
Washington, D.C.: The District was the first big city to implement a bike sharing program, which has more than 1,200 bicycles at 140 stations around the city and nearby Arlington. The biking community isn't as strong here as in other major cities, but all types of people bike here. The city has 11 miles of bicycle lanes and 10 miles of signed bike routes.
Madison, Wis.: This college town, home to the University of Wisconsin, is one of the most bike-friendly around. At one point, the city recorded nearly 11,000 bike trips through the downtown area per day during peak biking season.
New York City: With its brand new bike-sharing program, NYC has become a much more bike-friendly city. NYC has a great network of car-free trails and paths, including one that runs several miles along the length of Manhattan and the Hudson River. Also, massive Central Park is bicycle-friendly and car-free!
Boulder, Colo.: Beautiful Boulder is surrounded by 120 miles of trails, and a whopping 95 percent of its main streets are bike-friendly. This must be at least part of the reason that 10.5 percent of Boulder's residents bike to work.