A recent Bicycling magazine survey of the 50 most bike friendly cities in the U.S. found both Washington, D.C. and the City of Alexandria ranked within the top 25 best biking cities. The surveyors spoke to hundreds of bike experts and enthusiasts, and sifted through thousands of data elements to determine the rankings. The ranking “system is out of 100 points divided into four categories, each weighted based on their importance. Safety tops the list and is ranked out of 40 points. Eight to 80 friendliness (how accessible the city is to riders of all ages) came next out of 30 points. Then energy—a measure of the political climate in regards to bikes—out of 20 points. Finally, culture—the shops, routes, and attributes that make each city a great place to ride—was ranked out of 10 points.”
Bicycling magazine noted the following about D.C. (ranked 11) and Alexandria (ranked 25).
Safety – 32/40 pts. Friendliness – 23/30 Energy – 15/20 Culture – 8/10
2016 Ranking: 9
Our nation’s capital has done an excellent job investing in both trail systems and on-street infrastructure, so cyclists can zip in from the suburbs on pathways, but still feel safe as they connect from pathways to office.
One of the city’s recent big projects is the Anacostia River Trail, a four-mile section of trail that connects to 26 more miles of trail in Maryland. Traditionally, Anacostia has been an underserved community, so the trail was one step towards infrastructure equity, says Jim Sebastian, who works for the District’s Department of Transportation.
D.C. is also prioritizing programs that incentivize cycling in the city. The GoD.C.Go program works with employers to make their offices bike friendly. And the 2014 D.C. Commuter Benefit Ordinance stipulates that all D.C. employers with 20 or more employees must offer transit benefits—like free bus passes or a bikeshare membership.
Finally, D.C. continues to be a leader on the safe routes to school program. Every single second grader in the city learns to ride a bike, and many of the schools have bike to school days where large numbers of students actually make their way to school by bike—something other cities are truly strugglingto achieve.
City of Alexandria
Safety – 30/40 pts. Friendliness – 20/30 Energy – 12/20 Culture – 6/10
2016 Ranking: 34
This D.C. suburb is putting in the work to move up this list and should be even higher by the time the 2020 rankings roll around. In the past two years, Alexandria ratified a new bike and pedestrian plan, and a Vision Zero plan. The city has also added three employees who work extensively on bike and pedestrian projects, says Jim Durham, chair of the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory committee.
That’s just the groundwork, though. Now the hard part has to happen. Like Arlington and D.C., Alexandria has a good existing trail network that can move commuters into the city. But first- and last-mile connections leave something to be desired. And getting to and from places that aren’t served by this network means mostly riding in traditional bike lanes—just paint, few buffers and even fewer physical barriers. “Equity is also an issue,” say Durham. Alexandria’s West Side, which has traditionally been lower-income, hasn’t gotten the same amount of bike and pedestrian attention as the rest of the city.
Things are moving the right direction, though. Alexandria is taking safety seriously and has reduced speed limits, narrowed lanes—which slows traffic and forces drivers to be more careful—and built in speed cushions (which are flatter and less harsh than speed bumps) and curb bulb-outs to slow traffic. Moving forward, Durham says the focus will be on creating more neighborhood greenways to close gaps in the bike
infrastructure—though to really bump this city up in this list, they’re going to need to get serious about building protected lanes too.
Congratulations are in order to both localities, as our region turns more bike friendly every day. Livemore and Bikemore!