By Jessica Khorsandi
The Active Times
Pro-bike culture is sweeping the U.S. as more and more cities join the ranks of bicycle-friendly communities, recognizing the benefits that many European cities (some of which are included here) have enjoyed for decades:
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Not only can cycling spare your wallet the steep cost of gas, it also reduces pollution and commuting time with an eco-friendly, healthy alternative. Want a taste of this two-wheeled utopia? Put your pedal power to the test in one of these top 10 bike-friendly cities.
This small college town likes to brag that it has more bicycles than cars. It was the first city in the U.S. to implement bike lanes (as far back as 1967), they now exist on 95 percent of its major streets. A leader of the bike movement, the city has spent $14 million on bike projects in the last decade alone, a huge sum for a city of just 65,000. The bike craze has gone so far in Davis that a penny-farthing is the official city symbol and, in 2008, the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame moved here from New Jersey.
For a mountain town, Boulder is pretty easy on commuters. Its cyclists enjoy 300-plus days of annual sunshine and a 300-mile network of bike lanes that links residents to downtown and beyond to the mountain bike playground of the Front Range. The city's healthy, go-green attitude extends to its kids, too, as evidenced by a successful "Safe Routes to School" program, which focuses on infrastructure improvements that promote walking and biking among students.
This two-wheeled paradise lures 32 percent of workers to ride their bikes by spending a whopping $10M-20M annually on cycling infrastructure improvements. That means that bike paths here (famous for having their own signal systems) are extensive and very well traveled. But there's still plenty of room for you to soak in the culture astride an oh-so-sweet FREE public bicycle (your deposit is refunded once you return it). While you're in town, cruise the carefree, car-free streets of the self-proclaimed "freetown" of Christiania to witness a sort of bike-dependent utopian society.
This runner-up city is widely recognized as the urban bike capital of the U.S., which is the result of decades of advocacy and planning. Today, Portland is the only full-on city (and one of only three total communities) to earn Platinum Status from the League of American Bicyclists, thanks to its near-10 percent commuter rate, 259 miles of bike lanes and off-street paths and its many on-street bicycle safety features. And, if you're into it, the bike culture is pretty rocking, too, as evidenced by business like the Rolling Wrench mobile repair and local joe shop The Fresh Pot (North Location), which has more bike parking spaces outside than seats inside.
Amsterdam didn't become the bicycle capital of the world overnight. In fact, as far back as the 1960s, its government made a conscious decision to encourage bike use over the noise, pollution and congestion of a car-centric city. Today, more than half of all trips in the city center are by bike, where riders have 300 miles of bike lanes, paths, tunnels and bridges, as well as -- gasp! -- more road rights than motorists.
For the complete slideshow of the World's Best Bike Cities, go to TheActiveTimes.com.
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