Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

14 May 2015

Bicycle Report Cards, State-By-State

It's that time of year.

Yesterday, rough winds did shake the darling buds of May. Today the air is calmer but for some--especially my students, not to mention me--it is not a temperate day, lovely as it is.

You see, the semester is nearing its end. Some time after Memorial Day, my students will get their report cards in the same sense that we "dial" telephone numbers and "ship" items.   That is to say, no school or university (at least, none that I know of) uses cards anymore:  Students get their grades online.

In a similar fashion, all fifty states of the US have just received "report cards."  They weren't, however, graded in English or Math or History.  Their grades didn't come from me or any other professor or teacher, and their cards weren't issued by any educational insititution.

Instead, they came from the League of American Bicyclists. The "grades"--or, more precisely, scores--each state received were in categories that included Legislation & Enforcement, Policies & Programs, Infrastructure & Funding, Education & Encouragement and Evaluation & Planning.

The League of American Bicyclists' rankings show how amenable states are to cycling, based on criteria that range from infrastructure to laws and advocacy.
This is not CNN's electoral map.  Yes, the states deemed most "bike friendly" are in blue.  But the next-most "bike friendly" are red.  Strangely, the states labelled least bike-friendly are in green!

So, which state finished at "the top of the class"?  That would be the Evergreen State--Washington--which also finished first last year.  So, while the efforts of advocates and planners there are to be commended, the ranking is bittersweet, as the state still scored only 66 out of 100 in both years for "bicycle friendliness".

Its neighbor to the south, Oregon, came in sixth and California eighth. Some of the states you'd expect to be high in the rankings--such as Massachusetts (fourth) and Colorado (seventh) are also there.  Not surprisingly, most of the states near the top of the table are in the Far West or Northeastern parts of the US. 

Also not surprisingly, the most of the lowest-ranking states are in the South, with Alabama bringing up the rear (with a score of 12.4, which was actually worse than their 2014 tally of 17.4) and Kentucky immediately in front of them.

My home state of New York ranked 29th in both years, though its score improved slightly from 33.9 to 35.4.

If my students had scores like those, I'd have appointments with my department chair and a dean--and they wouldn't be for lunch!


  1. The scores reflect the LAB management's agenda. Oregon, for example, has a mandatory bike lane usage law, but they score sixth because they spend a lot of money on bikey stuff that is "liked."

  2. Steve--That's a very good point. I didn't mean to imply that LAB's surveys and reports actually tell us which states are the most bike-friendly. However, I do think that, to some degree, they show us regional trends: Based on my admittedly-limited experience, I would say that the New England and West Coast states are generally more bike-friendly than, say, Mississippi or Kentucky.