Madison 5th Best Cycling City in US … so far

According to the new site Bike Score, Madison is ranked the 5th most “bikeable” city in the US.  Announced during bike to work week, the new rankings comes from the creators the creators of Walk Score and Transit Score. Bike Score launched the new site with rankings for ten major (populations more than 200,000) U.S. cities:


To request Bike Score for your city, visit Bike Score will add the top 10 cities receiving votes between now and the end of National Bike Month on May 31, 2012.  So if you want your city included, as they say in Chicago, vote early, vote often! It is certainly possible, if not probable, that the top rankings will change when bike meccas like Boulder, Davis, Cambridge, etc. are added.

According to their blog, Bike Score provides a 0-100 rating of the bikeability of a location based on the availability of bike infrastructure (lanes and trails), the hilliness of the area, destinations and road connectivity, and the number of bike commuters. The Bike Score for a city is then calculated by applying the Bike Score algorithm block-by-block throughout the city and weighting the scores by population density. You can read more about the methodology here.

It appears by a link at the bottom right corner of the page that local bike coordinators might have the ability to get cities added as well. If you know your local bike czar and want your city analyzed, send them the link.

It is interesting that snowy and cold Minneapolis beat out Portland, largely on the strength of the trail system in the Twin Cities. Mayor Ryback will once again be able to make his claim that “Portland is just a street in Minneapolis.” Whether you get a kick out of snarky political sound bites or not, a little competition to be the best city for cycling will benefit us all.

One comment from Madison made the interesting point that this test is clearly graded on a curve. If my daughter got a 67 on a math test, that would score as a D, but in the world of bicycle friendly US cities, that puts you in the top 5.  It would be interesting to see how Copenhagen or Amsterdam would rank in Bike Score.

Copenhagen is ranked by Walk Score, and gets a 93, or “Walker’s Paradise.”  I imagine they would get a similar score for cycling. As a local point of pedestrian pride, Milwaukee tops Copenhagen in Walk Score with a 97 due to a dense urban street grid and sidewalks pretty much everywhere, AND we have custard stands (just saying).

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 11 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave lives with his wife Liz and daughter Frankie in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's west side.

6 thoughts on “Madison 5th Best Cycling City in US … so far

  1. Really looking forward to bikescore!

    You do realize that is only one small neigborhood in MKE right? The city on a whole I think is only mid 60′s but the historic core (lincoln, capitol, 35th street) is pretty darn walkable.

  2. Yeah, that is the score for the Juneau Town area, but it is what came up when I searched for Milwaukee and unlike Mayor R.T. Ryback, it is all I have to crow about ;) I also just noticed that the score for Copenhagen has a tiny “unsupported country” warning by it. When I clicked on the warning, it said the data for the city was not accurate.

    In looking at the US cities, the walk scores seem to really emphasize destinations over infrastructure. For instance as a city Seattle scores a little better than Milwaukee, but it has very few sidewalks compared to Milwaukee and way bigger hills to walk up and down. I have visited Seattle many times and as a visitor I didn’t think it was very walkable compared to Milwaukee. Perhaps it feels different as a resident.

    • Southgate has a better walkscore than Bay View but I think only because of all the shopping on 27th street but I doubt it takes into account having to walk across those ugly parking lots and trying to cross the 6 lanes of 27th.
      I have a feeling that soon Milwaukee will start to become know as a much more friendly bike city. MPLS has the green way but we have the HAST! We’re our biggest detracters, if only we could be our biggest boosters! :)

  3. As a Milwaukee cyclist, I relish those times I’ve biked in Madison. The path network there is so extensive, the auto traffic is so light, and, at least in the “sandbox” of the campus and isthmus areas, there are bikes all over the place. Car drivers in Madison, in my experience, are much more accommodating and far less insane than Milwaukee drivers, who seem to always be pushing the envelope.

    Another thing Madison has going for it is that it’s so small. I had a meeting on the suburban fringe of Middleton and to bike right to the heart of the downtown to catch the Badger Bus back to Milwaukee was only 8 miles. Along the way I got to ride along Lake Mendota near Picnic Point, past the dorms I lived when I was a student out there. What a nice ride.

  4. If 200,000 population is required to make this list then Davis, CA and Boulder, CO will not show up. Davis has a population similar to Janesville, WI and Boulder has 96,000 people.

    • The site started with populations over 200,000, but they plan to add smaller cities.

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