People for BikesPeople for Bikes

July 10, 2024

Great Biking Isn’t Just for Big Cities

By: Jack Foersterling, editorial content manager

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The top 10 small cities in PeopleForBikes’ 2024 City Ratings scored an average of 89 out of a possible 100, showing that great places to bike come in all shapes and sizes.

Photo Credit: Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau

PeopleForBikes’ annual City Ratings includes 816 new U.S. cities for 2024, 708 of which are home to less than 50,000 residents. While these newcomers may not have the populations of some of our other great places to bike like Minneapolis and Seattle, there is still plenty to celebrate and learn from small cities across the U.S.

The top 10 small cities in this year’s ratings scored an average of 89 out of a possible 100, showing that great places to bike come in all shapes and sizes. We collected a few of our favorite new small cities in this year’s rankings stretching from North Carolina to Alaska.

Springdale, Utah

City Ratings Score: 89

Located near Zion National Park in southwest Utah, there is one main road running through the town of Springdale, State Route 9, with sections of a nice bike path running alongside it. Thanks to a $10.8 million grant approved by the Utah Department of Transportation, an 18-mile paved trail will soon run from the city of St. George through Springdale all the way to the entrance of Zion National Park, giving local residents and outdoor recreationists from across the country a safe and accessible route to travel to the park without having to get in the car.

Emerald Isle, North Carolina

City Ratings Score: 76

The small coastal community of Emerald Isle along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast has an 11-mile bike path that stretches nearly the entire length of Bouges Bank Island called the Emerald Path. The city hosts an annual bike ride called Bike the Banks, with the shortest race option taking place entirely on the bike path.

Valdez, Alaska

City Ratings Score: 74

The community of Valdez supports a growing theme of Alaskan cities punching above their weight in our City Ratings. Viewing city score averages by state, Alaska is the highest scoring state for 2024 with an average population-weighted city score of 59 out of 100. The town sits on the edge of a bay and the 6.5-mile DOT Valdez Bike Path connects the town center to the west side of the town, where the Shoup Bay Trail takes bicyclists out further along the bay and into the wilderness. There is also a multi-use path that connects Port Valdez on the other side of the bay to the DOT path into town. Valdez is home to excellent fat tire biking, where you can bike on frozen lakes with icebergs, and partake in the annual Fat Bike Bash.

Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania

City Ratings Score: 73

Despite its name, Jersey Shore is an inland town along a river in central Pennsylvania, neither close to New Jersey nor the ocean. The town’s main bike infrastructure is the Pine Creek Rail Trail, a 62-mile trail that terminates in Jersey City. The Bald Eagle Valley Trail project is currently underway (tracked via our Great Bike Infrastructure Project), ending in Jersey Shore and connecting to the rail trail. The Bald Eagle Valley Trail is part of a much bigger effort for this region called the Susquehanna Valley Greenway, along the Susquehanna River in Appalachia. 

Ojai, California

City Ratings Score: 69

Situated between Los Angeles and Santa Barabara, Ojai is not as rural as the other cities on this list, but it is currently constructing a major bike path and safety project along one of its most dangerous roads, Maricopa Highway. The project is a great example of a dedicated effort to improve safety for people biking and walking because it takes a lot of work for small cities to marshall the kind of resources needed to complete a project of that size, with Ojai receiving competitive Active Transportation Program funding from the state. The city is also choosing to tackle one of its biggest connectivity barriers rather than go after easy, cheap, but less impactful projects. An existing regional trail, the Ojai Valley Trail, runs 15 miles from the coastal city of Ventura into the town center of Ojai, allowing residents and visitors to bike from the town to the beach.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

City Ratings Score: 99

This small historic island located off the northern tip of Michigan’s mitten is our #1 ranked city in this year’s City Ratings. Mackinac Island received an impressive score of 99 out of a possible 100 and for good reason — the town banned motor vehicles in 1898. While the island itself is only 3.8 square miles in size, 80% of Mackinac is a state park and is home to more than 70 miles of trails to explore, including an 8.2-mile coastal trail that circumnavigates the perimeter of the island. Mackinac Island’s lack of vehicular traffic and 19th-century charm have made the small Michigan town a major national tourism destination, with the year-round population of around 600 welcoming nearly 1 million visitors each year.

Related Locations:

MichiganCaliforniaPennsylvaniaAlaskaNorth CarolinaUtah
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