How Great Bike Plans Transform Communities
By: Martina Haggerty, senior director of local innovation
If you’re seeking inspiration to help guide your local bike planning process, here are nine cities with plans worth duplicating.
Even great biking cities need to constantly improve to ensure they remain at the forefront of creating better communities for bicycling. Just ask Munich, Germany, which, even with a City Ratings score of 83, strives to make its city even better for bicycling with the 2022 announcement of a new plan for six cycling expressways and a bicycle ring road to be completed by 2025.
City Ratings scores and the creation of great places for biking are positively impacted by plans that embody PeopleForBikes' SPRINT framework: reducing speeds, constructing protected bike lanes, reallocating road space, improving intersections, establishing comprehensive networks of safe cycling routes, and using trusted data to inform decision-making. These strategies help communities enhance bike infrastructure and make riding better for everyone.
With that in mind, we explored our top-rated U.S. cities for 2023 to find the most exceptional bike plans. Each of these communities sets an inspiring example for others to follow, demonstrating the transformative power of well-crafted bike plans in building vibrant, bike-friendly communities that get more people riding more often.
Rated as the top large U.S. city in our City Ratings program for 2023, Minneapolis has developed one of the country’s most robust bicycle networks thanks in part to its 2011 Bicycle Master Plan, 2013 Climate Action Plan, 2020 Transportation Action Plan, and 2015 Protected Bikeway Update to the Bicycle Master Plan. The 2015 plan outlined a long-term objective of creating 174 miles of protected bike lanes as part of the city's bike network. To help implement these plans, Minneapolis’ Street Design Guide was created to steer the design of road reconstructions and retrofits.
In 1967, Davis constructed a bike lane on 8th Street, making it the first U.S. city with a designated bike lane. Today, Davis is PeopleForBikes’ highest-rated medium-sized city, with more than 100 miles of bike lanes and paths. The city has bike plans dating back to 1977 available on its website, offering a glimpse into how thinking about bike infrastructure has changed over the decades. Davis’ most recent plan, its 2014 Beyond Platinum Bicycle Action Plan, outlines strategies to help Davis continue leading the way in creating a safe and attractive bicycling community to meet climate adaptation goals and accommodate a growing population.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco's Vision Zero Action Plan and Quick Build Program is part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's efforts to prioritize safety and sustainable transportation. In recent years, it’s gained significant traction, building upon the city’s transit-first policy, which voters approved in the 1970s. The program’s success lies in its iterative design process, which uses streamlined delivery to produce quick results, project evaluations to determine what’s working in regard to safety outcomes, and the willingness to redesign projects if needed.
As it approaches its tenth anniversary, the program has showcased notable achievements for people riding bikes, including increasing bike volumes by up to 75%, reducing vehicle-bike interactions at bike signals by 93%, reducing vehicular speeds, and decreasing the percentage of vehicles blocking bike lanes by 90%. All of this has helped land San Francisco our number two spot among large U.S. cities in this year’s City Ratings program.
In 2021, Seattle updated its Bicycle Master Plan to guide the city’s work over the next four years, listing specific infrastructure projects to be completed within that time frame. Through regular updates to the plan, Seattle has been able to adjust project lists and provide progress reports to the City Council and the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board on the implementation status of the overall master plan — something that is required by City Council Resolution in Seattle.
The Bicycle Master Plan works in conjunction with the city's Vision Zero Plan and Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Analysis, which help prioritize bicycle infrastructure based on safety considerations, as well as the Seattle Trails Upgrade Plan, which helps guide trail connectivity and maintenance projects. Together, these four plans have helped the city lower speed limits to 25 mph for more than 90% of its arterial streets and, as of November 2022, build out 32 miles of protected bike lanes and trails, as well as nearly 60 miles of neighborhood greenways. All of this work has helped Seattle increase its Bicycle Network Analysis score — which directly informs City Ratings results — from 47 in 2018 to 62 in 2023.
From 2000 to 2009, Philadelphia saw a 151% increase in bicycle commuting, making it the fastest-growing mode of transportation in the city. In 2012, when Philadelphia released its updated Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan, the city had already used its 2000 version of the plan to create more than 230 miles of bike lanes and other on-road bicycle facilities to keep up with growing demand. In 2013, the city also released its Trail Master Plan, which has since been updated annually.
While the 2012 plan focused on improving network connectivity by filling gaps in the network, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia wanted more, challenging the city to construct 30 miles of protected bike lanes. That idea gained traction in 2018 when the Kenney Administration integrated it into Connect: Philadelphia's Strategic Transportation Plan.
Key components of these plans (and the city’s Vision Zero Plan) helped increase Philadelphia’s Bicycle Network Analysis score from 43 in 2018 to 57 in 2023. They include the creation of neighborhood slow zones, an impressive regional trail network, and new protected bike lanes on JFK Boulevard, Market Street, Race Street, Torresdale Avenue, and Parkside Avenue.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
In 2019, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller made a commitment to Vision Zero, joining more than 40 other U.S. communities in an effort to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries. That commitment has clearly paid off for the city’s bike network: While it’s not a top-rated city (yet), Albuquerque's Bicycle Network Analysis score jumped from just 13 in 2019 to 29 in 2023.
Released in 2021, Albuquerque’s Vison Zero Action Plan incorporates clear themes and corresponding action items, designating lead agencies and organizations responsible for implementing each. Importantly, the plan overlays a vulnerable communities index map with the high fatal and injury network map to address safety concerns to improve equity.
From 1997 to 2007, Teton County and the Town of Jackson constructed more than 25 miles of paved shared-use paths. Since the completion of the Pathways Master Plan in 2007, that mileage has grown exponentially, landing Jackson in the number six overall spot in our U.S. City Ratings program with a score of 79. With 70 miles of paved pathways and 152 miles of trails, the pathway system now links the community to even more riding opportunities in nearby Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park.
Beyond identifying priority infrastructure investments to improve and expand the Pathways system, the Master Plan lays out clear recommendations for needed policy changes, team structures, and finances to complete the plan’s vision and maintain the Pathways network, ensuring the system is set up for long-term success. The 2015 Community Streets Plan complements the Pathways Master Plan by providing a street design manual that governs the development of public infrastructure projects, ensuring that bikeways are developed under set standards and in line with the master plan.
Hoboken, New Jersey
In 2021, Hoboken released its Vision Zero Action Plan, which aims to achieve Vision Zero in five years by implementing immediate improvements for safer streets. The plan helped the city identify high-crash corridors and intersections and recommend specific measures to reduce crashes and their impact, many of which the city has moved quickly to implement, including protected bike lanes, curb extensions, high-visibility crosswalks, and a citywide 20-mile-per-hour speed limit.
Hoboken’s 2010 Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan also helped put the city on the right track to becoming what is now one of the best medium-sized cities in the U.S. for biking, with a City Ratings score of 62. Even more importantly, Hoboken has achieved something most advocates in other U.S. cities can only dream of: no traffic fatalities for four consecutive years.
Cambridge achieved one of the most significant increases in our City Ratings program, soaring from 31 in 2018 to an impressive 58 in 2023. Improvements in Cambridge have been propelled forward through the 2020 Cambridge Bicycle Plan, the city’s Vision Zero Action Plan, and the implementation of separated bike lanes as mandated by the Cambridge Cycling Safety Ordinance. Perhaps most influential, the Cycling Safety Ordinance requires the city to build almost its entire citywide network of protected bike lanes by 2026.