Washington named most bike-friendly state: let's raise the bar

“Let’s not fool ourselves – we’re being graded on a curve," stated Evan Manvel, Director of Policy, Planning and Government Affairs at Cascade. How do you envision safer streets for Washington?

The League of American Bicyclists ranked Washington as the most bicycle friendly state in America in the organization’s sixth annual Bicycle Friendly States assessment.

For the sixth year in a row, Washington beat out top-tier contenders Colorado (#2), Oregon (#3) and Minnesota (#4) to claim the number one spot.

Washington’s top ranking was based on a number of key indicators, including infrastructure and funding for bicycle facilities; education and encouragement programs to promote bicycling and increase ridership; and passage and enforcement of bicycle-friendly laws that make it safe and comfortable for people of all ages to ride.

While Washington earned top marks in the League' s report when it came to legislation and enforcement as well as education and encouragement programs, the scores still lagged for infrastructure and funding and evaluation and planning. Of the League’s “Top 10 Signs of Success,” Washington missed on having a safe passing law (one that would require a minimum passing distance of three feet), and at least one percent of people commuting by bike.

Statewide, only 0.9 percent of Washingtonians commute by bike—slightly higher than the national average of 0.4 percent. In Seattle, this number increases to 3.5 percent, yet Portland sees 6 percent of commuters bicycling to work. Both cities are leaps and bounds behind European rockstars like Denmark, The Netherlands and Germany that consistently post double-digit bike commute rates, where half of all cyclists are women, and where nearly a quarter of all trips made by the elderly are made by bicycle. In fact, on Monday consulting and communications firm Copenhagenize published its 2013 index of the world's most bike-friendly cities  and American cities were entirely absent from the top 20. The connection between infrastructure, funding and ridership is clear: people are riding bikes in countries investing in world-class bicycle networks that make it safe and attractive to do so.

The League recommended Washington take a closer look at the funding possibilities for bicycle and pedestrian projects, protect and expand funding for Safe Routes to Schools projects, and balance state transportation investments to better reflect safety needs by mode share. According to the League, bicycles and pedestrians account for 13 percent of all trips and 16 percent of accidents resulting in serious injury or death; yet receive less than 0.5 percent of transportation funds. The State also could improve data collection on ridership, barriers to ridership and crash incidence to gain a better understanding of bicycle travel and safety needs.

“Leading America in bike-friendliness is a testament to the progress we’ve made over the years, and an accomplishment that helps boost our tourism economy as well as attract knowledge-based employers,” stated Evan Manvel, Cascade’s Director of Policy, Planning and Government Affairs. “But let’s not fool ourselves – we’re being graded on a curve. It’s like being named the best mountain climber in Kansas. We’re far behind the leading countries in the world who have complete, safe networks of places for people to ride, and people who ride bikes aren’t thought of as bicyclists, but rather average people going about their lives.”

Washington, we’re leading the country when it comes to bicycling. As the leader, let’s raise the stakes; let’s imagine a better world for our children where neighborhood streets are safe and accessible for people of all ages and abilities, and let’s set the bar higher.