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Why Washington and Minnesota are the most bicycle-friendly states in the US

A bike lane in Minneapolis.
A bike lane in Minneapolis.
(Matthew Traucht)

Cold-weather states like Minnesota, Washington, and Massachusetts are some of the best places in the US to be a cyclist — at least according to the League of American Bicyclists.

Each year, the league releases a new set of rankings for the country's most bicycle-friendly states. Here are the top 10, with ratings on a scale from 0 to 100:

bike chart new
Note that the rankings don't take weather into account. Instead, they're mainly based on factors that local officials can control — like street design, traffic laws, the presence of bike lanes, and transportation planning processes that take cyclist safety into account. Here's each state's rating:

bike rankings map

It might initially seem crazy for these rankings to ignore the fact that Minnesota is absolutely frigid much of the year, or that Colorado is so mountainous. But lots of research shows that infrastructure and local policies are more important than climate in getting people to bike.

Here, for comparison, is a map of the percentage of people who commute to work by bike daily in each state, from the most recent US Census American Community Survey (conducted in 2011):

bike commuting map

It's not a perfect correlation, but the states that systematically do the most to encourage biking tend to have many more people who bike to work every day.