PeopleForBikes, a cycling advocacy group, announced Tuesday that Berkeley earned the top spot for the best midsized city to bike in the United States, per its 2021 city ratings.
Berkeley was also ranked as the fifth-best city to bike in overall, according to the PeopleForBikes’ website. PeopleForBikes used a two-pronged approach to evaluate Berkeley’s biking quality, alongside 659 other American cities.
A survey evaluated community perceptions of bike quality while a Bicycle Network Analysis, or BNA, quantified several bike-accessible amenities that ameliorate cyclist well-being.
“Research shows that the best cities for bicycling have safe, comfortable and well-connected bike networks,” said PeopleForBikes’ Local Innovation Vice President Kyle Wagenschutz in an email. “Investment from local governments in better bike infrastructure is the key to getting more people on bikes, improving the safety of all road users and connecting everyone to where they need to go.”
BNA determined each city’s network score as a way of quantifying a city’s bicycle network connectivity, according to Wagenschutz.
Wagenschutz added that BNA used OpenStreetMap and national census statistics to rate every street or path as “high or low stress” for cyclists, determined whether people can easily bike from home to essential services with low-stress routes and gave every city a score based on the number of accessible, low-stress destinations.
“Berkeley could be a safer place to bike now, but it is one of the better places in the US to bike,” said Ben Gerhardstein, a coordinating committee member of Walk Bike Berkeley. “We could make investments so we could be the best place to bike in the world.”
Gerhardstein added that one of Walk Bike Berkeley’s major efforts right now is to institute a new Berkeley Department of Transportation that will provide racially just traffic enforcement. He said, more broadly, the city needs new leadership that will prioritize bike safety.
Gerhardstein also said Berkeley has not finished the Bike Boulevard Network, which includes Milvia Street and Channing Way. To improve the bicycle boulevards, he also said the city needs to divert traffic off of them and add safe crossings and traffic calming measures.
Berkeley added two miles of protected bikeways in five years on top of 12 miles of bicycle boulevards, 12 miles of paved paths and 14 miles of conventional bike lanes of previously existing bikeways, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.
Chakko added that Berkeley has the highest share of bikeways of any midsized city in California and fourth overall throughout the state.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín said the city made a “major” investment in bike infrastructure and safety through Vision Zero, a plan to improve pedestrian safety by eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2028.