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What Does it Mean to Be Bike Friendly?

Kid-friendly restaurants have crayons, pet-friendly hotels have four-legged fur babies, but what of the buddy-buddy designation for two-wheeled brethren?
Mary Fenton

Mayday! Mayday! It's here!

May is National Bike Month, or something we bicyclists otherwise call The Best Month of the Year or Kinda Christmas. It's a month to celebrate all things bike -- to put the spotlight on the positive impacts bikes can bring to your life, to the planet, and to encourage others to get on the bike train!

Now in its 63rd year, Bike Month comes each May with heaps of cycley goodness, like Bike to Work Week (May 13-19), Bike to Work Day (May 17), and events galore for both (43 of the 51 largest U.S. cities hosted Bike to Work Day events in 2010.)

It's hard not to rally when you're in good company, but hopping on board a bike becomes leaps and bounds easier when the place you live or work is bike friendly. So what does that mean, exactly?

Do drivers in town give you a wave from the steering wheel when you ride by? Do they cook dinner for you just for being on two wheels? Do they compliment you on your new spandex in the grocery store? Well, yes, maybe, and ... no thanks?

(Click the infographic to read it bigger.)

Bike-Friendly Communities Infographic

Being bike friendly, according to the League of American Bicyclists -- the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that rates and ranks communities, businesses, and universities for their kindliness to cyclists -- means having the building blocks necessary to make biking successful for riders. They're ranked per their adherence to "the five E's:" enforcement, education, engineering, evaluation, and encouragement. 

Key outcomes are defined by the Bike League by ridership, crashes, and fatalities. A community with a Diamond rating, for instance, has 20 percent of its citizens commuting by bike, with only 50 crashes and .2 fatalities per 10,000 daily commuters. 

To achieve those kinds of numbers, all the other buckets have to fall into place. There need to be municipal laws that prioritize cyclists. Schools need to teach kids bike skills, roads need to have protected bike lanes, and advocacy groups and events need to exist that promote biking.

Washington, where Rad Power Bikes is headquartered, happens to have the No. 1 ranking for bike-friendliness in the country, followed by Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, and Oregon, respectively. The Evergreen State has 18 bike-friendly communities, 40 bike-friendly businesses, and one university. It's held the top position for 10 years, and its bike-friendly actions -- like a bicycle master plan and federal transportation fund spending on bikes and peds -- get more cyclists safely on the road every year. 

Ra ra for bike-friendly cities and states, amiright? But even if you live somewhere that's bike mean, maybe May can be your time to give it a whirl. Put on a helmet, find a route that utilizes bike lanes or back roads, learn basic bike etiquette, and take the challenge. 

 

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