bicycle area

Bicycling in a small town can be more relaxing and safer than in a large city. As a cyclist, you can avoid breathing in polluted air and navigating through heavy traffic. But which small towns (less than 100,000 people) in the U.S. are actually bike-friendly? Below you’ll find some small towns well known for their cycling culture and some more unexpected places.

1. Davis, CA.

 No list of small bike-friendly towns is complete without a nod to Davis, CA. This town of roughly 64,000 people is famous for claiming to have more bikes than cars.

Among the Pacific Northwest’s cluster of bike-friendly places, almost all major roads in Davis are equipped with bike lanes. Davis is also the location of a University of California branch, so many cyclists are students pedaling to school.

Starting in the 1960s, Davis has steadily grown to have one of the highest cyclist per capita ratios in the U.S. Many factors contribute to why Davis is sometimes referred to as “the most bike-friendly town in the world.” These include the following:

  • Flat, compact layout
  • Mild annual temperatures
  • Over 50 miles of on-street and off-road bike lanes
  • 25 bike bridges and tunnels

If you want to go on safe cycling adventures in Northern California, this bike-friendly town should surely be on your itinerary.

2. Corvallis, OR.

Another small town that’s great for cycling (and also located in the Pacific Northwest) is Corvalis, OR. (pop. 54,000). The home of Oregon State University, this town is flat and located in the Williamette Valley.

About 95% of collector and arterial roads in the city have pathways designated specifically for cyclists. According to an American Community Survey from 2009, Corvallis had the highest percentage of bike commuters of any U.S. city. This ranking has been threatened in recent years, however, with Davis and Boulder claiming the top percentage of commuters.  Also, the city mandates that businesses and public buildings provide a proportional number of bike parking spaces to vehicle spaces.

Need more proof of this town’s commitment to biking? In 2011, Corvallis was awarded a gold rating by the League of American Bicyclists.

3. Missoula, MT.

Moving eastward to the rugged Mountain West, let’s take a look at another college town. Missoula is the second most populous city in Montana, but still can be considered a small town with less than 70,000 people.

It’s home to the state’s flagship university and currently operates a separate public office for bike and pedestrian transportation. Although Missoula has pretty rough winters, the city has designated plows to clear out bike routes so you can enjoy cycling all year long. The city has also recently instituted bike thoroughfares connecting the city and the University of Montana.

When talking about cycling in Missoula, one can’t help but mention the mountain biking opportunities surrounding the town. The following parks offer plenty of off-road paths:

  • Blue Mountain
  • Pattee Canyon
  • Rattlesnake National

Missoula provides biking opportunities for those who wish to enjoy a Sunday ride through town and for those who like to speed down mountain paths. For its long-standing commitment to having a bike-friendly community, it earned itself a silver rating by the League of American Bicyclists.

4. Boulder, CO.

Another small town in the Mountain West that offers a bike-friendly atmosphere is Boulder, CO. Although this town could almost be considered a medium-sized city at 97,000 people, it is still compact and quaint enough to be on this list. Like many of the other towns mentioned already, Boulder is also home to a major university, UC-Boulder.

What are some of the biking perks in this outdoor lover’s paradise? Over 95% of Boulder’s roads are outfitted with biking lanes and the city itself allocates 15% of its transportation budget to improving the cycling infrastructure.

Some evidence of the city government’s commitment to cycling is the Baseline Path, a half-mile route that connects East Boulder to the University.  Another feature is Valmont Park, a 40-acre space dedicated solely to biking recreation. It’s open to all ages and skill levels. Also, once snow starts to fall, plows begin to clear out bike paths so residents can travel on two wheels all year long.

All in all, Boulder boasts over 300 miles of urban and off-road bike paths, which warrants its place as a prime cycling destination in the U.S.

5. Greenville, SC. 

The Southern U.S. is not typically known for its bike-friendly culture, but this town of roughly 60,000 people has devoted considerable resources to becoming a cycling haven.

Chosen as a certifiable Bike Friendly Community and awarded a bronze rating by the League of American Bicyclists, Greenville has established Bikeville, an initiative to promote safe cycling and increase overall ridership.

The Bikeville initiative has developed ‘A Bicycle Master Plan’ to expand bike paths and seeks to increase the proportion of bike parking spaces to vehicle parking spaces. Additionally, as part of this initiative, all public buses have been equipped with two bike racks.