How Bicycle Friendly is California?

On Behalf of | Sep 10, 2020 | Benefits of Bicycling |

Bicycling has countless benefits, both for the health of the biker and the environment overall. Bicycles also cost less than cars and require fuel costs that continually rise and fall, making the two-wheeled transports ideal for commuting.

SmartAsset did a deep dive to identify the most bicycle-friendly communities. They looked at 100 of the largest cities in the nation, creating five categories that included:

  • Bike score
  • Percentage of commuters on bicycles
  • Bike fatalities
  • Number of miles devoted to bike lanes
  • Income after housing costs

On a national level, bicycling remains a small percentage when it comes to traveling to and from work. However, the recent global pandemic saw numbers increase in not only commuting but also bicycle purchases overall.

California had three cities in the top 25 and did well in many areas of the study. The one outlier was the bicyclist fatality category that could not be factored due to those measurements occurring at the county level.

San Francisco

While the 16th largest city in the country ranked seventh overall with a 78.52 index, San Franciso enjoyed substantial numbers that led to a sixth-place ranking in all four out of five metrics, excluding bicyclist deaths. The city also enjoyed the fifth-best bike score at 72.2. When it comes to the number of protected bike lanes, the city sits at number six with 16.7 miles. Commuters who ride their bicycles to work are at 4.2 percent, the fourth-highest in the study.


The largest city in Alameda County ranked twelfth with a 68.33 index and a bike score of 65.4. While only less than seven points behind San Francisco, it lags well below its fellow California city, with only 2.2 percent commuters riding bikes and slightly less than one mile of bike trails.


The Orange County-based city was second from the bottom in the top 25. The overall bike score was 69.4, combined with a 55.10 index. Commuting to work via bicycle was at 1.2, a decent number considering the lack of available bike trails.