For the ninth year in a decade, Washington has been named the most bicycle-friendly state in the nation. That may not surprise the more than 14,000 daily bike commuters in Seattle, or anyone who has taken a ride on U.S. Bicycle Route 10, the scenic, 416-mile bike route across the northern part of state.
But what exactly makes Washington such a great place for bikes? According to the League of American Bicyclists, it mostly comes down to planning.
The League, one of the oldest and largest cycling advocacy groups in the U.S., released its annual Bicycle-Friendly State rankings on Wednesday. Based on criteria that ranges from protected bike lanes to traffic laws to education, the report offers a state-by-state analysis to see who is taking steps to better protect and accommodate cyclists.
Washington has led the way every single year since the League started the rankings in 2008. (It skipped them in 2016 for adjustments and updates.) Once again, the Evergreen State nabbed the top spot.
“The big story with Washington is just how consistent it is,” says Ken McLeod, policy director at the League. “Compared to other states, it does good things everywhere.”
That means that despite a number of headline-grabbing projects—like the opening of U.S. Bicycle Route 10 in 2015, or the launch of a dockless bike-share program in Seattle over the summer—Washington’s real strength lies in covering all its bases.
McLeod points to a new program within the Washington state transportation department that uses data to guide the funding and implementation of bike and pedestrian safety measures. It’s basically a centralized way to make improvements for cycling.
“Most states don’t have the same sort of departmental-level action around biking and walking,” McLeod says.
While assessing each state, the League also accounted for what it calls “bicycle-friendly actions.” These include wonky concepts like passing a Complete Streets plan (the idea of planning a street for multiple transportation modes, not just motorists) or implementing a three-foot passing law for when cars overtake cyclsits.
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Minnesota claimed the number two spot in the League’s rankings, while California rose from eighth place to third between 2015 and 2017. McLeod credits California’s jump with its plan to build and connect a statewide bicycle network. (Visit the best places to bike with help from The Cyclist’s Bucket List.)
See how your state fared in the 2017 Bicycle-Friendly State rankings:
League of American Bicyclists
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