The U.S. News Best Places Data Drill Down, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that sheds light on multiple data points in order to help readers make the most informed decision when choosing where to live in the United States. Visit our 2016 Best Places to Live ranking to see which of the 100 most populous metro areas made it to the top of the list based on good value, desirability, a strong job market and a high quality of life.
When it comes to a daily commute, we all have to consider the best method for how we're going to get to work on a daily basis, especially for those who are looking to move to a new city. For many of the residents living in some of the largest metro areas in the U.S., commuting to work by car or public transit is a necessity. However, those who are lucky enough to live in a place that's conducive to bike travel often opt for two wheels over four.
One of the many factors that we considered for the U.S. News & World Report's inaugural Best Places to Live in the U.S. ranking was commuter data, which was pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau. Our ranking of the 100 largest metro areas in the country was evaluated based on each of the places' affordability, job market, housing market, cost of living and quality of life, which took into account the average commute time.
When deciding how to commute, we take into account a number of factors, including different transportation options, costs and reliability, as well as the time it will take you to get to work. As part of the Quality of Life index, one of the major components in the Best Places to Live ranking methodology, we looked at the average amount of time commuters spend traveling to work each day, and assigned each place a corresponding score compared to the rest of the country.
Bike commuters take matters into their own hands, as they are primarily dependent on themselves and not as heavily affected by traffic or paying for gas. Not only will a bike save time, it can also save money; a bike is more affordable in comparison to owning a car, which costs nearly $9,000 per year for upkeep, according to AAA.
In the 100 ranked metro areas, an average of 0.56 percent of commuters bike to work. Among the 10 metro areas with the highest bike-commute rate, the amount was much higher at about 1.68 percent.
In Madison, Wisconsin – which placed No. 24 in the 2016 Best Places to Live ranking – roughly 2.5 percent of commuters bike to work. This statistic is just another example of Madison's healthy lifestyle; the city also has a low percentage of residents without health insurance, and those who live here place a heavy emphasis on local produce (with more than 20 farmers markets held here, according to the city). Additionally, Madison officials have made it easier for residents to get around by bike with nearly 20 miles of bike routes that lead through the heart of the city.
Portland, Oregon, is another bike-friendly place, with about 2.3 percent of commuters biking to work. There is a strong cycling culture in Portland, which ranked No. 20 in the 2016 Best Places to Live ranking. The Portland Bureau of Transportation reports there are more than 350 miles of bikeways in the city, with more to come in the future. To improve safety and reduce conflict, the bureau has provided bicycle-specific traffic signals at 19 intersections, allowing city traffic to move more efficiently.
Even in hilly San Francisco (which ranked No. 9 on the 2016 Best Places to Live rankings), about 1.9 percent of commuters bike to work. Though soaring real estate prices have forced many Bay Area residents to look outside the San Francisco city limits for housing, those living in the area share a passion for cycling. Residents are learning to safely navigate and commute through the city with help from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which offers many resources including free urban cycling workshops.
Below are the 10 metro areas with the highest percentages of commuters who bike to work.
Percent of Total Commuters Who Bike to Work
Average Commute Time (mins)
Best Places to Live 2016 Ranking
|Madison, WI||2.53%||21.6 (3.9 minutes less than average)||24|
|Portland, OR||2.32%||25.3 (0.2 minutes less than average)||20|
|San Francisco||1.90%||30.3 (4.8 minutes greater than average)||9|
|Sacramento, CA||1.87%||26 (0.5 minutes greater than average)||68|
|Tucson, AZ||1.79%||24.2 (1.3 minutes less than average)||73|
|San Jose, CA||1.76%||25.7 (0.2 minutes greater than average)||10|
|Boise, ID||1.35%||21.5 (4.0 minutes less than average)||6|
|Honolulu||1.17%||27.6 (2.1 minutes greater than average)||26|
|Seattle||1.08%||28.3 (2.8 minutes greater than average)||7|
|New Orleans||1.06%||25.4 (0.1 minutes less than average)||91|
Be sure to check out our 2016 Best Places to Live methodology for insight on how we analyzed and determined our calculations.