5 Bike Friendly Cities that will surprise you

Last Updated on March 21, 2019 by Janet Frost

Many cities are calling themselves “bike friendly” these days. City planners and transportation departments recognize the value of implementing bike/multi-use pathways throughout and around their municipalities. There are some well-known bike friendly cities such as Seattle, Portland and Fort Collins. Several cycling magazines (Bicycling) and organizations (PlacesforBikes) make their “best of” lists each year. With a little help from my friends, we want to share some bike friendly cities that will surprise you.

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Tucson, AZ

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There is no surprise that Tucson, AZ offers perfect biking weather almost year-round. It might not even be surprising that you can find rugged mountain bike trails in the mountains and desert of Tucson. What is surprising, is the miles of beautifully paved trails for all styles of bikes. Tucson offers over 130 miles of designated bike paths circling the city and surrounding county. The Loop provides 54 miles of safe pathways.

This interactive map helps you find trailheads, nearby parks and unique art installations.
For the truly competitive riders, there are several biker friendly, mountain passes. These passes have elevation changes that provide a significant challenge. For more details about how Tucson is one of the surprising bike friendly cities, see our post here.

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Indianapolis, IN

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You may not know that Indianapolis is:

  • the second largest city in the Midwest (after Chicago),
  • home to the largest sporting facility in the world
  • second in the nation in terms of war memorials (only Washington, DC, boasts more).

Indiana’s capital city offers a unique way to explore the sights of Indy — the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. With the Indiana Statehouse at its center, this eight-mile pedestrian and biking trail has several paths to explore the sights of Indy. Use the Indianapolis Cultural Trail to visit everything from the NCAA Hall of Champions to the City Market and from Union Station to the Madame Walker Theatre Center. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail isn’t just a section of the road cordoned off with a painted line that cars and trucks can easily overlook. The path is clearly marked by red honeycomb brick, grey herringbone, and other textures. Indianapolis’s Cultural Trail is divided vertically to separate walkers from two-wheelers.
If you need to rent a bike, gold-colored bicycles are available at more than 20 bikeshare stations along the route. Download a map of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail before you visit to help you plan things to do in Indianapolis.

Photo, credit to Visit Indy

Midwest Biking Posts

Bentonville, AR

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Bentonville in Northwest Arkansas might seem an unlikely biking destination, but it truly ranks right up there as one of the most bike friendly cities in the United States. With over 4000 cycling trails, Bentonville has the perfect bike path for most every person and has definitely earned its place as a cycling mecca. According to a 2018 Walton Family Foundation study, approximately 90,000-150,000 bicycle enthusiasts visit the area every year producing over $51 million in annual business each year. Not only do trails connect the town to beautiful Arkansas scenery, but many of the hotels and air bnbs in Bentonville are bike friendly as well. The city’s residents also embrace bikes as a clean mode of transportation.

In addition to the many biking trails, Bentonville also has an amazing culinary and art scene. Ride a bike out to Crystal Bridges Art Museum and eat a delicious lunch of High South cuisine right in the free museum. After lunch, visit the Frank Lloyd Wright House that was moved to Arkansas piece by piece. Another amazing visit worthy of a stop in Bentonville is the Museum of Native American History. If you are a bike lover, make sure to add Bentonville to your list of cities to visit. You won’t regret it!

Southern Biking Posts

Ridgeland, MS

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Ridgeland, Mississippi, is a vibrant town north of Jackson with a serious bike culture. Trails will take you nearly everywhere you want to go, from Ross Barnett Reservoir to Township at Colony Park. Every spring the suburban community hosts Arts, Wine, and Wheels, a multi-day festival that celebrates all three. Cyclists from around the country travel to Ridgeland to participate in this fun experience. The bronze-level cycling community also participates in Bike Your Park Day in September. Riders access the Natchez Trace Parkway, via the Chisha Foka Multi-Use Trail which runs alongside the historic roadway. Ridgeland also hosts the McGee Lungbuster, named for their cycling mayor; Mayor McGee rides 7,000 miles per year, and is a driving force behind the town’s active lifestyle. Medium to advanced mountain cyclists can take advantage of ten miles of fast single track on Ridgeland Trails. Brown’s Landing is more suitable for beginners. If you’re into BMX, there are Saturday races at Magnolia Ridge BMX Park, and open races on Tuesday. If you’re visiting Ridgeland and would like information on cycling in the community, or just want a drink of water, stop at the Ridgeland Visitors Center. They’ll be happy to help you get rolling.

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Mackinac Island

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Mackinac Island is a beautiful island destination in northern Michigan situated in the Straits of Mackinac on Lake Huron, just a short ferry ride from St. Ignace, MI and Mackinac City, and within sight of the Mackinac Bridge. The island is often called America’s Summer Place, as it’s one of the midwest’s most popular travel destinations, and an excellent place to step back in time and get away from the hustle and bustle of bigger cities.

Aside from being a great place to get away for awhile and enjoy the beautiful scenery, Mackinac Island is one of the only places in the world that doesn’t allow motorized vehicles of any kind, with the only exceptions being the island’s ambulance and fire truck. Instead, the island’s roughly 500 year-round residents and 15,000+ daily visitors get around the island on foot or occasionally via horse drawn carriage, but primarily by bicycle. As such, Mackinac Island is one of the most bicycle friendly places in the world, with ample bicycle parking, bike repair stations around the island, more than a dozen places to rent bicycles for the day, a week, or longer, and beautiful paths with incredible views winding all around the island’s perimeter and up into its hills.

 Mackinac Island is also home to a number of bicycle related events, races, and festivities throughout the year, like the annual Zoo-De-mACK Bike Bash and the Mission Point Tweed Ride. Since motorized vehicles are not permitted on the island, it’s also one of the safest places in the world to ride a bicycle, as there is no need to worry about riding alongside speeding vehicles, and the island’s horses are trained to ignore bicyclists. Will you be biking Mackinac Island soon?

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