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Best Bicycle Friendly Communities/Cities Rankings - Additional Insights?

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Best Bicycle Friendly Communities/Cities Rankings - Additional Insights?

Old 06-23-21, 11:39 AM
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vilago
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Best Bicycle Friendly Communities/Cities Rankings - Additional Insights?

Hi All. I have been car-free for about 10 years now, living in DC proper for most of that time. We moved out of town during the pandemic to the DE beach area. We still stayed car-free this past year of the pandemic but living outside of a metropolitan area has made travel outside of town more difficult, at least, more difficult than DC was.

Work seems to be open to the idea of me staying remote, so in light of our experiences in DE vs DC, we are using this new opportunity to do a little research and find a bike friendly(er) community that best serves our needs. Most importantly:


1) Bike Friendly. Not just bike-friendly but bike-centric, should such a thing even exist in north america... And to be clear I mean on road biking primarily. I would like to be able to get to all/most of anything i would need by bike in a protected, free/low stress environment, grocery, bars, venues, airport, parks, etc.

2) Good public transportation, bus, rail etc. is a must.

3) Some way to get to the airport without a car, hopefully an international airport. Rail would be preferred or express bus shuttle.


With all that said, I started by looking at the rankings of communities on the bike league website and it ranks the following as platinum communities:


Davis CA , Boulder CO, Fort Collins CO, Portland OR, Madison WI


I'm reaching out to the community to see if anyone who has experience with biking in any of these or other communities that might be better than DC who can provide insight?

Any other suggestions of places I should be looking at? How is the public transit in these or your suggested community? Do the bikelanes that exist get you to established, popular destinations or do they simply end with no rhyme or reason? Obviously a protected bike lane is great but if it doesn't get you to any interesting places, or ends suddenly in a busy road, it is less useful.


I did read that Portland has been noted as a standout for some years now, and their engineering/facility ranking is the highest at 6.5 so that was one place high on the list. Unfortunately I don't have much experience biking outside DC so no frame of reference, and don't know what makes Portland great. DC ranks as a gold city, but to be honest, it needs a LOT of work to get it where I think it should be. This makes me question just how meaningful a higher ranking really is. Obviously none of these communities compare to somewhere like Oslo or Copenhagen, at least to the best of my knowledge.


If there are any neighborhoods or districts in communities not mentioned in the report that could be hidden gems, that would be of interest also.


Thanks in advance for your insight.
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Old 06-24-21, 07:34 PM
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I can't help for 1 and 2. But for number 3 is Uber/Lyft as the shuttle allowable, or strictly no cars what so ever? Because those services open you up to pretty much any US city and allow you to be pickier on 1 and 2. (and those services are pretty good as airport shuttles)
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Old 06-24-21, 09:42 PM
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Since much of the outer DC Suburbs were developed later there was more room for bike trails, and paths in the DC Metro.

Even places like Bowie are becoming bike friendly since the DC metro is so expensive

If you could afford to live in DC I would stay in the metro. Especially DC proper. You will have so many more amenities than in the interior west. Pretty out there but much of it is remote.

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Old 06-25-21, 08:24 AM
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Originally Posted by CleanClassics View Post
I can't help for 1 and 2. But for number 3 is Uber/Lyft as the shuttle allowable, or strictly no cars what so ever? Because those services open you up to pretty much any US city and allow you to be pickier on 1 and 2. (and those services are pretty good as airport shuttles)
Yeah Uber is fine, i just prefer bus/rail. As long as the uber isn't some insane amount one way like $50+ each time, and availability is good, I think its OK. What did you have in mind?
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Old 06-25-21, 08:27 AM
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DC has improved over the years, but still has a lot of room further still for more, more more.
If you attend any of these ANC or DDOT meetings, you get what I'm talking about... the resistance to bike lanes is insane. You'd think these folks would rather have an arm or leg taken off before you disrupt their precious parking.

I would like to see all existing bike lanes become 100% protected like L street. I know that's a pipe dream but you can see where i'm going with this.
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Old 06-26-21, 08:23 AM
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Not car free, but hope to be down to 1 vehicle (a minivan for 4 kids) someday. Car-free can be doable pretty easily in MSN, especially if you live on or near the isthmus. Housing is absolutely nuts here right now, like so many places and where you are does matter if off-road infrastructure is important to you. We have lots of great paths that do go places and also go through residential areas. There are multiple "Bicycle Boulevards" painted and signed for it be abundantly clear that bikes can use the full lanes. We have an extreme lack of protected bike lanes, though. I commute often 4 miles to work and feel like it's a very comfortable route. I also can bike to Woodman's (regional giant grocery store ) a similar distance and stay completely off of main roads. If you pull up a map of Madison, I'm located just north of Tenney Park. I highly recommend a visit and serious consideration of the weather before a move. I aspire to commute by bike year round, but I'm not there yet. We a Bus Rapid Transit system in the works, and I know the bus system is much more useful than Indianapolis where I'm from. I have only used it once myself, though, when I locked my keys in my car at work or something silly like that. The airport is only regional, but getting to Chicago or Milwaukee is not difficult. I don't know about bus service to the airport, but I can't imagine getting there is very difficult. It's also only about 5 miles from the capitol, so not going to be very expensive even for a taxi from most places. Madison is a pretty great city but feels really small, even compared to Indianapolis. Wonderful geography and loads of great food, though.

...Meant to add that there are several grocery stores significantly closer to me. Also, no idea if you have kids, but biking to school is very much a thing here throughout the city and even some of the suburbs.I'm in Madison.

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Old 06-26-21, 02:42 PM
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Someplace in Northern Europe?

Sorry, I haven't lived everywhere in the USA but I have cycled through just about every major city. DC would be near the top of my list if I absolutely had to be car-free somewhere. Generally not too much snow and ice. Mostly flat. Citizens are smart and educated for the most part. It gets hot but not 6 months at a stretch like the South. PNW gets too much rain, at least historically. I'd go back to DC if it was me.
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Old 06-27-21, 12:39 AM
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I've lived in both FoCo and BoCo for many years so I can offer a little feedback. Bike infrastructure is good in both cities, much better than larger Colo cities nearby (meaning Denver and its 'burbs). There's a huge bike community in both metro areas (Boulder and Fort Collins).
BUT, I think it would be difficult to go completely car-free as many bike routes are along state or county highways. Winter extreme cold and springtime snow storms can make it difficult to bike during winter months as snowplows push snow and ice into bike lanes, making them impassable or dangerous.
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Old 06-28-21, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by AltheCyclist View Post
I've lived in both FoCo and BoCo for many years so I can offer a little feedback. Bike infrastructure is good in both cities, much better than larger Colo cities nearby (meaning Denver and its 'burbs). There's a huge bike community in both metro areas (Boulder and Fort Collins).
BUT, I think it would be difficult to go completely car-free as many bike routes are along state or county highways. Winter extreme cold and springtime snow storms can make it difficult to bike during winter months as snowplows push snow and ice into bike lanes, making them impassable or dangerous.
Ryan VanDuzer has been car free since Age 1 in Boulder. It's all about gear and equipment. Ryan has a youtube channel. Check it out.
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Old 06-28-21, 09:50 AM
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Davis is bike friendly downtown but outward from there it's pretty much average central CA suburbs, which is above-average compared to a lot of the country. I live in Folsom and gotta say, pretty much the entire Sacramento area is pretty bike friendly. The one thing you might not be expecting is the large homeless population that use the trails. The summers are hot, but not like say Phoenix

Check the weather in Madison. It's only part time bike friendly. There's two months a year the average high temperature is below freezing. That's not impossible but it would be a shocking change from VA, Delaware, MD.
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Old 06-28-21, 10:15 AM
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Wonderful feedback all, this is super super helpful! While a little rain doesn't bother me, I guess I didn't consider the PNW climate, or that snow could block bike lanes. Guess i figured the local CO gov'ts would have snow sorted? everyone complains about the "cold" here though to me it's nothing.

You guys do make a good case for DC but I hoped other areas would be better. It seems there are other considerations that need to be accounted for.
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Old 06-29-21, 08:58 AM
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I lived without a car in Colorado Springs, a city that's less bike-friendly than Boulder or Fort Collins for a decade, so it can definitely be done there if you're determined enough. The two things I'd add to this thread are that the winter weather in Colorado is relatively mild compared to what much of the country gets, but you still need to be willing to don cold weather gear and be willing to accept the challenges of riding on ice and snow on occasion if you want to ride all year round in this state. Bike paths do get plowed and sanded, but plows can't be everywhere all the time, and side streets that are often the best routes for cyclists also naturally are a lower priority for plowing, so plowing might not be complete everywhere along your route. Also, it doesn't happen very often along the Front Range, but there are always a handful of days per year where there's enough snow that riding is going to be physically impossible (in which case the city will be half shut down anyways) or be challenging enough to qualify as a winter adventure sport, so if that's not something you're okay with then keep in mind that you'll want to locate yourself carefully to have good access to transit. Second, the paths are great in Boulder and FoCo (and the Springs too, albeit to a lesser degree) but they can't go everywhere, so as a practical matter it's tough to live car free here if you're not willing to ride anywhere but low stress routes, so depending on your tolerance for stress you might be better served prioritizing a place with more density and better transit.

As a more general point my advice would be to figure out roughly where you want to be for family, work, recreation, etc. first and then explore options for living in that general area. Living car free can be done just about anywhere with the right adaptations if that's your priority.
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Old 06-29-21, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by lasauge View Post
I lived without a car in Colorado Springs, a city that's less bike-friendly than Boulder or Fort Collins for a decade, so it can definitely be done there if you're determined enough. The two things I'd add to this thread are that the winter weather in Colorado is relatively mild compared to what much of the country gets, but you still need to be willing to don cold weather gear and be willing to accept the challenges of riding on ice and snow on occasion if you want to ride all year round in this state. Bike paths do get plowed and sanded, but plows can't be everywhere all the time, and side streets that are often the best routes for cyclists also naturally are a lower priority for plowing, so plowing might not be complete everywhere along your route. Also, it doesn't happen very often along the Front Range, but there are always a handful of days per year where there's enough snow that riding is going to be physically impossible (in which case the city will be half shut down anyways) or be challenging enough to qualify as a winter adventure sport, so if that's not something you're okay with then keep in mind that you'll want to locate yourself carefully to have good access to transit. Second, the paths are great in Boulder and FoCo (and the Springs too, albeit to a lesser degree) but they can't go everywhere, so as a practical matter it's tough to live car free here if you're not willing to ride anywhere but low stress routes, so depending on your tolerance for stress you might be better served prioritizing a place with more density and better transit.

As a more general point my advice would be to figure out roughly where you want to be for family, work, recreation, etc. first and then explore options for living in that general area. Living car free can be done just about anywhere with the right adaptations if that's your priority.
Yep understood. I've been car free here at the Delaware beach since November, this being a place where pretty much nobody does it. You tell someone here you don't have a car and almost 100% of the time get the deer in the headlights look or complete side eye.
Anyway, my tolerance is good enough but tolerance and preference are two different matters. I've been doing this for so long, I need a break from the speeding, rude metal box operators even though I can handle them just fine normally.

As to the snow thing, about how many days per year would you say the paths/lanes are completely blocked? Do they eventually get the snow out after a couple days or are you looking at complete and utter blockage for weeks on end until it eventually melts?
The cold is fine, just want to make sure i can still get where i need to go.
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Old 06-29-21, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by vilago View Post
As to the snow thing, about how many days per year would you say the paths/lanes are completely blocked? Do they eventually get the snow out after a couple days or are you looking at complete and utter blockage for weeks on end until it eventually melts?
The cold is fine, just want to make sure i can still get where i need to go.
It's not the snow, that's cleared away in cities overnight unless it's a big storm, then maybe a few days. When it's not, we even have a few dedicated forum members who ride to work on fat bikes when their coworkers in cars stay home. But plowed streets can be icy. I only did a few winters at Purdue in really cold weather and I never got spike tires, but I had lots of options what to do at 7am and no full time job. Still, I had more than a few spills on ice when it was really cold. So if cold and snow is a regular problem you probably have a nearly-disposable old MTB with spike tires. The plowed and salted streets then quickly turned to nasty grimy slush, so fenders become a must. At Purdue the sidewalks were swept, but on your route to a suburban job they likely won't be, at least not as soon as the street, so you might be riding with the cars. Riding a bike from the dorm to the lecture hall is also a <1 mile proposition, body heat management does not really become a problem like it would on a 10 mile ride.

You can get groceries delivered, or order them and have them picked up by someone who does have a car. With three small kids and four pets in the burbs I have no idea how it would work to be car free, it would have to be in the city with this size family.
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Old 06-30-21, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by vilago View Post
Wonderful feedback all, this is super super helpful! While a little rain doesn't bother me, I guess I didn't consider the PNW climate, or that snow could block bike lanes. Guess i figured the local CO gov'ts would have snow sorted? everyone complains about the "cold" here though to me it's nothing.

You guys do make a good case for DC but I hoped other areas would be better. It seems there are other considerations that need to be accounted for.
The joke about Seattle?

It doesn’t rain a lot in Seattle, it just rains all the time.

Mostly applicable to Portland also.
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Old 06-30-21, 03:10 PM
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Since we came to Portland, OR 12 years ago precisely for the reasons expressed by the o.p. I think I can speak to their concerns. Let's get one thing out of the way, however, even most Portlanders don't think car free is really possible here! A higher percentage of Portlanders are car lite than anywhere else in the U.S. but the actual percent of people that cycle here is tiny. Very tiny. I smiled when the opinion was expressed that Boulder, CO was not the best for a car free lifestyle only to have the example of a car free lifestylist that blogs about it yet be listed. That is exactly the case with PDX. If you really need (you don't) for a significant portion of the bike lanes to be protected you won't be happy with PDX's infrastructure.

I make a distinction between being car free by choice or car free by neccessity. I further distinguish between choosing a destination city known to be 'bike friendly' and being born in a city. There are cyclists living car free and using (or not) bicycles for transportation and/or recreation in every city in the country. If one is going to actually move a long way to be in a city known to have bike friendliness street cred, the short list really is down to the cities listed in the o.p. I would whittle it down even further: Portland, OR. Period. I'm not sure Davis, CA, Fort Collins or Boulder, CO or Madison, WI can be considered as reasonable substitutes for Washington, D.C. Portland, OR can. The metro core is 650K and the total metro area is 2.5M. Davis, CA is rural by comparison. If that's what you want, fine. But if you really want a city and not a rural town, then you want Portland, OR.

Cagers are going to be cagers the world over so don't expect cycling Nirvana. That won't happen until Texas is submerged and the oil fields all go offline. Until then, PDX is at least a place where bicycles are tolerated on most streets. Many are set up for considerable frustration for motor traffic to limit speed and crowding and delivering an enhanced cycling experience. Mass transit access is superior but the rail options will never equal DC or NYC.
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Old 07-03-21, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by vilago View Post
DC has improved over the years, but still has a lot of room further still for more, more more.
If you attend any of these ANC or DDOT meetings, you get what I'm talking about... the resistance to bike lanes is insane. You'd think these folks would rather have an arm or leg taken off before you disrupt their precious parking.

I would like to see all existing bike lanes become 100% protected like L street. I know that's a pipe dream but you can see where i'm going with this.
They put them in any suburban area there is resistance from residents. It' how they put them in.

Still DC, and much of the DC Metro is bike friendly. Not remotely the case 60 miles north. I can get around on a bike, but no bike lanes just about anywhere. All sidewalks. Nobody bikes around here unless a high end road bike with racing gear on. And all the sidewalks are ramped for miles. Not great, could be worse.

Still DC metro where everything is, or the middle of nowhere.......
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Old 07-03-21, 07:09 PM
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Colorado and mild winters?
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Old 07-03-21, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by vilago View Post
Wonderful feedback all, this is super super helpful! While a little rain doesn't bother me, I guess I didn't consider the PNW climate, or that snow could block bike lanes. Guess i figured the local CO gov'ts would have snow sorted? everyone complains about the "cold" here though to me it's nothing.

You guys do make a good case for DC but I hoped other areas would be better. It seems there are other considerations that need to be accounted for.
I live in Baltimore County North of Towson. Although I am not a regular DC visitor outside of more dramatic vistas out west I just couldn't see taking that area over DC. Everything is here. EVERYTHIING. Where the hell is everything within biking distance.
So rural, or eastern urban? That is the question. Being able to afford the high cost of living in DC just stay there.
Just move to Roland Park...........
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Old 07-03-21, 09:46 PM
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Originally Posted by vilago View Post
Portland OR
Oregon has a unique environment for cycling.

The weather is fairly temperate. So, relatively few snow or ice days in the winter. Some nights down to perhaps 20°F, but much of the winter is in the mid 30's. Yet we also have a wet winter and dry summer.

100°F is rare in the summer, but seems to be happening more frequently recently, with a lot of summer in the 70's and 80's, and often cooler in the evenings. There is, of course, some Urban Heat Zone effect.

So, it is very possible to bike commute 12 months a year, but one has to plan on rain in the winter (as well as the typical shorter days of the Northern Hemisphere).

There has been an effort to improve the cycling infrastructure in the city. It still is a big city, but many major arterials either have bike lanes, or good parallel bike positive routes.

Pedalpalooza is a unique annual cycling event in Portland. It looks like it is coming back to life this year.

There is a good tram that takes one to "Portland International Airport"... except, of course, most international flights come through Seattle, SF, LA, or various Eastern airports. So expect connections.

There are some good bike paths and routes outside of Portland. A good path/route up the Columbia Gorge. I've taken the "Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway" between Eugene and Portland several times with the biggest issue that it is a little hectic getting from Portland to the beginning of the route at Champoeg St. Park.

You may wish to review your needs yourself. I've commuted in the Portland off and on, but also approach it as an outsider.
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Old 07-03-21, 09:57 PM
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Do you absolutely need to live in a big city? What is your occupation?

Eugene, for example, is very different than Portland, with very different positive and negative aspects.

It is a smaller city, with far less overall traffic. But, also a less vibrant night life (at least away from the University).

We do have a good airport, but I don't know how one gets there without a car. Perhaps a bus. Or using a locally made Bike Friday bicycle A lot of flights will puddle jump from Eugene to Portland, Seattle, Denver, SF, or Salt Lake and transfer.

There is an Amtrak station.

For me, Eugene is the "Big City"... and Portland is gargantuan (still small by US standards).

Being a small city, there are also rural suburbs. So, one can be out in the boonies, and 1/2 hour by bike in the middle of the city.
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Old 07-04-21, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by StarBiker View Post
They put them in any suburban area there is resistance from residents. It' how they put them in.

Still DC, and much of the DC Metro is bike friendly. Not remotely the case 60 miles north. I can get around on a bike, but no bike lanes just about anywhere. All sidewalks. Nobody bikes around here unless a high end road bike with racing gear on. And all the sidewalks are ramped for miles. Not great, could be worse.

Still DC metro where everything is, or the middle of nowhere.......
Probably depends on how you define “everything.”
I get that all roads lead to Rome and the thread was bikeable urban environments.
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Old 07-05-21, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by vilago View Post
Unfortunately I don't have much experience biking outside DC so no frame of reference, and don't know what makes Portland great. DC ranks as a gold city, but to be honest, it needs a LOT of work to get it where I think it should be. This makes me question just how meaningful a higher ranking really is.
I live in DC but have spent lots of time riding around Portland and NorCal, though not specifically Davis. I've also been mostly car-free since I didn't have a driver's license for 12 years until recently. I think Portland is pretty great per your criteria - it's relatively dense so there are lots of fun amenities within a few miles and there are very few streets within the city that I would consider stressful. It's a longer bike ride from the center of town to PDX than to DCA but it's not bad at all and the MAX also goes straight to the airport. I actually can't think of anywhere in the city of Portland that's difficult to get to by bike - I guess maybe getting to OHSU or Mount Tabor are both a bit of a climb, but not bad.

I would say that Portland feels very different than DC to bike around. Drivers in Portland are generally more considerate of other road users than in DC and less aggressive. I'm not really sure why but it may have to do with the fact that Portland traffic (as bad as it may be during rush hour) just isn't on the same level as traffic in the DMV. In terms of cultural acceptance, transportation cycling has become more common and accepted in DC over the last decade, but no one in Portland seems to bat an eye at all to see people riding to work or carrying their groceries or lumber or anything else. DC definitely is better with respect to roadway maintenance and anything else that hinges on having a wealthier tax base, and you're definitely more likely to meet people with expensive kit/components in DC if that's something that matters.
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Old 07-11-21, 06:54 PM
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Originally Posted by StarBiker View Post
Colorado and mild winters?
Yeah, I dunno how a Colorado winter became defined as "mild". It can get quite cold.
I wear ski gear (goggles, polar pants, etc.) when I'm winter biking and when I get the occasional flat, it feels close to frostbite on the fingers when doing a simple tube swap out.
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Old 07-11-21, 07:48 PM
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Originally Posted by AltheCyclist View Post
Yeah, I dunno how a Colorado winter became defined as "mild". It can get quite cold.
I wear ski gear (goggles, polar pants, etc.) when I'm winter biking and when I get the occasional flat, it feels close to frostbite on the fingers when doing a simple tube swap out.
The purpose of the article was to get clicks and ad views. Truth not mandatory.

Just a guess. There might not be ill will, maybe people speaking about what they don’t know.

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