Fayetteville ranks highest in state for best bicycle cities

Riders cross the Lake Fayetteville spillway bridge during the Spring 2017 Square to Square ride..

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

People for Bikes has unveiled its new city ratings, and Fayetteville scored a 2.4 out of 5, which was the top rank in Arkansas and the 45th overall in the U.S. A total of 480 cities were part of the analysis.

Bentonville and Fort Smith received the second best ratings in Arkansas, with each city scoring 1.7 out of 5.

The listings were released at the annual Places for Bikes conference which ends today in Indianapolis.

Best places for bikes in Arkansas

The PlacesForBikes City Rating Score is based on five factors: Ridership, Safety, Network, Reach and Acceleration. Each city’s score is determined using publicly available data and new research tools developed by PeopleForBikes.

Fayetteville – 2.4
Bentonville – 1.7
Fort Smith – 1.7
Little Rock – 1.6
Springdale – 1.5
Rogers – 1.4
Conway – 1.2
Jonesboro – 1.2
Siloam Springs – 1.1
Bella Vista – 1.0
Pine Bluff – 0.9
North Little Rock – 0.9
Mountain Home – 0.7

Source: People for Bikes

The ratings system was developed over a three-year period and is completely new to the bike advocacy community that has in the past relied most heavily on Bicycle Friendly City designations and statewide rankings from the League of American Bicyclists.

“There are a lot of “best bike cities” lists out there, and if you ask us, that’s good,” said Michael Andersen with PlacesForBikes. “But the PlacesForBikes city rating system is the first of its kind in this country: transparent and fully data-driven, so any community can look directly at its strengths and weaknesses and know how to improve.”

The ratings were determined using a five-point scale across five factors:

  • Ridership – The Ridership score reflects how many people in the community ride bikes. It considers biking for both recreational biking and biking for transportation.
  • Safety – The Safety score considers fatalities and injuries of people on bikes as well as those walking and driving. Perceptions of safety are also given weight.
  • Network – The Network score evaluates the quality of the bike network — how completely it connects people to each other and local destinations using comfortable routes. Perceptions of the network are also given weight.
  • Reach – The Reach score determines how well a community’s low-stress network serves all members of the community. It uses demographic data to understand differences in access and connectivity for traditionally underserved populations compared to the whole city.
  • Acceleration – The Acceleration score assesses how quickly a community is improving its biking infrastructure and how successful its encouragement programs are at getting people to ride.

The top scores in the U.S. went to Fort Collins (3.5), Wausau (3.5), Boulder (3.4), Portland (3.3), and Tuscon (3.3).

Fayetteville outranked the state most heavily in the Acceleration category with a 2.9, when all other cities in Arkansas scored below 1. Fayetteville’s Acceleration ranking is the 24th best in the U.S.

Fayetteville’s lowest score was in the Reach category where it scored a 0.7. Springdale led the state with a 3.3 in the Reach category.

Anderson said the system rewards cities not just for what they did 20 years ago, but also for what they’re currently doing. As a result, the ratings are expected to change each year. The hope is that the ratings become a tool for cities to measure where they are and track their progress.

» See the new city ratings scores