Earlier this month, USA Today reported that Colorado was ranked this year as the #2 most bicycle-friendly State. Colorado has steadily moved up in the rankings from #12 in 2011 and #4 in 2012. Washington State has been ranked #1 for the past six years.
We have to admit that we were shocked that Colorado, with relatively little dedicated infrastructure for bicyclists, could be ranked so high; so we dug into how these rankings are produced by the League of American Bicyclists. The League of American Bicyclists gives each state a score, based on a questionnaire filled out by the state’s Bicycle Coordinator, for each of the following five categories:
1. Legislation and Enforcement
2. Policies and Programs
3. Infrastructure and Funding
4. Education and Encouragement
5. Evaluation and Planning
Colorado was given the highest score in ‘Legislation and Enforcement’ but the second to lowest score in both ‘Infrastructure and Funding’ and ‘Evaluation and Planning’. These sorts of rankings are a tool that advocacy organizations have to encourage states and show progress on their agenda over time but, looking more closely at the results, they can also give a false sense of the current state of things. These rankings appear to give equal weight to the five categories, which is questionable–is talk really as important as action? You can find more details on Colorado and the rankings for all States on the League of American Bicyclists website.
It’s clear to us that if Colorado is ranked #2 in the country, then the bicycle friendliness of the United States is abysmal. With so little dedicated infrastructure to keep bicycles safe, ranking Colorado #2 seems like an aspirational move–like awarding Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize only 9 months into his first term before he’s even had a chance to do anything significant.
Colorado needs more dedicated infrastructure for bicyclists in order to keep both bicyclists and motorists safe. Colorado also needs to do a much better job of clarifying which ‘rules of the road’ apply to bicyclists–many of those rules are currently only followed loosely by bicyclists and that is understandable, though dangerous, without better dedicated infrastructure.