Bike friendliness: Comparing Detroit and Washington DC

Bike lane in Washington DCHaving recently returned from Washington DC, I can’t help but draw comparisons between the two cities in terms of bike friendliness.

What did I see? Detroit has far more bike friendly streets owing largely to the lower vehicular volumes. Washington DC has far more cyclists, bike lanes, and a bike rental system.

I’m not sure how valuable the rental system was as I walked a dozen miles around town and only saw one station. I saw far more Metro stations.

And speaking of their subway system, it does allow bikes outside of rush hour. DC’s buses also have bus bike racks though I didn’t see any in use. It seems more common to see SMART buses carrying bikes in Detroit.

That said, my unscientific survey did find one commonality between the two cities: most cyclists in both cities are white.

Washington DC has been recognized as a bronze Bike Friendly Community in the League of American Bicyclists program.

While in DC, I did speak with the League staff about recognizing Detroit’s bike friendliness. Their latest application doesn’t reward Detroit’s often excellent bicycle level of service achieved through mininal traffic volumes. Their paradigm is bicycle level of service is a reflection of bicycle infrastructure investments. We did talk about bringing some of their staff to Detroit next summer to gain a first-hand perspective on what we have.

But back to the comparison, DC clearly leads in urban livability, bicycle commuting levels, bicycle infrastructure investment, and more. Even still, I’d rather bike in Detroit.

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