Seattle named the 'Best Bike City in America,' but is it really?

SEATTLE — Bicycling Magazine has officially named Seattle the number one city for bikes in the country, up from 2016's fifth-place finish.

Factoring in a number of criteria, Seattle tops the list in terms of being the most bike-friendly city in the United States. Bicycling Magazine rates cities based on safety, friendliness, energy, and culture.

“Very few bike lanes in the country are being built with the attention to detail that engineers in Seattle are using,” it notes. “Protected lanes sport concrete buffers—the gold standard for protected lanes—and at intersections, riders can lean on lean rails as they wait for their cycling-specific signal to change.”

They go on to praise Seattle as the gold standard for cyclists, claiming that “right now, things are going the way they should in every city.”

Seattle has also become a hub for bike share systems, beginning with the now-defunct Pronto in 2014 and culminating in the wildly popular debut of Limebike in 2017. The company boasted one million rides in just its first year in the city.

Despite all this, Seattle’s bike utopia has come at a steep financial cost to taxpayers. Goran Sparrman, interim director of the Seattle Department of Transportation, recently told The Seattle Times that bike lanes with an expected cost of $860,000 ended up running the city upwards of $12 million.

Meanwhile, a recent report indicates that just 2.8 percent of Seattle workers use a bike to commute to work, a 2.5 percent dip from 2016.

Even with the city pouring millions into building a bike-friendly network, it would appear as though very few people are taking full advantage. So what’s the solution?

“This isn’t to say you stop all investments in biking,” KTTH’s Jason Rantz opines. “But this is to say that we can’t just carpet bomb the city with bike infrastructure that won’t ever get the ridership anti-car activists hope for.”

Rantz advocates for a more targeted approach, arguing that we “need to pick and choose the areas most likely to be used for the purpose of commuting.”

The question from here then becomes simple: Is investing money in a bike-friendly economy worth the cost if people aren’t going to use it? At the very least, Seattle apparently possesses the very best infrastructure our country has to offer, with the hope being that it’ll eventually attract enough people to ditch their cars.