Davis, California, was the first U.S. city to be awarded the prestigious Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Community designation from the League of American Bicyclists. Davis received the award in 2005, and only Portland, OR, and Boulder, CO, have managed to gain a Platinum rating since then.
So how did this small college town in Northern California do it?
It goes all the way back to 1966 with the election of a pro-bicycle majority to the City Council. During an era when most California cities were building freeways and strip malls as fast as possible, Davis’ planners were developing off-street greenways and bike lanes. They were far ahead of their time and were seen as visionary, if not a little crazy.
Now, with bike lanes on over 95 percent of all its arterials and collectors, 27 grade-separated intersections, thousands of bike-parking spaces, and a 17 percent bicycle trip share, Davis truly is one of the best places in America to ride a bike. It only took a clear vision and 40 years of work to get to where they are today.
But Davis is not resting on its laurels. In the last ten years, the city has spent over $14 million on new bicycle infrastructure projects, and it budgets approximately $100,000 per year for bicycle infrastructure maintenance, all in a city with a population of only 65,000.
We were in Davis today, and on a cold day in December there were many bikes around, being ridden by moms and dads, kids, students, seniors, and people from just about every walk of life. Nearly every bike rack had at least a couple of bikes locked to it. We couldn’t help but feel a little envious of the city’s residents, with their mature cycling infrastructure, lively bike culture, and what appears to be a generally high quality of life.