Ride the Best Urban Bike Paths in America

America. Pioneer of the National Highway System, home of Motor City, inventor of the drive-thru and cup holder.

Scratch that. How about America, Land of Cyclists?

Yes, they do love cars, pickup trucks and SUVs in America. And yes, the country is nowhere close to the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Sweden or Norway when it comes to bicycles per capita. But the winds of change have come.

The United States, in fact, has about 100 million bicycles for a population of 313 million people and somewhere in the ballpark of 32% cyclists. Again, not the Netherlands (1 bike per person, 99% cyclists) but not far behind China and, as a result, the top 10 in the world for bicycle penetration.

Everyone dumps all over America for astronomical obesity rates and urban plans that defer to dirty cars and trucks over anyone who dares don a pair of trainers (hello Atlanta, Orlando and Dallas). But take a closer look at the likes of New York City, San Francisco and Seattle and the fact is that many a city in the U.S. has made pedal-power a priority. With that, have a look at some of the best urban bike scenes and paths in America.

New York City cyclists – Photo credit

New York City

We think of Manhattan as a hotbed of vehicular congestion but the Big Apple – Queens, Staten, Brooklyn, Bronx and all – is very progressive on the bicycle transport front. To wit, the city has a terrific online resource for prospective pedlars. Moreover, bike path maps can be had for free at the city bookstore at 22 Reade Street, between Tribeca and Chinatown.

Top bike paths in New York City include: Brooklyn from Red Hook to Manhattan Beach; the Manhattan waterway loop; bayside Douglaston in Queens.

Where to stay: Distrikt Hotel New York City An Ascend Collection Hotel

New York City Guide

San Francisco

The City by the Bay was made for two-wheel transport and has a sublime array of eye candy to enjoy from the saddle. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency estimates that locals make a total of 128,000 trips by bicycle every day and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition promotes the active urban lifestyle. Bonus: all city buses come standard with bicycle racks.

Top bike paths in San Francisco include: The Embarcadero; Angel Island; Downtown to Ocean Beach.

Where to stay: Fairmont Heritage Place Ghirardelli Square

San Francisco City Guide


From NoCal to the Pacific Northwest, a part of the country with scenery so spectacular that it begs you to hop on a ten-speed. Like the good, progressive city that it is, Seattle has a first-rate urban grid for cyclists to navigate.

Top bike paths in Seattle include: Burke-Gilman and Sammamish Trail; Ship Canal Trail; Chief Sealth Trail.

Where to stay: Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle

Seattle City Guide


As green and urbane a city as you will find in America away from the coasts, Austin is a welcome anomaly in conservative Texas. The SXSW host is home to seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and duly has a dynamic bicycle culture.

Top bike paths in Austin include: Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail; Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail.

Where to stay: Travaasa Austin Resort and Spa

Austin City Guide


The capital of the Rocky Mountain State may not be as avant-garde as Boulder but for a big city, Denver is a star, with 80 miles of multi-use trails and 40 miles of bike lanes.

Top bike paths in Denver include: Greenway Trail; Cherry Creek Bike Path.

Where to stay: Denver Magnolia Hotel

Denver City Guide

Portland, Oregon

Bicycles in Portland: perhaps the most prevalent cliché about the Rose City (see Portlandia spoofs on YouTube). The Portland Bureau of Transportation has a simple online guide for residents and visitors.

Top bike paths in Portland include: Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade; West Side Hill; Blue Lake Regional Park.

Where to stay: Monaco Portland A Kimpton Hotel

Portland City Guide

5 Comments for "Ride the Best Urban Bike Paths in America"

Gary Peck says on April 10th, 2012 at 5:56 pm:

Was really excited when I read the title, but honestly as for actually providing a “guide” it was pretty lame, and way to short a list. I guess the writer is somewhat limited by the inclusion of “Urban” in the title…. but come on, no Southern California Beaches? Nothing in Florida? Chicago along the Lake (Navy Pier, Natural History Museum)? Nothing in Boston? or on the edge of Urban, how about The American River trail in Sacramento. You want to stay in Cities? Maybe Griffith Park in LA, plenty to see or stop n do, Zoo, Autry Museum, can even ride up to the Observatory up the back side where the road is closed to cars. Great view of the Hollywood sign along the way. For my self as a road biker who sometimes likes to tour around a little, even the identified rides are somewhat lacking in scenery. +At 15-20 mph even for a somewhat in shape cyclist there should be more than a few 10 or 15 minute pedals in between stops with nice things to see along the way. The Austin + Denver routes noted offer a little more of this. SF some nice rides, but at times you will be pretty close in with traffic. The noted ride is pretty short distance in between sights, but fun to go along the piers out to Ghiradelli Square and the Golden Gate and/or Palace of Fine Arts over to the beach or zoo. Outside of that, it is great place to build up hill climbing muscles! Anyway, this was a quickie list but not very eye opening to most of us who would be actively looking to do bicycling as part of our vacations.


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