Seattle gets a Bike Score of 64, ranks 7th in nation

Screenshot from Bike Score

Bike Score has landed. Developed in Seattle by the makers of Walk Score, Bike Score analyzes several factors to determine how bikeable an area is.

Parts of the city that have a good balance of bicycle facilities, relatively flat terrain, destinations and existing bicycle commuters score well.

Averaging all areas of the city together, Seattle gets a 64 out of 100. This places it 7th in the nation. Minneapolis edged out Portland for the top seat on the list (BikePortland reports that this is because dedicated bike paths are weighted twice as much as bike lanes and neighborhood greenways). Seattle also places behind San Francisco, Boston, Madison and D.C.

Some interesting things about the map:

  • Popular waterfront biking areas score terribly. For example, West Seattle does not do well as a whole, including along the Alki Trail. Lake Washington neighborhoods also do poorly, even though they are along popular bicycling routes.
  • The map understands that not all hills are deterrents to cycling. For example, the number of destinations, bike facilities and current bike commuters on Capitol Hill and the Central District far outweigh the steep and endless climbing required to get there. Same with Wallingford and the University District.
  • The Missing Link destroys Ballard’s bikeability. Once completed, huge new swaths of the neighborhood’s densest areas will instantly turn green:
  • In order to weigh the current bike commuter levels, the Bike Score folks used Census data to map where bike commuters live. So much to discuss here: 
  • The Bike Score results bear a lot of similarities to a bikeability study by Seattle Transit Blog’s Adam Parast.

What are your thoughts? I’d say the Bike Score team did a fantastic job weighing all the elements that go into making communities bikeable. It gives some good hints about where we should be prioritizing new bicycle connections. For example, there is some excellent potential in Magnolia if we can get more residents to the Elliott Bay Trail. Cycle track on Gilman Ave? Are there neighborhood greenway options?

And for the love of god, can we get a safe cycling facility through Rainier Valley?

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15 Responses to Seattle gets a Bike Score of 64, ranks 7th in nation

  1. Tonya says:

    “And for the love of god, can we get a safe cycling facility through Rainier Valley?”


    Why a (protected) bike lane wasn’t installed along the MLK light rail corridor will forever confuse (and frustrate me). The flattest way through the Valley — and recently developed, to boot. I didn’t live here during the planning or construction phases, but it makes no sense …

    • Al Dimond says:

      A protected bike path would work especially well there because of all the turning restrictions already in effect for the train. Some protected facilities that are way off to the side feel safe for the same reason they are actually dangerous — compromised visibility of cross traffic and oncoming traffic.

    • Devin says:

      Here here! A bikeway from MLK and up Rainier to Jackson would be great (and maybe extending the bike lanes on 12th to Jackson). I ride through there every day coming home from work and if that existed, I wouldn’t have to ride through Judkins (though it’s nice, it’s a bit out of the way) and I’d probably visit Rainier Valley more to boot.

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  3. Gary says:

    I’d say the team mislabeled Lake Washington Blvd South of I-90. It’s very bike-able. That 34th and 32nd going N/S on the ridge above Lake Washington is also a fine place to ride.

    The trouble with this map is that E/W can be horrible, as in riding from 34th, down to MLK, and up over Capital Hill on Pine. (Steep no shoulders, but no traffic) yet going N/S on 34th is fine.

    It would be better to paint the streets a strong bike’ble color and a anti-bikeable color. It might have a moire pattern effect but it would reflect the truth about the routes better.

    • Al Dimond says:

      The Walk Score company is mostly interested in how a place is to live. I’d say it’s pretty accurate to say the area (like many waterfront neighborhoods) aren’t that bikable in this sense — the climbs to get anywhere inland are really tough, and the major retail and employment density is inland (a big component of Walk/Bike/Transit Score is retail density and diversity). You likely wouldn’t live there and use a bike for practical transportation very often, despite the large number of recreational cyclists nearby.

      Another example is most of the areas around the Burke-Gilman Trail. Upper Wallingford beats lower Wallingford despite the latter’s proximity to the BGT. Farther north, areas near the Interurban Route score better than areas near the BGT despite the Burke’s general superiority and relative popularity; and, indeed, if you live over by the Interurban (former passenger railroad, near modest residential density connected by a regular network of side streets and major, somewhat walkable retail corridors) you’re more likely to have bikeable errands than if you live by the Burke (former freight railroad, near big-lot homes with an unwalkable street network and a huge climb from an unwalkable retail corridor).

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Agreed. I wasn’t disagreeing with the Bike Score rating of those areas, I just thought it was interesting.

        Another thought: What’s cool about Bike Score (vs Walk Score) is that the potential to dramatically change an area’s Bike Score can be done for relatively little investment. To change your Walk Score, you have to build a bunch of new, dense development and encourage necessary services to move in (grocery, drug store, etc). To improve Ballard’s Bike Score dramatically, they just need to allow an already-funded trail to be installed. That’s a hell of a lot easier and cheaper.

      • Gary says:

        I would also rate an area as high on the “bikeable” for interesting things to look at in addition to safety while riding.

        Life isn’t all about consuming.

  4. JN says:

    Yeah, West Seattle to downtown is pretty terrible. Is there a separated trail planned to eventually connect the current one along the Waterfront with the Alki/Duwamish trails?

  5. merlin says:

    I was just there, at the junction of the Alki/Duwamish/Elliott Bay Trails under the West Seattle Bridge. I made the mistake of trying to get on the Elliott Bay Trail from Dearborn, got stuck waiting for a train and then wandered into a maze of bike-hostile “detour” territory under the bridge before finding my way back to the trail – but once on the trail and re-oriented, it was slick and easy getting to and from downtown. That is to say, those trails are already connected – but the connections are a bit garbled due to construction and poor signage. And going from downtown to the Vashon Ferry, it is very confusing to have to follow the signs to Alki when I’m actually heading in the opposite direction. A bit of sensible signage would make a huge difference.

  6. Robin says:

    Riding along Lake Washington Blvd yesterday reminded me that though this scenic route ought to be a city treasure for all citizens to enjoy, it is essentially a throughway for impatient motorists. The pavement itself is in terrible condition for bike riding requiring continual concentration in order to miss “bike-eating”potholes and failed surfaces — imagine it in the dark. Motorists habitually speed and engage in risky passing behaviors in order to pass slower moving bike traffic — never mind the double yellow lines or curves. Several passed me with just inches to spare as they rounded a the curve and needed to dive back into the lane! No wonder it has a low bikeability score despite it’s being a prime destination for recreational riders.
    How about a bold vision to lower the speeds on the roads around our waterways to 20mph? (Quelle horreur!) I’m thinking A LOT of speed cushions that are split for bikes and emergency vehicles to pass — but the rest of the traffic slows down and enjoys the view. It be much safer, and I bet the bikeability score would skyrocket. Lake Washington, Greenlake, Lake Union….

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