Is Sacramento a bike-friendly town?

(NB: I read about Uneasy Rhetoric in today’s Sacramento Bee, and the site turned up when I was searching for Sacramento bicycling information, so I decided to check out the post. I started to leave a comment, but it got long enough that I wanted to post it here on my own site and pingback to the original article.)

Uneasy Rhetoric faults Bicycling Magazine for failing to include Sacramento on its list of “best bicycling cities”. I’m a bicycle commuter, and I’m afraid I have to agree with Bicycling Magazine–Sacramento has a long ways to go before we become a “top town” for biking.

The rating criteria included:

  • “Cycling-friendly” statistics
  • Bike culture
  • Climate/geography
  • Surveys of experts and Bicycling Magazine readers

I’d say that Sacramento gets top marks for climate and geography. Our topography is almost absolutely flat, and the weather is very mild. In any given year we only get a few rain storms (real storms) and the temperature just barely gets below freezing a couple of days. (I don’t think they care about how hot it gets, since Phoenix got an honorable mention.)

I think Sacramento lost points for lack of bike racks and city bike projects. The article doesn’t mention it, so I’m guessing they didn’t give any points for Regional Transit’s bicycle-friendly operation. We also probably lost on “Bike culture (number of bike commuters, popular clubs, cool cycling events, renowned bike shops)”. (Emphasis mine.) Talk about some subjective measurements! (Except for number of bike commuters.) I’ve heard that approximately 1% of commute trips in Sacramento are via bicycle, but I can’t find documentation or references to support (or refute) that claim. As for bike culture in Sac, honestly we could use some more buzz. Anybody want to help with a Sacramento bicycling podcast?

More bike-related posts, articles about Sacramento, or specifically Sacramento bicycling posts are available.

About Jim Vanderveen

I'm a bit of a Renaissance man, with far too many hobbies for my free time! But more important than any hobby is my family. My proudest accomplishment has been raising some great kids! And somehow convincing my wife to put up with me since 1988. ;)
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5 Responses to Is Sacramento a bike-friendly town?

  1. Nicholas says:

    Yeah, as a former bicycle commuter myself, I think it would be a bit of a stretch to call Sacramento a cycling-friendly town. My first extensive experience as a bicycle commuter was a daily trip from North Highlands to Watt and El Camino, which involved a big stretch along Watt Avenue with no sidewalk, no bike trail, no practical alternate route, and only the barest hint of a shoulder. Later that job moved to the Garden Highway, and I moved downtown so I could continue to commute by bike. That was better, but in the winter Discovery Park flooded and I was left with two options: take a several-mile detour through Del Paso Heights, or ride on the freeway shoulder between Richards Boulevard and the Garden Highway (which is legal only when Discovery Park is flooded). I did the latter going to work and the former coming back (since I got off close to midnight and didn’t want to be on the freeway after dark) — and let me tell you, neither option was any fun.

    In my experience, a large number of Sacramento drivers really don’t want to share the road with cyclists — in fact, I’ve talked to quite a few who were honestly surprised that it’s legal for cyclists to use the road where there’s no bike lane, and that it’s actually illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk. I’ve been honked at, yelled at, run off the road, and had food thrown at me for exercising my legal right to ride in the right lane of traffic. In places where there’s a clearly marked bike lane, it’s easier — but there are far too many roads in Sacramento without a bike lane, and sometimes without a sidewalk, either.

    On the bright side, we do have a fantastic system of bike trails along the river, and for those lucky few who can use those to get to and from work, Sacramento is a nearly perfect cycling town.

  2. Sorry about the pingback. Don’t know why it wasn’t working.

    I wasn’t really faulting Bicycling – I agree that Sacramento has a ways to go yet, but that didn’t really come across in the post (which was meant to be a little snarky and more like a call to action – obviously it failed).

    The lack of bike racks is a huge issue for me. I hate going somewhere and discovering the only place I have to lock up is a no parking sign. I’m going to see if I can find the statistics on number of trips by bicycle. I think I know where I can find them, but it will take some doing.

    I was bummed about Bike Talk.

  3. jim says:

    Hey John,

    Actually, I did feel the “call to action” aspect of your post. Sorry that didn’t come across clearly in mine! (The last two sentences, re buzz.) I still think the subjective rating of “bike culture” is bogus, e.g. “renowned bike shops”. WTF? How about City Bikes? But seriously, we do need to push bicycling in this town. There’s no reason why Sacramento can’t leverage its weather/topo benefits and become a world-class bike city.

  4. jim says:

    Damn, Nicholas! That’s serious huevos getting on the freeway! I used to ride from Rancho Cordova out to the Natomas industrial park (North Market between Northgate and Truxel). Fortunately I’d leave the bike trail before Discovery Park.

    (BTW, I edited your first comment, per your second, and deleted the second comment.)

  5. Podcast, did you say? Sign me up! I’ve been putting in some effort blogging about my Sacramento Palo Alto bike/train commute, and a podcast has been in the back of my mind. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I have the time, resources (ahem – or content) to do it on my own. I’d love to join others in that effort, however!

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