Dogs and their owners – along with some random bicyclers mixed in – participate in the Shelter Dog Strut 5K-9 Run/Walk Saturday on the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway next to the Eclipse Company Store.

PeopleForBikes has released its second annual ratings of bicycling in U.S. cities – a data-driven analysis that evaluates the safety, appeal and infrastructure of bicycling in more than 500 communities and provides nationwide rankings. Athens ranks 20th overall out of more than 500 cities and is the only city in Ohio to rank in the top 100 nationally. 

The city of Athens released the rankings in a news release from City Planner Paul Logue on Tuesday.

The PlacesForBikes City Ratings are designed to show cities where they stand – and provide insight into where infrastructure investments should be made to build complete, connected bike networks, according to the release. The 2019 PlacesForBikes City Ratings score 510 U.S. cities based on five key areas: Ridership (how many people ride bikes?), Safety (how safe is it to ride bikes?), Network (how easy is it for people to get where they need to go?), Acceleration (how fast is the bike network expanding?) and Reach (how well the network serves all neighborhoods in the community).

Athens performed well in the Safety, Network, and Reach categories, according to the city’s news release.

“In the city of Athens bicycles have become more than simply a piece of recreational equipment; they are increasingly viewed as a healthy and environmentally friendly mode of transportation for work and non-work trips alike,” Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said in the release. “With the increase of cyclists on the road here in Athens, it is obvious that bicycle mobility is having an economic impact in regards to the consumer choices and even location choices for businesses catering to the bicycling passersby or for their own bicycle commuting employees.”

The release also quoted Tim Blumenthal, president of PeopleForBikes: “The City Ratings highlights the hard work of the city of Athens to create places to bike that are safe and easily connect people to destinations all around the city. We hope Athens will use this data to continue expanding their bike network to provide even better bike riding experiences.”

Data for the ratings, the release explained, comes from existing sources (including the U.S. Census American Community Survey and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System), as well as new sources developed by the PeopleForBikes team to capture city-specific data based on mapping, city planning information and survey responses from community members. From these sources, 184 calculations are performed per city to determine individual category scores, as well as a city or town’s overall score. 

In the release, Rob Delach, spokesperson for the Athens Bicycle Club and secretary of the HockHocking Adena Bikeway Advisory Committee, said the ranking is gratifying for local bike enthusiasts.

“It is exciting that PeopleForBikes has recognized Athens as one of the nation’s top 20 cities for bicycling, be it for recreation or transportation,” he said. “I think that the two main factors that have established Athens as an exemplary place to ride, above so many other U.S. cities, is the amazing resource of the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway, and our outstanding bicycling safety record. It is my hope that the city will continue to build on this achievement.”

Athens City Council is currently considering passing a Complete Streets policy and ordinances that are intended to help the city better manage a bicycle share system, Delach said in the release. “It is these kinds of forward-thinking measures that will help improve our streets to encourage more people get on bikes as part of their daily activities,” he said.

This announcement comes as Athens celebrates National Bike Month this May. As part of National Bike Month, several partners have organized the secondannual Athens Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 17.

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