Crack open a cold one for bike-friendly communities

Today marks the official beginning of Madison, Wisconsin’s Bike Week, which runs until June 11th because seven days is just too short for a week of biking here in the Badger State!

I rest my case.

The Bicycle League of America regards five cities above all others as the best places to bike in the United States, awarding them “platinum-level” distinction: Madison, Wisconsin; Boulder, Colorado; Davis, California; Portland, Oregon; and Fort Collins; Colorado.

Certified bike-friendly communities exist in all 50 states—Wisconsin is home to 16. Even if all of these cities haven’t reached platinum-level status, devoted commuter paths, well-maintained pavement, and protected bike lanes on busy roads all help promote two-wheeled transit in towns across the country. Despite our nation’s vast diversity, states that support their local cycling citizens seem to also share one unifying feature: a thirst for craft-brewed beer. I recently undertook a data-journalism project combining my three main passions: biking, beer and America. Click on the image to explore these results further, and see for yourself that bikes and brews seem to go hand-in-hand in our great county.


Controlling for population can be tricky when comparing between states. After all,  the linear correlation between statewide numbers of craft breweries and bicycle-friendly communities (Bike-friendly communities versus number of craft breweries per state) could simply be an artifact: more people in a region will naturally increase the demand for both suds and spokes.

Similarly, the concentration of bike-friendly communities per capita (indicated by increasing red color of states in the map Bike friendly communities per 100,000 residents and number of craft breweries per state) disproportionately increases for sparsely populated states. Montana, for example, appears incredibly bike-friendly by this metric, even though the Treasure State merely boasts 6 bicycle-friendly communities, compared to Washington’s 16 or Florida’s 19! While I can personally attest to the fact that biking in Montana is, in fact, awesome, Big Sky Country is hardly the best place to bike in the entire United States.

Biking in Missoula is pretty sweet, though
Biking in Missoula is pretty sweet, though

A similar problem arises when considering barrels of craft beer per 100,000 residents in each state. Tiny Vermont stands out as singularly thirsty, suggesting that Green Mountain State residents take their motto to heart and achieve unity in freedom…from sobriety.  Although the Vermont Brewers Association deserves kudos for their impressive output, many more populous states also produce liters and liters of high-quality brews every year.

My home state, for example
My home state, for example

Unsurprisingly, the five highest-rated bike-friendly communities in America also share reputations as being microbrew meccas, and they all happen to be located in states with especially high numbers of bike-friendly communities (indicated by by size in Barrels of craft beer per 100,000 residents and numbers of bike-friendly communities per state) that also produce large amounts of craft beer, as measured by barrels per 100,000 residents (represented by warmer colors in Barrels of craft beer per 100,000 residents and numbers of bike-friendly communities per state). While Wisconsin, Oregon, California, and Colorado might not be the most beer- or bike-happy states in isolation, these places are holistically some of the best places to saddle up AND sip a frosty beverage nationwide.

IMG_7420-0 IMG_6678 IMG_8182-0 IMG_8952 IMG_0036-0

Not at the same time, please
Not at the same time, please

Stay thirsty, stay friendly!


5 thoughts on “Crack open a cold one for bike-friendly communities

Add yours

  1. Love this!

    Did you try a scatter w/barrels per capita against bike towns per capita? That would control for overall population, and drop states like Texas down the list. Not sure what Alaska would do with it’s 28K barrels per person against 3 towns though…


    1. Stay tuned!

      I did a DEEP dive into the unbearable whiteness of biking, and why people from Davis are soft compared to us Madisonians. But I’m planning on breaking up my magnum opus into a series of smaller posts to avoid data overload.


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