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Did You Know?

While the Chicago region’s population grew by 18 percent since 1980, the traffic increased by 66 percent in the same period.

Meet Bike Score, a new tool for neighborhood biking

Maybe you've used Walk Score before. It’s a website that lets you explore how walkable a neighborhood is based on the five-minute walk.

The Walk Score methodology assesses the walkability of any given address based on distances to/from amenities like restaurants, transit stations, grocery stores, schools, parks, etc. I have used the website to apartment search and found it handy that it comes with a apartments and rentals tab to assist in making the bridge.

Enter Bike Score. You guessed it – it’s a tool for finding the most bikeable locations in the most bikeable neighborhoods. It’s a logical extension to Walk Score and a pretty cool tool.

Bike Score is more than just an infrastructure map. The score is a compilation of measures of bikeability. Destinations, hills, bike lanes and bike commuting levels are the four categories that contribute to a higher Bike Score.

Chicago, not surprisingly, does exceptionally well for destinations and hills. Also not surprising is that the distribution of infrastructure and bike commuters is condensed near the central area of the city.

A city as large as Chicago doesn't fair as well as smaller cities in this kind of comparison. Chicago is 237 square miles, and includes large expanses of industrial land and large campuses like O'Hare.

I think including bike commuters is a great measure, but basing it on census data may not tell the whole story about each city’s biking community. As Bike Score is now set up, it ignores important differences between the actual size of biking communities in large and mid-sized cities. The total number of commuters might be more interesting to the user than a normalized percentage of bicycle modeshare.

The best (and intended) use of this tool is to help people choose a place to live where biking is fun and accessible.

Bike Score is an indication that real estate professionals are responding to people's desires for more transportation options from their homes. Inevitably, people will use websites like this compare biking across cities.

I don't know if #10 is a good enough Bike Score ranking for Chicago (which ranks #4 on Walk Score for walkability). Of course, there is more than one way to determine bikeability. For instance, Bicycling magazine just ran an article that ranked Chicago #5 out of the top 50 bike-friendly cities.

Chicago Magazine ran an article on Bike Score that noted some good points on scalability of data between larger cities and mid-sized cities.

What do you think? Is #10 a suitable ranking for Chicago? Could any of these categories be adjusted to tell Chicago's story more accurately?