If you love riding around on two wheels, there are certain cities in Canada that are better suited for you than others -- and some you want to avoid altogether.
Walk Score, the site that rates how 'walkable' addresses are based on their nearby destinations, amenities and transit (the numbers appear frequently on real estate listings, among other services), is in the process of creating Bike Scores for cities across North America, and recently released the beta version of its initial results.
SEE: Heat maps of 'bikeability' in 10 Canadian cities. Story continues below:
Mike Brauer, a professor in the school of population and public health at the University of British Columbia, worked with Walk Score to create the heat maps to show which cities had greater 'bikeability.' The analysis was based on bike lanes, topography and destinations, but Brauer notes other factors are easily at play.
"There are some things that aren't included, like weather, and that's particularly important in Canada -- or bike culture in a particular place," Brauer told The Huffington Post Canada. "But you can modify things like infrastructure, and the obvious thing is bike lanes. With the heat map, there's different weightings if it's a separate bike lane, or a residential street, or the lowest level, a painted bike lane."
While the top ten cities for biking in the U.S. were given ranked scores (Minneapolis, Portland and San Francisco led the charge), Brauer notes they don't yet have enough information to do so for every Canadian city -- though the program does hope to get there.
"One of the things that’s been most difficult is gathering the bike route data -- we had to contact all municipalities," he explained. "We think over time this will become popular and cities will want to be included."
In fact, users can currently tweet "I want Bike Score in #Ottawa" (for example) to the site to encourage the inclusion of that area's data.
"What eventually will happen is you will be able to type in your address and find the Bike Score for your location," Brauer said. "Our ultimate goal is for both the public and transportation planners in cities to identify the parts of the cities where it is more bikeable and less bikeable -- where they need to beef up the infrastructure."
Though not every city was covered, Vancouver, Victoria and Montreal were called out as the places where it's best to bike -- and this correlates well with the most recent findings from Statistics Canada. As of 2006, Victoria was way ahead of the pack in terms of biking to work, but places like Kingston and Ottawa -- which don't yet have Bike Scores -- showed a strong interest as well.
Calgary scores high in the inner city, older suburbs and northeast region, thanks to its multiuse pathways.
While the prettiness of cruising Charlottetown on a bike is a real draw for tourists, it looks like only the very downtown core has any true 'bikeability' - Spacing magazine noted this could be due to the lack of connections between pathways, and the lack of a usable map for visitors.
Halifax and nearby Dartmouth showed a similar pattern to other cities -- while the downtown areas had great 'bikeability', as you leave the core, it becomes more difficult. In the past, columnists have complained about the lack of cycling infrastructure, including paths and places to lock bikes.
Only a very small swath of land in Moncton is deemed bikeable -- the city has had struggles when trying to enact a more bike-friendly attitude and infrastructure.
Virtually unbikeable, the hills in St. John's make it difficult terrain to navigate by bike -- Newfoundland in general had the lowest rate of people who commute by bicycle in the country, according to the most recent statistics. That, however, hasn't stopped the city from attempting to create a cycling plan that works for everyone.
With its flat lands, Saskatoon lends itself nicely to cycling, and in fact, scored second-place for cities where commuters bike to work. It also has an extensive cycling network in development, with new paths and lanes being added all the time.
It makes sense that the original home of Bixi bikes would do so well on the cycling scale. Montreal's relatively flat terrain and condensed size -- not to mention its bike paths and Bixi stations -- earned it a place on Time Magazine's Top 10 Urban Bike Trips list.
Toronto's size plays a major factor in its bikeability -- bike-friendly areas are scattered throughout the city, but there are plenty of places where bikes still dare not go. And despite a much-publicized 'war on cyclists,' there are plenty of sites and people advocating for better resources.
Vancouver scores very high on the bike-friendly index, thanks to the topography, bike lanes, and the difficult-to-qualify-but-still-important bike culture. It has a ways to go though -- northern Europe does better than every Canadian city on the map.
Victoria was right up alongside Vancouver in terms of bikeability, and its strong Cycling Coalition and "Cycling Master Plan" make it easy to see why.