In Platinum City Even the Munchkins Ride Bikes



With New York City recently scoring a bronze medal for urban bike-friendliness from the League of American Bicyclists, we figured it was a good time to post our 8 minute StreetFilm on Davis, California, where I visited this summer. Portland, Oregon is nipping at their heels, but Davis is still the only city in America yet to attain LAB’s Platinum award.

Credit for Davis’s bike-friendliness goes back to the 1960’s when forward-thinking University of California, Davis urban planners began thinking about ways to make it safe and convenient for college students and city residents to travel safely by bike. During an era when most California towns were focused on building freeways, strip malls and suburban arterials, Davis’s planning wizards were developing off-street greenways, bike lanes and installing bike racks everywhere.

In the last decade, an influx of car-commuters moving to Davis from nearby Sacramento and San Francisco has decreased the bike commuting mode share from 25 percent to 18 percent. Still, Davis remains an amazing place to use a bike for transportation. Any place that has that many children riding bikes is doing something right!

And check this out — Davis has its own Wiki page devoted to bicycling.

Now click your heels four times and repeat after me, "There’s no place like Davis. There’s no place like Davis. There’s no place…"

  • Steve

    Clarence, thanks for this inspiring short.

    I am wondering about bicyclists and traffic laws in Davis. Does the bike-friendly infrastructure lead fewer bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk or counter the flow of traffic (as compared to, say, NYC)? Do Davis bicyclists follow the traffic signals at a comparable rate to motorists? Do the police uniformly enforce that stiff $370 fine for running a red against both bicyclists and motorists?

  • John Berg

    Very few cyclists in Davis ride on the sidewalk or against traffic. The ones that do are usually teenagers. Many cyclists here run stop signs, but not usually stop lights. Traffic signals are found at major intersections only, and self-preservation usually causes most of the cyclists to wait them out. Plus, at the bike signalized intersections, they know they’ll have their own right of way without having to worry about cars.

    As for tickets, Yolo County has discretion on what to charge for bicycle infractions, but I don’t know what they charge for running a red light.

    Clarence certainly showed the upside – there is also a downside, but we’re working on that.

  • Tautology

    Whatever the downside, your upside is far better than almost all U.S. cities!

  • Steve

    Thanks, John. As you may have guessed, I was not trying to find downsides to the Davis bicycling scene but looking for evidence on the hypothesis that increased prevalence of everyday bicycling and superior infrastructure are associated with safer bicycling habits. Davis and NYC seem dissimilar in important ways–chiefly, there is a much higher level of competition for street space in NYC–so a “scientific” comparison seems difficult. But one of the major impediments bicyclists in NYC face is the claim that we are essentially a bunch of roadway outlaws to be discouraged rather than rewarded with infrastructure. So I think it is worth asking whether, with greater safety and a consequently more robust and diverse daily ridership, bicyclists as a whole might begin to engage less in unsafe habits like riding on the sidewalks and counterflow.

  • Allan

    Having lived in davis for 5 years it is a great place to bike around and the motorists are generally very aware of the presence of bikers. They do however give tickets comparible to car fines, and of course the dreaded BUI which incurrs the same fines and record as a DUI

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