People for Bikes Collects Data for Promising City Rating Score

Two people cycling on a separate pathway along traffic. there are several trees and there is a book store in the background.
Separate bike infra on Main St in Ottawa
Reading Time: 6 minutes

You may have heard of People for Bikes. It is an American organisation that promotes cycling in a number of ways. From their website:

People For Bikes includes both an industry coalition of bicycling suppliers and retailers, as well as a charitable foundation. Our foundation is where we house our major programs and engage individual members, affiliate organizations, and corporate sponsors.

Sunday Bike Days in Ottawa

Over the last several years, People for Bikes has organised a program called Places for Bikes, which rates a large number of cities for their bikeability. It takes a data-driven approach to identifying the best U.S. towns for bicycling and rewarding those that are improving the fastest. I noticed while they talk about the US, they do include Canada.

Not just kilometres of bike lanes in city rating score

What I like in their approach is that they don’t just look to numbers of cyclists and total length of bike lanes and paths in kilometres, but also take in consideration safety, reach and acceleration. The staff looks for publicly available data such as OpenStreetMap and Census data. Fortunately, we have some very dedicated OpenStreetMap experts among the thousands of resident who bike in Ottawa, so it is pretty much up to date as soon as something changes.

Great set up: e-bike, with wheels, storage and space for crutches. A safety vest to top it off. Are you determined or what?

Bicycle Network Assessment Tool (BNA) for city rating score

BNA Score for Ottawa

Their Bicycle Network Assessment Tool (BNA) is quite cool and part of the City Rating Score. For your information, Ottawa has a BNA score of 51. As a comparison, Montreal has a score of 57, Calgary 45, Vancouver 39, Toronto 36, Winnipeg 30. You can find Portland, OR with a score of 49, and Boulder, CO 63. New York City has a score of 49. Based on the BNA score (remember it is only part of the City Rating Score), Ottawa is up there with places like Montreal, Portland, Boulder and New York City. Unfortunately we are not in the City Rating Score.

The arboretum in Ottawa

See the BNA score for yourself here: BNA Score Ottawa

Search for a city, click on the city name and you will get more detail down to the number of supermarkets and drugstores etc. In the top right is another pull down menu showing the locations.

Note that the BNA Tool is just a part of the City Rating Score. The latter one includes the BNA, but also looks at census data, a community survey, a city snapshot, fatalities and a sports marketing survey bicycle participation

City snap shot response

The organisation also tries to connect with city staff in Canada and the US. The city receives a list of questions which, from what I saw on the sample, is actually quite comprehensive: questions about number of bridges and underpasses, number of participants in open street type events. I think the 900,000 in the NCC Sunday bike days could play a major role here.

New situation: Main Street at St Paul.
New situation: Main Street at St Paul on Old Ottawa East.

In the email I received yesterday I read that the questions will be simplified. I guess that makes it easier not only for the city but also for People for Bikes: let the computers do the work.

Community Survey adds to city rating score

Lights on bikes event at Corktown bridge in Ottawa

There is also a survey among the community. Questions such as: do you feel safe on the bike, how often do you bike, where do you bike etc. I just went through the survey and it doesn’t take much time, perhaps 3 minutes or so.

People for Bikes City Rating Score

Now why do I think this is important? All these data come together in a score and a ranking. Of course it is nice when you end up in the top 10 best cities. The city can use it as a marketing tool in our efforts to market the City of Ottawa as bike holiday destination. As a bike tour guide in Ottawa, I can confirm this is happening.

Bridge in the Greely Loop

However, it is just as important to see which cities are doing better and where we are lacking. If would be a great tool for advocacy groups such Bike Ottawa and Ecology Ottawa to have large quantities of data from other cities as a back up to make a case. And it would be a great tool for Ottawa staff in reporting back to council.

Helicopter view for Places for Bikes

The new path underneath the Hurdman Transitway bridge
The path underneath the Hurdman Transitway bridge

So I am going to ask you to get on the email list of People for Bikes if you are not already. I am going to ask you too to fill in the questionnaire from a helicopter viewpoint. As in: focus on the bigger picture.

Yes, all is not perfect in Ottawa, we have a long way to go from near invisible posts in pathways to dark stretches of pathways to many missing links and the very irritating ‘walk your bike’ signs popping up more and more. I would like to see more people of colour on bicycles; I would also like to see easier access to bicycle lessons. I’d like to see bike parking being taken more seriously.

Looking back 13 years

The underpass replaced an at grade crossing at the Trillium Line at Brookfield

But sometimes we also have to look over our shoulder and look what we accomplished since 2007 as a cycling community to improve cycling infrastructure: the Laurier bike lanes, the O’Connor bike lanes, The MacKenzie King bike lanes, the Rideau St bike lanes, the Nepean Trail, the Hospital Link, the pathway along the LRT downtown to Hurdman, the Corktown bridge, the Adawe bridge, the Max Keeping bridge, the Flora Footbridge, the new Jackie Holzman bridge, the Airport Parkway bridge, the Trillium Pathway, the Trillium line underpass at Brookfield to name but a few of the more eye catching projects. Plus many new shortcuts, Dutch style intersections, bicycle traffic signals, bike boxes and new bike parking.

fat biking is increasing in popularity

So even when not all is excellent, try to remember what we have accomplished in the last 13 years since the Corktown bridge was built when filling in the questionnaire.

Fill in the questionnaire

Back in 2011 at The Hintonburg bicycle parade

Click here to add your city if you couldn’t find it in the City Rating Score. (Ottawa isn’t in there):

Click here for the survey you should fill in:

Improve the database

Think of it as helping the larger world of North American cycling by populating a data driven comparison tool. Every bit helps to make the tool better.

A serene picture of winter cycling in Ottawa

For more images of the Sunday Bike Days I am referring to, you might want to check out this post on Sunday Bike Days:

Ottawa Cycling Map
The official Hans on the Bike Multi Use Pathway map with the MUPs that form the Ottawa Bicycle Network. Map is a work in progress.


  1. How long until this score is updated again? The City Ratings will be updated once per year—typically mid-year. We conduct several data collection efforts throughout the year to prepare for each year’s ratings. We plan to present updated scores each year at our PlacesForBikes Conference.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Ottawa - Gatineau in Canadian top 10 People for Bikes City Ratings

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.