Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
For the sixth year in a row, Washington has been named the nation's most bicycle-friendly state. Colorado and Oregon came in second and third on the yearly list that gives national bragging rights and is closely followed by the cycling community.
The rankings are bestowed by the League of American Bicyclists. Begun in 2008, they are based on funding for biking legislation, bike programs and policies, infrastructure, education and planning.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee attributes his state's standing to embracing biking as a "form of transportation that enhances our quality of life and honors our environment."
Biking is so mainstream in Washington that the state's secretary of transportation Lynn Peterson is an avid cyclist who plans to compete in the yearly 200-mile Seattle-to-Portland ride in July.
This year Colorado went from fourth to second place, continuing a steady climb from fourth last year and twelfth in 2011.
Asked how a state known for mountains and snow managed the feat, Dan Grunig, executive director of the advocacy group Bicycle Colorado in Denver said "there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad choice in clothing."
Besides, he added, most people in Colorado live on the Front Range, the area east of the foothills of the Rockies. So it's not so much mountains as high desert. Which "is actually a fantastic place to ride year round," Grunig said.
Oregon got third place this year. "We made it into the medals finally," said Shelia Lyons, the state's pedestrian and bicycle program manager in Salem. While Portland is known as one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the country, the entire state is really a cycling paradise and government is seeing serious money come in from it now.
A new study being released this month found that biking is a $400 million industry in Oregon, "and I think we're at the very bottom rung of that potential," Lyons said.
Minnesota fell in this year's ranking from second to fourth place. "That's not because they didn't anything wrong, it's because Colorado and Oregon both stepped up and improved their performance," said Andy Clarke, president of the 133-year-old League.
Delaware made a surprise sprint up from tenth place to finish fifth in rankings.
Delaware governor Jack Markell, a cyclist himself, says his state focuses on cycling because it brings employment. "Jobs are going to go where the talent is, and talented people are going to work in places where they want to live, and having amenities for bicycling is a very attractive thing."
Arkansas went from the worst cycling state in the nation to number 37, due to the founding of a statewide bicycle advocacy group and government paying "a little more attention this year," said Clarke.
While acknowledging that its resources were "extremely limited" the state hopes to build on the momentum of its rise and continue to provide "convenient and safe" cycle ways in Arkansas, said Scott Bennett, director of the state's Department of Highway and Transportation.