Bike DC, now in gold. Image by the author.

Yesterday, the League of American Bicyclists officially upgraded DC's Bike Friendly Community (BFA) award from silver level to gold level, signifying a high level of success for an American city in creating a safe and convenient biking environment.

DC is the first large eastern city to reach gold level. New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, as well as Arlington and Alexandria, are all silver.

BFA awards come in bronze, silver, gold, and platinum levels. Something about the methodology seems to favor western cities, as gold and platinum locations skew heavily to the west. On the east coast, there are no platinum winners, and so far only Cambridge & Somerville, MA, and Hilton Head, SC, have achieved gold. And now DC.

To earn a gold-level award, a US city requests a score from the League, and must then show comparatively high commitment to bicycling in five categories: physical infrastructure, education programs, promotions, law enforcement, and objective evaluation.

Over the past decade, DC has made significant progress in all categories, particularly in bikesharing where DC has been a national leader, first with Capital Bikeshare and now with dockless bikeshare. As a result, the District's bicycle bona fides are showing up in the numbers: Among large cities, DC now has America's second highest percentage of bike commuters, behind only famously bike-friendly Portland, the only large city nationwide to earn a platinum.

That said, while a gold BFA award is a solid achievement, it doesn't mean you're Amsterdam. DC bike lane striping has slowed since a few years ago, enforcement is dodgy, and mode share remains a pittance compared to Europe. Platinum looms far in the distance, even based on BFA's very American rating scale.

Still, this is a lovely accomplishment for the city. Credit goes out to DDOT's bike team, advocacy organizations like WABA, and to everyone in the region who bikes or helps others to bike. There's plenty of work still to do, but we have come a long way.

In addition to DC's gold and Arlington & Alexandria's silver, bronze-level communities in the Washington area include Vienna, Reston, Fairfax County, Frederick, Rockville, Columbia, and Baltimore.

Tagged: bicycling, dc
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Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado and lives in northeast DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post .