On Saturday, 198 brave men will mount their bicycles and undertake one of the most difficult challenges in professional sports: the 2,271-mile Tour de France.
When Le Tour finishes July 27, it’s not likely that any of the eight American riders will be standing on the podium. But when the next great U.S. cyclist comes along, don’t be surprised if he hails from Washington state, the best state for biking.
The Evergreen State has won the coveted No. 1 ranking from the League of American Bicyclists seven years in a row. That’s because Washington invests in cycling infrastructure, and it has a comprehensive set of state laws to protect cyclists on the road.
Washington has “a really good bicycling advocacy community,” said Darren Flusche, the league’s policy director. “They have established federal, state and local funding sources. They have a really extensive rails-to-trails network.”
Washington applies about 3.2 percent of its federal transportation dollars to cyclists and pedestrians, according to the Alliance for Biking & Walking. That’s well above the 2.1 percent national average. Washington is one of just five states to meet all seven safety criteria the alliance measured, from Share the Road campaigns to bicycle enforcement training for new police officers.
Other places may have better weather than rainy Seattle, but Flusche said Washington’s laws put it at the head of the peloton: “We don’t give points for sunshine,” he said.
It’s appropriate, then, that the best American riding in the Tour de France this year, Tejay van Garderen, is a Tacoma native.
Reid Wilson is the author of Read In, The Washington Post’s new morning tipsheet on politics.