A cyclist commutes along Rio Grande Street using a dedicated bike lane in West Campus Austin. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Take a bow, Austin cycling community.

Our city has been upgraded to gold level status on the League of American Bicyclists’ list of Bicycle Friendly Communities. That makes us the only city in Texas, and one of just 24 in the country, with gold status.

Each year, the League ranks cities across the country, based on their infrastructure, laws and strength of local advocacy organizations.

Five cities – Madison, Wisc., Fort Collins and Boulder, Colo., Portland, Ore., and Davis, Calif. – all have the highest level of status, platinum. In Texas, Brownsville, Plano, The Woodlands, San Antonio, Richardson and Houston all earned bronze status.

Mercedes Feris, executive director of Bike Austin, points to the city’s more than 250 miles of bike lanes, including 30 miles of protected and buffered bike lanes, as reasons for the city’s new high ranking.

“The crown jewels of our urban trail network, like the Southern Walnut Creek Trail, the Boardwalk and the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge, have put Austin on the map,” Feris says. “And Austin B-cycle, which Bike Austin helped bring to town, is now one of the most successful bike share systems in the country.”

A cyclist commutes along Rio Grande Street using a dedicated bike lane in West Campus RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As Austin Transportation Director Rob Spillar says, it’s about the benefits bicycling brings to Austin.

“It’s good for your health, great for your family’s transportation budget, and may be the quickest way to get around town,” Spillar says. “Austin’s commitment to bicycling is evident through the implementation of our recently adopted Bicycle Master Plan, which will make bicycling safer, more comfortable and convenient for people of all ages and abilities.”

The University of Texas, along with Texas Tech University and Texas A&M University, also gets bronze status on the organization’s list of bicycle friendly universities.

If you ride your bike to work most days like I do, you might find the designation a little baffling. I still get flipped off by motorists and buzzed by fast-moving cars. And the state of Texas still ranks an underwhelming number 30 on the League’s list of Bicycle Friendly States.

Time to aim for higher, folks. But it’s a positive step, and one that Feris hopes to build on.

“We look forward to working with our partners in the community, city government and staff to make Austin a platinum-level bicycle-friendly community by the next round of community reviews in 2019,” she says.

For more information about the League’s announcement, go here.