ST. PAUL, Minn.– Kicking off National Bike Month, the League of American Bicyclists today announced that Minnesota ranks as the second most bicycle-friendly state in the nation. Minnesota has consistently ranked in the top five since 2008.
“This ranking is recognition of the work on behalf of bicycling being done by both the public and private sectors throughout the state,” said Dorian Grilley, executive director, Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. “It is not only because of the good work that is being done by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, but because the Department of Health, Explore Minnesota Tourism, Department of Natural Resources, other public agencies, local governments and many of our state's businesses, both big and small, are all engaged in making bicycling better in Minnesota,"
Nearly half of Minnesotans rode a bicycle last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation 2012 Omnibus Transportation Survey.
The Bicycle Friendly States ranking is based on key indicators, including infrastructure and funding that provide safe places to bike; education and encouragement programs that promote cycling; and passage and enforcement of bicycle-friendly laws that make it safe and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities to ride.
"We are excited and encouraged to see real progress in states like California, Minnesota and Utah," said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. "Overall, we still see a lot of opportunity to realize the huge potential of bicycling to promote health, economic development, and quality of life."
Washington remains the top ranked state for the seventh year in a row, followed by Minnesota, Wisconsin, Delaware and Oregon. Minnesota received its ranking because of many reasons, including:
· Partnerships among several state agencies and local/statewide advocacy groups that are encouraging increased commuter and recreational bicycle use and leading the Safe Routes to School program.
· Recognition as the “Best Trails State” in the nation in 2012. The state features more than 600 miles of paved trails managed by the Department of Natural Resources. The DNR adds about 10 miles of paved trail to the system each year. National, regional and local governments manage thousands of additional trail miles.
· Nice Ride Minnesota, the first large-scale bicycle sharing system in the nation, expanded into St. Paul in 2012.The program has more than 1,500 bicycles and 170 kiosks in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Expansion is also planned in Greater Minnesota.
· The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota published “WALK! BIKE! FUN!” — a comprehensive curriculum with engaging lessons for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade. Through classroom activities and on-the-bike skills practice, instructors can teach young people how to travel safely in their communities.
· The state has high rates of bicycle commuting and recreational use.
· The nationally recognized bicycle safety education campaign, “Share the Road,” helps improve awareness of bicycle laws for both motorists and bicyclists.
Several state agencies, including the departments of Health, Natural Resources, Transportation and Tourism invest in bicycling as an important component of Minnesota’s transportation system. Bicycle tourism has a positive impact on Minnesota’s economy and being physically active can decrease the risk of a variety of diseases such as heart disease and stroke, diabetes, depression and certain types of cancer.
“This year’s bicycle friendly state announcement is a great acknowledgement of the dedication and commitment of our many agency partners, advocates and bicyclists from across the state towards making Minnesota a bicycle friendly state,” said Tim Mitchell, Minnesota Department of Transportation bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.
He said the Minnesota Department of Health has helped elevate interest in biking in the state. “Their Statewide Health Improvement Program has assisted more than 250 communities to increase access to bicycling and walking opportunities over the past few years, making the healthy choice an easy choice.”
Mitchell said while the ranking is a great achievement, there is work to do. “We can do even better,” he added. “The best way to continue to improve is to learn from constituents who use the highways, bike lanes and shoulders to bike.