Report: Minn. second most bicycle-friendly state

Bicycle commute
Jana Velo bikes from her home in south Minneapolis to the Midtown Global Market to shop for groceries Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. Velo rides her bicycle all winter long, regardless of the snow and cold temperatures.
Jennifer Simonson/MPR News, File

Minnesota is the second most bicycle-friendly state in the nation, according to a ranking released Thursday by the League of American Bicyclists.

The yearly ranking scored Minnesota high for its policies and programs, although the state was ranked low for infrastructure and funding. It's the seventh year in a row that Minnesota has made it into the top five. Only Washington state received a higher overall ranking.

Minnesota Department of Transportation planner Michelle Pooler said the ranking is a testament to the diverse programs that make it easier for people to bike across the state. MnDOT recently released a map showing all the state's trails and paths. The last bike map was issued in 2001.

"We have a really robust Safe Routes to School program, we just developed new curriculum for that," Pooler said. "We have legislative support."

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The ranking also reflects a shift on the state level by policy makers to start considering bicycles and other non-car transit when planning transportation projects. The 2010 law is called "Complete Streets."

Ethan Fawley, executive director of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, said it reflects a growing awareness that bikes are for transportation, as well as recreation.

"From the state level down to the local level, there's just a lot of interest in biking and a lot of investment and support happening," Fawley said. "That trickles down to more people riding and getting recognized nationally."

Fawley said rankings like this are good for the state's reputation.

"When we get named to best of lists, we know it's not for our weather," he said. "Having things like biking that we're known for, honestly that raises the profile of the state, it attracts people here, it lets people know that, 'Hey, this is a great place to live and raise a family and have a business.'"

The more than 600 miles of paved bike trails managed by the Department of Natural Resources contributed to the state's high ranking. The report also mentioned the state's Share the Road campaign.

The report also lists areas where the state could improve, including through the adoption of a vulnerable road user law that increases penalties for a motorist that injures or kills a bicyclist or pedestrian. It also recommends that Minnesota integrate bicycle education into law enforcement training.

MnDOT is currently updating the state's bicycling plan. The agency is hosting six more meetings to gather input across the state.