Minnesota named second most bike-friendly state again

Kenilworth bike trail
A bicyclist used the Kenilworth bike trail alongside the freight rail Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013.
Liala Helal | MPR News 2013

Minnesota has once again been named the second most bike-friendly state in the country, behind Washington.

The rankings by the League of American Bicyclists cite the state's educational and policy efforts to promote biking.

Dorian Grilley, executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, said agencies and communities across the state have ramped up their promotion of bicycling in recent years.

"It's really a consistent effort from communities, the state of Minnesota, tourism, the Department of Health to promote biking," Grilley said. "They all realize that more people biking is a good thing, obviously for different reasons."

Grilley said his group has worked to reintroduce bicycling education into elementary school curriculums and support local advocacy groups in smaller cities like Bemidji and Mankato.

This is the second year in a row that Minnesota has ranked as the second most bike-friendly state behind Washington.

Minnesota has ranked in the top five every year since 2008. Wisconsin was ranked as ninth in the country, six places below that state's 2014 ranking.

The report does recommend that Minnesota increase the punishment for drivers who recklessly kill a bicyclist or pedestrian.

A bill being considered at the state Legislature would increase the crime from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor.

"There was a big gap between the misdemeanor and criminal vehicular homicide," Grilley said. "This gives the prosecutors the in-between charge."

The report also recommends that Minnesota communities do a better job of connecting bike and pedestrian trails and other facilities, as well as collect data on citations against motorists who endanger or harm bicyclists.

The Senate version of the transportation funding bill includes $56 million for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and programs, Grilley said, although the House does not include any of the funding and the bill's prospects are dimming as the end of session approaches.

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