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Minnesota second, Wisconsin third for bike-friendly states

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Minnesota ranks second and Wisconsin third among the most bike-friendly states in the U.S., according to the League of American Bicyclists.

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Only Washington ranked higher for having better trails, laws, promotion of and participation in bicycling.

The League released its rankings Thursday at the start of National Bicycling Month. Minnesota moves up from fourth on the 2013 list and Wisconsin is up from eighth.

The rankings are based on several criteria, including infrastructure and funding that provide safe trails 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.

Nearly half of Minnesotans rode a bicycle last year, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The League cited Minnesota for several areas of bike-friendliness, including:

  • Partnerships among state agencies and advocacy groups to spur 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 trails to the system each year. Federal 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. The program is expected to move outside the Twin Cities in the future.
  • 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. 
  • 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.

Washington managed 66.8 out of a possible 100 points on the bike-friendly tally sheet, with Minnesota at 62 and Wisconsin at 56.9. Alabama, which ranked 50th, tallied only 17.4 points.

Minnesota transportation officials credited state agencies — including the departments of Health, Natural Resources, Transportation and Tourism — for investing 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.

For more information on biking in Minnesota, or to participate in the development of a statewide bike plan, go to www.mndot.gov/bike.

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