Despite rank, room for improvement in MN biking

Minnesota has again burnished its bike-riding credentials. It’s been named the second-best state in the union for cycling this week, according to Wired.

Washington state tops the list with a 66.2 score. Minnesota is at 62.7 with some breathing room between it and Delaware (54.8). But upstarts are coming up on our left.

In the seven years it’s been putting the reports together, the League of American Bicyclists has put Washington number one each time.

This year, Washington’s score slipped slightly while Minnesota has improved. Minnesota has a clear advantage in the policies & programs category. But it loses ground on “legislation & enforcement”, “infrastructure & funding”, and “evaluation & planning.”

Massachusetts got the most attention in the survey, jumping from 10th to 4th.

One bright spot was Massachusetts, which climbed from tenth place in 2014 to fourth this year, improving its score (from 53.7 to 54.8) despite the stricter standards. The key factor is that its legislature passed a transportation bill with significant funding for cycling, pedestrian, and “complete streets” projects. It also created a “share the road” campaign to promote cycling and safe driving, including bicycle safety in its strategic highway plan, and launched the “GreenDOT Report,” a comprehensive environmental responsibility and sustainability initiative.

“We really saw them step up and commit to biking, walking being an important part of their transportation system,”(legal specialist Ken) McLeod says.

The rankings are meant to push the states to improve life for bicyclists and on that score, the League had suggestions for the state.

• Adopt a vulnerable road user law that increases penalties for a motorist that injures or kills a bicyclist or pedestrian.

• Update state traffic laws regarding bicyclists riding “as far right as practicable” to better inform bicyclists and the public where bicyclists can ride. Several states now specify that a bicyclist can ride explicitly in terms of the safety of the bicyclist and surrounding traffic. For instance, Colorado’s law says that a bicyclists shall ride “far enough to the right as judged safe by the bicyclist to facilitate the movement of … overtaking vehicles.”

• Establish a state bike caucus in the legislature.

• Collect data regarding enforcement actions against motorists based on incidents with bicycles, such as traffic tickets issued, prosecutions, or convictions.