In honor of National Bike Month, the League of American Bicyclists has announced the latest round of Bicycle-Friendly America awards as relate to cities (they updated universities and businesses during the National Bike Summit).
The changes in Minnesota are largely cosmetic. The City of Minneapolis received an award upgrade from Silver to Gold in its Bicycle Friendly status. The cities of Apple Valley and Mankato/North Mankato received Honorable Mentions for their applications, but no medallion status.
It’s important to remember that the Bicycle-Friendly America program is only part of the picture of bicycle-friendliness. First, a city or town or business or college must apply to have the status reviewed. Many worthy smaller cities or universities may be very friendly but have no designation due to lack of program awareness or motivation. (The designation is largely ceremonial and comes with no phat ca$h.) In addition, due to the nature of measurement, some of the criteria is very subjective. While the rating system is getting better, miles of bike path/bike lane remains a big component of the program, and has been reviewed here repeatedly, a bike lane is not instant bike-friendliness, and some bike lanes (like the one on University Avenue near the U) should get a special mention as bike-UNfriendly. Some towns with mandatory sidepath rules — laws that require cyclists OFF the road is there is a usable sidepath or sidewalk — have received designation in the past.
Still, even according to the voluntary nature of the program, and the necessary nature of the criteria, Minnesota scores well for bicycle-friendliness and currently is the #4 state nationally. This is probably about accurate, with the potential for advancement as more community and state groups get active. If you’re interested in seeing your community get more friendly to cyclists, find out if there is a bicycle plan in your town. Attend public meetings that relate to active transportation. Talk to your city councilperson or other designee to see if you can get some activity happening if there isn’t much. This is how towns like Rochester and Mankato have started down paths to greater bicycle-friendliness, and how progress is being made in towns like Richfield, Edina and Saint Paul.