Minnesota: The Bike Friendly State

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August 29, 2012
By Amber Dallman
Minnesota: The Bike Friendly State

There is a lot going on in Minnesota to promote active living! Our state health department supports local efforts to plan and implement active transportation strategies for health improvement. The active transportation work is based on The Community Guide’s recommendation to have community design and land use policies that support and encourage regular physical activity, so we are implementing evidence-based strategies.

Beyond work at the local level, there are exciting things happening at the state level to support active living. One of the Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH) partners is Explore Minnesota Tourism, the state’s tourism promotion office. Explore Minnesota brought together a collective of partners, including the Minnesota Departments of Health, Transportation and Natural Resources, the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota, the National Park Service, and an exclusive sponsorship by HealthPartners to discuss how Minnesota could better promote our state’s great bicycle facilities.

The partnership’s website, PedalMN.com, was created to make it easier for people in Minnesota to get out and ride. The site features mapping tools for routes and trails, with inspiration for what to do along the way. Guest bicycle bloggers from across the state share tips for everything from how to ride in a skirt to the best Minnesota bicycle vacation destinations. With the change of the seasons readers will learn how to safely bike in the winter and best practices communities have to remove snow from bicycle facilities. An example of one practice during winter is enforcing no parking restrictions on selected night plow routes to effectively clear snow curb-to-curb.

Bicycling has a positive impact on the state, including benefits to individuals, communities, the environment and the economy. Biking generates more than $1 billion in expenditures throughout the state. With more than 1,500 miles of paved trails and numerous designated biking routes in communities across the state, Minnesota offers excellent options for all kinds of cyclists.

In the next year, we’ll be continuing to work with communities throughout the state to assess how bicycle and walk friendly they are. Then, with support from health, tourism, transportation, parks and trails and many others, address how our communities can make walking and bicycling easier. Schools are an area of particular interest for promoting walking and biking. Through MDH’s health improvement efforts and our partners’ work we’ve worked in at least 117 schools across the state to implement Safe Routes to School that will increase opportunities and support for youth to walk or bike to school. These schools serve at least 77,000 students. In the upcoming school year Minnesota will continue to support partnerships between schools and planner, and teach our youth bicycle safety.

People in Minnesota recognize that land use and transportation policies affect how easy it is to walk and bike. But, they also realize that even with good walking and bicycling facilities, information on how easy it is to use those facilities has to be shared. Through this multi-faceted approach more people will realize how the healthy choice is really the easy choice in Minnesota.

There’s no question Minnesota is one of the best states for bicycling. Check out the PedalMN Video and see what we’re doing to get more people on more bikes more often. Then, share what’s going on in your state to encourage more bicycling. Is it different in rural, suburban, and urban areas?

Amber Dallman
Minnesota Department of Health
Amber.Dallman@state.mn.us

About the author

Amber Dallman, MPH, PAPHS, is the Physical Activity Coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Health. She works with communities in Minnesota to increase access to safe walking and bicycling facilities and make the healthy choice the easy choice. Amber pedals to work and around St. Paul most days of the year – including a daycare drop-off for her son. Read more about her bicycling escapades at PedalMN.com.

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