The League of American Bicyclists released its annual Bicycle Friendly State Rankings today. Each year LAB releases the rankings based on factors such as legislation and enforcement, policies and programs, infrastructure and funding, education and encouragement, and evaluation and planning. The number one spot on the rankings went to Washington who took the same honor last year. Their neighbor, Oregon jumped up two spots to take 3rd in the 2013 rankings.
Historically, the Midwest region has not been known for its bike friendly attitude and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before most areas can truly be called bike friendly. However, the work of many advocacy groups, cyclists, and even some politicians have made great strides in some areas of the Midwest.
There are some bright spots in the region including Colorado ranked as #2 (no big surprise here). Three other flyover states: Minnesota (4), Wisconsin (8), and Illinois (9) made it into the top ten as well. Iowa broke into the top 50% with a ranking of 21st while Missouri just made it into the top 30 after dropping 2 spots from the 2012 rankings. Kansas dropped 6 spots and Nebraska moved up 2 with rankings of 40th and 41st respectively.
Arkansas, ranked dead last one year ago, made an impressive gain of 13 spots to come in at 37th this year. North Dakota has taken the distinction as Lanterne Rouge in the 2013 rankings dropping from 49th to 50th.
We contacted Brent Hugh, Executive Director of The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation to get his take on Missouri’s 2013 rank,
Well, it’s disappointing that our ranking went down, the lowest it has been. Even though Missouri is making progress on a number of fronts, other states are clearly making progress faster than we are. It’s a call to action to our local and statewide leaders that if we don’t improve what we’re doing, we’re going to be left behind. To be fair, we have seen a large number of projects, programs, and policy changes across the state that have started but have not yet shown their full effect. Missouri will probably look a lot better in a few years when the fruit of our recent work has had more time to fully ripen.
You can find more from MOBikeFed and their response to the state rankings HERE
Gina Poertner, Board Member and co-founder of KanBikeWalk weighed in on the rankings,
“Kansas has consistently experienced positive results in recent years in becoming more cycling and pedestrian friendly. KanBikeWalk continues to work with communities, local clubs, and our leaders in government to continue this forward movement to bring further development in community pathways and infrastructure for safer and more efficient traffic solutions for all forms of transportation. We welcome individuals and groups to actively participate.”
Gina and Brent both hit it on the head, individuals and groups must actively participate in the advocacy side of cycling for there to be any progress when it comes to cycling related infrastructure, legislation etc. The forward momentum of any cycling issue is directly related to the participation of the riders themselves.
Gina also points out that those states ranking lower than they would like should not view this as a negative. The rankings themselves are relative. She is absolutely correct. A lower ranking doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a lot of positive progress in the state, some states might just have more resources, political support, and other factors that allows them to make bigger strides from year to year. As Brent mentioned, these states aren’t sitting still, other states may just be making progress at a faster rate. Even in many of the states ranked towards the bottom of the list there are a lot of great things going on to move cycling forward.
In the end, the good news is that so many states are making such great progress. It has been a long, uphill battle but we are starting to feel a little bit of a tailwind. Cycling friendly legislation, infrastructure, education, and ridership are progressing across the nation and that makes it better for all of us.