Bicycling-related deaths fall in Minnesota

Last week, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, a conglomerate of state highway offices, published an analysis of cycling fatalities across the country. Cycling deaths rose 16 percent nationwide between 2010 and 2012, and some states’ death rates increased by 20 percent or more. Minnesota was one of the few states to go against this trend, with cycling-related fatalities falling slightly during the same period.

Minnesota’s decrease in cycling deaths occurred despite leaps in bicycle ridership across the state, especially in Minneapolis. Commuting to work by bicycle in the city has grown more common — Minneapolis now has the second-highest number of bike commuters in the country. Minnesota has also seen increases in Nice Ride use, jumping from 305,000 individual rides last year to 409,000 this year.

Improvements in cycling infrastructure have also contributed to Minnesota’s relative safety for bicyclists. Extensive investment in bike lanes, incentive programs and other bike-friendly infrastructure has contributed to more bike ridership and fewer deaths.

Minnesota’s drop in cycling fatalities is due to both public investment and individual decisions. If both continue to improve, a further decrease in fatalities is possible. Some states in the analysis had no deaths during certain years within the study period.

We believe Minnesota, as one of the few exceptions to an unfriendly national biking system, will be able to match that statistic in the near future. We can do this by supporting projects that increase cyclists’ safety, like the protected bike lanes that Mayor Betsy Hodges proposed earlier last month.