Thursday, July 10, 2014

Research Q of the Week: Happy Bike Trails to You! (7/10)

Question: The city council is interested in creating a more bike-friendly community.
What can my city do to encourage bicycling?

Answer: It was a gorgeous weekend to ride a bike trail—31 miles just to brag—and I admit it was hard to come back to work. So many people of all ages and abilities were out biking, I thought of the revenue the bikeway brought in to the local businesses in the small and large cities on the route.

While bicycling brings to mind recreation and health benefits, here’s an economic success story to note: Lanesboro in southeastern Minnesota now enjoys $2.3 million of spending a year linked to the Root River State Trail, a focal point of what has become a popular destination in the state’s tourism industry. 

Bike trails can benefit local residents, too. In some cities, the bikeway links all of the city schools and parks. Plus, the state’s Safe Routes to School program provides funding to community and school groups to make improvements to the routes children use to walk and bike to school.

You've got the power
So how can cities help? One reason Minnesota ranks number two in the annual Bike Friendly State Ranking might be that state law gives city councils the power to designate and create bikeways and paths.

A city may designate, by ordinance, that any roadway or portion of a roadway under its jurisdiction has a bicycle lane. Cities can act unilaterally to lower speed limits to 25 miles per hour for these streets and must mark bikeways with appropriate signs. See pages 9-10 of the League’s memo, Special Vehicles Operating on City Streets, for more on state laws and bicycles.

If anyone needs more convincing, take a ride on a bike trail near you—Minnesota’s Heartland and Migizi trails may be the longest paved trail system in the nation—and see how biking benefits residents, tourists, and your health. Oh, and take a picture and post it to the League’s Facebook page: Happy trails!

Info and ideas for your city, no helmet required:

Written by Jeanette Behr, research manager with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1228.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information. 

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