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Wisconsin dropped from third to sixth most bike-friendly state in the nation in the ranking the League of American Bicyclists released today. Wisconsin was ranked as high as No. 2 two years ago.
Now Minnesota holds the No. 2 spot behind only Washington, having moved up from fourth. "From the Mississippi River Trail bikeway and DOT’s supportive policies, to Nice Ride bike sharing and the Blue Skunk Polo Club, Minnesota loves bicycles," the League's BFS Report Card for Minnesota states.
As for the other upper Midwest states, Illinois held tight at No. 11 despite bicycling making gains in Chicago; Iowa dropped from sixth to 16th; and Michigan moved up from 22nd to 19th.
The reason for Wisconsin's slippage correlates with the decreasing amount the state spends on bicycling, a League staff member told Dave Schlabowske, communications director for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.
Schlabowske reports on the BFW blog that while Wisconsin's overall transportation budget has increased to some $6.5 billion a year, bicycling projects funding was cut by $3 million. Furthermore, Wisconsin has spent only 1.17 percent of federal money it could spend on bicycle and pedestrian projects, less than the national average of 1.74 percent.
"In real dollar terms, from 2007 to 2011, the state has actually only spent $50, 445, 992 on bike ped projects of the $4.3 billion the feds obligated for those types of projects," Schlabowske wrote. "Note that this pattern of low spending on bike and pedestrian projects predates the current political leadership."
Tom Held on his blog "The Active Pursuit" recalled Gov. Scott Walker expressing his view of investments in bicycling infrastructure prior to his election in 2010: “I don’t have a problem with it as long as it doesn’t take away from fixing existing infrastructure. If we fix the crumbling roads and bridges, then I'm willing to look at other things, like bike paths," Walker said.
Schlabowske turned to Chris Fortune, president of Saris Cycling Group and chair of the Governor’s Bicycle Coordinating Council, for his perspective on Wisconsin's drop in the state rankings.
Fortune said, “Our research shows that 60% of our population is interested in riding bicycles more often, but they don’t because they are concerned for their safety. This is really all about providing safe, attractive places for people to ride. ... I look at the other states and cities we compete against making big investments in bicycling, and I think we have so many great things going in Wisconsin, we just can’t afford to lose our momentum and reputation as a great place for bicycling.”