West Virginia is improving its ranking for states considered friendly to bicyclists, according to data just published by a national bicycle advocacy group.
The League of American Bicyclists lists West Virginia as 28th of the 50 states for laws and policies designed to keep bicyclists safe and to promote bicycling. West Virginia ranked 34th in 2019, the last time the league released rankings prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The League of American Bicyclists has been ranking states for bicycle friendliness since 2008.
“When this report first came out, we were 50th,” said Dennis Strawn, a bicycling advocate who works for the West Virginia Division of Highways Strategic Data Management and Technology Division. “It shows the strides West Virginia has made over the past 10 years or so.”
Strawn, who rides his bicycle to his Charleston office every day, said the state’s rise in the rankings is largely due to an increased emphasis on bicycles from the West Virginia Legislature and West Virginia Department of Transportation.
In 2014, the West Virginia Legislature passed House Bill 4304, the Bicycle Safety Law. Among other provisions, the law requires drivers to give bicycles three feet of safe passing distance when overtaking them on the road. The Department of Transportation has also been providing funding to communities to better accommodate bicycles.
The League of American Bicyclists ranked states based on five criteria. West Virginia met three of them through its safe passing law, statewide plan for accommodating bicycles, and a complete streets policy – meaning that the state recognizes that, whenever possible, public thoroughfares should be designed to meet the needs of pedestrians, public transit, motorists, and bicycles.
“Through surveys, data collection, and analysis, the Bicycle Friendly States report and ranking demonstrates how states are — or are not — contributing to making biking safer, more comfortable, and an easier option for everyone,” said Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. “We applaud the vast majority of states for continuing to take steps to improve and increase the health, sustainability, and strength of their communities through biking. We hope this ranking and our report cards serve as a call to action for leaders in every state to invest in safe streets and connected bike networks and put in place the programs policies that will make biking a real option for transportation and recreation.”