Updated: 04/14/2014 10:58 PM
Created: 04/14/2014 10:51 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 News) -- With the weather warming up and more cyclists breaking their bikes out of storage, state officials are urging everyone to unpack their helmets as well.
According to the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, only about 8 percent of Minnesotans consistently wear a bike helmet. And the state health department says 500 deaths and 150,000 head injuries could be avoided each year if everyone in the U.S. wore a helmet while riding.
"It's a really easy thing to do to possibly save your life,” said Chad Burma, manager of Rydjor Bike Shop in Austin. “They're light weight now, they look better than they ever have before, there's just no reason not to."
But experts said the real key to safety is to get cyclists off the roads and on to bike trails.
"I used to ride the county roads a lot,” said Steve Kime, a member of the Austin’s Vision 2020 Bike/Walking Trail System committee. “It became obvious to me after I started riding the trails how much safer, how much more enjoyable the trails really are."
Kime said Vision 2020 leaders are looking at adding bike lanes, improved signage, and new trails to help keep riders safe.
"You'll see a new trail this year going from the nature center on 21st street out to 28th street, which will be the connection point for the Shooting Star Trail,” Kime said.
But along with improving city trails, Kime said city leaders also want to make connections to regional trails to make Austin a destination city for cyclists.
"We're looking right now at the Shooting Star Trail, but there are four other trails that are proposed that would come to Austin,” Kime said. “We'd really be a hub, an intersection, I’ll call it, for four regional trails.”
Austin city leaders are also looking at a possible trail connecting Mill Pond to Wildwood Park, and another to extend a trail by the bandshell.
Vision 2020 will also hold a group trail ride on May 17th and a bike safety course in Bandshell Community Park on May 18th.