Hennepin County has been making significant investments in its biking infrastructure over the past several years, and on Friday its efforts were rewarded with silver status from the League of American Bicyclists, which named its 2015 Bicycle Friendly communities.

This was the first time Hennepin County earned the distinction. Its previous best was honorable mention. The League of American Bicyclists status levels — bronze, silver, gold, platinum and diamond — are valid for four years.

"This award acknowledges how far Hennepin County has come in the past 25 years," said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. "We couldn't have dreamed of this much progress even a few years ago. Our residents benefit from a robust bicycle network within Hennepin County that also connects to our neighboring counties. We are fortunate to live in a bicycling county and a bicycling region."

In 2014, more than 8.1 million visits were recorded on the county's regional trails. In 2013, 1.8 percent of commuters biked to work. In total, there are now 651 miles of on-and off-street bikeways in Hennepin County.

Fergus Falls, Minn., also made the list for the first time in 2015, achieving bronze status. With its addition, Minnesota now has 17 Bicycle Friendly Communities, 72 Bicycle Friendly Businesses, one Bicycle Friendly County and two Bicycle Friendly Universities, the University of Minnesota and Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. Overall, the League of American Bicyclists ranks Minnesota second most bike-friendly state.

Madison, Wis., became the fifth city to earn platinum status, joining the Colorado cities of Boulder and Fort Collins, plus Davis, Calif., and Portland, Ore.

More than 800 communities have applied for the award since its inception, and 371 communities with a combined population of 72 million people have been named Bicycle Friendly Communities.

"As biking has become more and more popular, more and more communities are committed to creating safer places to bike," said Alex Doty, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. "Winning a Bicycle Friendly Community designation shows a community's dedication to creating safer and better places to ride your bike."