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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Brookings Bike Path to Serve Business, Commuting

My trip to judge debate in Brookings this weekend reminded me that our progressive neighbor to the northeast is expanding its bike trail this year. The city commission awarded local contractor Rounds Construction $608K of work extending the city bike path under I-29 to the Swiftel Center and business park on the eastern edge of Brookings.

Brookings has a nice recreational bike trail crossing the south half of town. This new extension serves business as much as pleasure. A bike trail isn't just a luxury: it can be a way for people to get to work. Ask Kevin Brady: even on cold days, biking workers are happy workers!

Right now, the only way to pedal to the Swiftel Center or Daktronics is to brave the multi-lane madness of Sixth Street past Wal-Mart and across the I-29 overpass, perhaps the least bike-friendly pavement in Brookings. Providing a dedicated bike route under the Interstate will make traveling safer for cyclists and drivers alike.

Discussing Madison's proposed bike trail extension to Lake Herman, landowner David Pitts has argued industry and recreation shouldn't mix. Brookings's bike plans suggest otherwise. Brookings is laying bike paths to the doorstep of its convention center and big industrial employers. Brookings recognizes that a bike path is essential infrastructure just like a street.

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Madison should connect with Brookings's more progressive thinking. Heck, maybe Madison should just connect with Brookings! Imagine if we made a deal with Brookings to lay a bike trail kittywampus from Brookings down to the Brookings Country Club, around Lake Campbell, slant to Nunda or Rutland (preference, anyone?), and right on to Main Street Madison. Maybe we could even make a big triangle with Dell Rapids. A nice prairie loop like that could be a bike tourist's dream!


  1. I'm all for bike paths BUT someone has to pay for them. Roads are paid for with gas taxes and license fees. What mechanism will let cyclists to be charged for the construction of such a trail for their benefit?

    This is just one of the unexpected challenges gov't faces with alternative transportation. We need to build it, but who pays? If you drive a plugin hybrid, all of a sudden the gov't has lost revenue it neeeds to fund road construction and maintenance that it would've gotten from fuel tax.

    If you surf the cycling and triathlon forums on the internet, you'll find post after post about how there is open hostility in many parts of the country: cars and trucks vs bikes on public roads. Someone will post a link to a newspaper story about how a cyclist was hurt in an accident and there will be many comments on the news site from angry motorists wanting the bikes off the road entirely.

  2. We don't charge a user fee at city parks or at the library or at school or even for specific streets; why target a user fee for bike trails?

    Of course, if a direct user fee is that important, the Mickelson trail has a fee; for a long country trail, I suppose we could put fee buckets at the trailheads and require trail passes. Or we could impose a tax on bicycles, roller blades, strollers, wagons, etc.

    Or we could just recognize bike trails as a public good that makes life better for everyone and pay for them through the general fund.

    Besides, I'm willing contend that every minute and calorie you and ElizaBeth and the kids burn riding your bicycles is worth more to society in the physical and mental health gains than any pennies per mile we might extract from you.

  3. I believe Madison should not be focused on bike paths, but rather work towards the creation of bike lanes on existing roadways within the community. If we could create routes through the city, that were bike-friendly, this would be an amazingly progressive move for us.
    I was in Madison, Wisconsin a few years back, our namesake as well, and they have dedicated their town to bicycles/bike lanes and ped-malls, to much success. I believe they have one of the healthiest communities in the midwest as well, and for those who say we aren't that 'Madison', I question why not. We have a regionally/nationally recognized university, same as our namesake, and a little bit of water, so let's make a go at it.
    The economics of building singular bike paths often are too great I realize, but a little white paint, some signage, and whamo, bike lanes! If we can squeeze 5 lanes on Washington, why not a bike lane on Egan or North Washington, on even 2nd. How about a few bike racks in downtown, on Egan too?
    Our new Arts Center even has a bike rack for the coming spring, how's that for progressive?
    Anyhow, yes, it would be incredible for the Brookings Connection, maybe the Trojan-Jackrabbit right of way.
    A modest proposal, how about we start with a few signs on these backroads in Lake/Moody/Brookings County, and maybe a few benches with some shade, so we could use the existing roads for the time-being, and not get lost. Promote that, and these roads are already paid for. Reminder, cyclists and motorists have equal rights on all roadways, even highways, in South Dakota, so share the road! And Cory, wear a helmet, I told you last spring to do that:)

  4. sounds like you had a good tourney in Brookings -- Lee S

  5. [Indeed, Lee! NatQuals is always a great tourney to judge: good intense rounds, high stakes... best way to play!]

    Chris, I can roll with bike lanes on existing roadways. A new ribbon of separate bike asphalt slicing across the open prairie away from the roads would be a bicycling dream but a planning and purchasing nightmare. I'd be happy to meet halfway and create a Norwegian Boulevard Bikeway with nothing but signage, striping, and a few shady rest stops along the way.

    Of course, we might see some increased road maintenance costs in keeping the back roads in bike-worthy shape. There's some good pavement out there (Rutland road is dreamy!), but old County 13 north from the Rutland substation was a bombed-out mess last time I biked it. And then Mike will want that helmet tax....

  6. The only biking I see in my near future is on a spin bike at the Community Center training for the triathlon in April.

  7. Yes, I agree that bike lanes may seem like a dream, but at least let's get some signage and other more proactive gestures out there. I've seen a few signs in Lake County, so I know we can add to those. A few shaded benches, maybe a boyscout project, wow, that would be something to talk about!

    But, a few bike lanes in town would make us really stand out, I'm not sure who else in the state has bike lanes, maybe we'd be the first, 'Discover Madison' indeed! If your community has lanes out there, how do they work, how are they received? I really believe having these dedicated corridors could only improve both the quality of life and promotion of a healthy and active lifestyle.

    Also, there is a need for ongoing education, for cyclists and more so for motorists, related towards responsibility and 'sharing the road'


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