City of Brookings discusses new bike trail plans


Caleb Evenson, co-owner of Bluestem Bicycles, opened the store in July of 2016. Bluestem offers new and used bikes as well as bike repairs.

Gracie Terrall, News Editor (She/Her)

The City of Brookings has reapplied to update its Bronze Bike Friendly Community Status. With the reapplication, the city is making plans to create a recreational trail loop through the city.

  “The city engineering office has made biking improvements and planning any time it’s doing road work to existing streets or new streets,” Brookings Recreation Manager Darren Hoff said. “They look at options like street widening to improve the biking infrastructure within Brookings.”

The city received its Bronze status in 2016 from the League of American Bicyclists (LAB), and since then, has been making refinements to improve the city’s bike friendliness.

One of the pending projects for 2021 is the “design of the trail loop in the northwestern area of Brookings and along the railroad,” Hoff said. The city is still looking for grant funds for this project.

Part of completing the trail loop is creating entrance points from the South Dakota State University campus.

“The City is looking at options to increase rideability within the community to many different areas of town, such as the SDSU campus,” Hoff said. “This would be a plan the City of Brookings and SDSU would most likely develop in partnership.”

One of the main reasons a trail loop through the whole city is important is because it connects both sides of town, according to the Brookings Bicycle Master Plan.

“Many residents feel excluded from the existing trail system because it is largely concentrated in the southern half of Brookings,” the Master Plan reads. “Residents who live north of the railroad and east of 22nd Avenue have limited opportunities to safely, comfortably and conveniently access today’s trail network.”

The trail loop project is expected to take until 2025 to be completed and will run through the Allyn Frerichs Trail network.

In 2016, 3.3% of the Brookings population rode bikes daily. The report and awards for 2021 won’t be released until May, so an updated percentage is not available.

Bluestem Bicycles, a bike retail and repair shop, opened its previous location in July 2016 and, after COVID-19 caused more people to go outside, saw a spike in business. Caleb Evenson, co-owner of Bluestem, thinks, based on his experience, that number has increased.

“Every year, we seem to sell bikes or parts to repair for folks who, in their older age, are like, ‘I want to get back into riding,’ or ‘I want to ride to work,’” he said. “It seems like that number is growing all the time.”

Evenson is also a member of the Bicycle Advisory Committee and thinks that Brookings is a relatively bike-friendly community, regardless of the LAB status.

“The community is friendly to bicyclists for sure,” Evenson said. “Most people look out for each other here and the streets by residential areas are quiet enough.”

However, Evenson said there is still more to be done to help change the attitude toward bikers.

According to state law, bicyclists are allowed to ride on streets and sidewalks, something not every state allows and not everyone in Brookings knows about.

“The people who aren’t so friendly, as they’re driving by me, feel compelled to yell at me to get off the road or get off the sidewalk,” Evenson said. “Some people just don’t know what the law is … The challenge is figuring out how to educate people.”

Bicycle education is one way Brookings can elevate their BFC status, the LAB said in their 2016 report.

The report also suggested more bike-related events to boost people’s interest in biking. Hoff said events like Bike Month in May, where people are encouraged to do things like bike to work, can help with that.

Evenson said there is a biking group called “Critical Mass,” which started in San Francisco and has since gone global, that meets monthly to ride.

The Brookings “Critical Mass” group’s next ride is at 6 p.m. Friday, March 26 starting on the corner of 5th Street and Main Avenue.