New bike paths meant to make Brookings more pedestrian friendly

Additional bike paths and lanes are planned in hopes of making Brookings friendlier to citizens and the environment.  

      The biggest addition in this project is a shared-use path along Sixth Street, between Main Avenue and Medary Avenue, and is projected to be finished by 2019. The plan also shows potential to extend that path from Medary to 22nd Avenue.

The project is part of a Brookings City Government initiative to become a platinum-level bicycle friendly community, a status designated by the League of American Bicyclists, by the year 2040.  The master bicycle plan was first started in September with community meetings and engagement sessions for public input for proposed designs. The plan is currently in the seventh of its eight-month schedule and will be reviewed by City Council in late Feb.

“The addition of a bike path along Sixth Street would make it easier for South Dakota State students to travel between campus and the rest of town,” said Mike Lockrem, president of the Brookings Bicycle Advisory Committee. 

The shared-use path design is a two-way path with a barrier from the street to prevent interference with traffic and promote safety for riders.

SDSU officials plan on promoting student bicycle use through a potential inclusion of biking at New Student Orientation, as well as the recent creation of the Bicycle Club.

“I like the idea of adding info into orientation,” said Mark McLaughlin, SDSU Bicycle Club president. “I don’t think enough students really bike into town, but adding in bikeways would definitely help that.” He added that the physical barrier design of the path eases any safety concerns students may have trying to get around town.

Increasing amounts of students traveling to and from campus was an area of focus at BBAC meetings during the drafting of the plan.

“We don’t want Sixth Street to be a barrier between the town and university, but rather it be a connector,” Lockrem said.

Although it is not in the immediate plans, a path extending to 22nd Avenue is of high interest to the planning committee, allowing students to travel easily between campus and retail locations, such as Hy-Vee and Walmart.

“The biggest issue is the city doesn’t own Sixth Street and so we can’t just reconstruct it whenever,” Lockrem said. Sixth Street is considered a state highway and is owned by the South Dakota Department of Transportation. The master plan has the potential path slated as a “Medium Term” projection, which calls for an estimated completion time of six to ten years.

The master plan also calls for a bike trail around the city that would run through the north side of campus and extend throughout Brookings. This path is estimated to be completed in eight years if City Council chooses to keep the proposed plan.

Into the upcoming weeks, revisions based on suggestions and community input will continue to be made, said Sean Murphy at a recent community meeting meant to provide an overview of the plan. Murphy is the project design manager for Toole Design Group, the company in charge of generating a final design for City Council.

“As of now we are continuing to take any input from the community involving this plan,” Murphy said.  Since the initial planning phase, there have been more than 1,000 interactions between community members and the planning group, including 58 from a booth stationed at SDSU, Murphy said.

For students looking to provide feedback on the master bike plan and future involvement of biking at SDSU, an online survey on the Brookings City Council website is available through Feb. 5.