When you walk around South Dakota State’s campus, all you can see are racks and racks of bicycles outside of dorms. Bikes are chained to every tree and sign in sight, unused and forgotten.
That’s because the infrastructure of SDSU and Brookings doesn’t properly support the bicycling community in town, deterring many from bicycling.
Bicycling is one of the healthiest and most inexpensive ways to get around town, and in a town as small as Brookings it can even function as a main form of transportation for nine months of the year.
Although Brookings has a relatively large bicycling population, and many students do use a bike as their primary form of transportation, Brookings currently only has one bike lane on Eighth Street.
This leaves many people in town scared to ride, fearing traffic collisions, harassment from drivers and even getting hit by the door of a car. Many bicyclists in Brookings are afraid to even take their children for a ride because they don’t feel the roads are safe.
So what can be done to change this?
The first and easiest step for Brookings would be to expand bicycle parking.
Many bicyclists need to lock their bikes to trees, fences and signs on campus, rather than to a bike rack due to lack of space. Downtown Brookings also has a severe lack of bicycle parking, leaving bicyclists with the same problem. Knowing they have a place to safely lock up their bike would encourage more people to bicycle.
But the biggest change would be for Brookings to implement a bicycle lane expansion.
Not only do bike lanes make it safer for bicyclists to ride, they also make traffic flow more smoothly. When bicyclists don’t need to worry about hitting a door or getting run over, they can move quicker. This also helps make traffic more efficient because drivers don’t have to wait for bicyclists to navigate around parked cars or other obstacles in the road.
An expansion of these bike lanes along the main arterial roads of Brookings would allow a whole new audience of bicyclists to access all of the great parks and attractions the city has to offer. It would also allow for more people to commute by bicycle, providing a more efficient and consistent route to work unaffected by traffic speeds.
Increasing infrastructure for bicyclists, whether they be enthusiasts or casual bikers out for a Sunday ride, will only help Brookings become a healthier city to live in.
Alex Boger is an agriculture & biosystems engineering graduate student and can be reached at [email protected]