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July 21, 2014 09:55 PM

Cyclists In The City

Sioux Falls, SD

For some people, learning to ride a bike is the oldest memory they have. It's something you can do at a young age.

"I can remember riding my little BMX bike all the way around the bike trail to Falls Park, and that was a long time ago," Chris Parsley said.

"I've been cycling since I was a teenager. It's just something I really enjoy. It's a great way to commute; I do that just about every day," Clint Kolda said.

Even if you stop riding for years, you never forget how to get back on.

"I rode for years and got away from it, then I decided that I needed to do something to keep in shape a little bit so 2 1/2 years ago, I started riding extensively," Joe Brown said.

These cyclists ride on the streets of Sioux Falls every day, each with their own motivation to do so.

"I could burn about 800 to 1,000 calories during my commute, and it doesn't cost me any time. I'm out there in my car anyway. It's a good way to stay in shape," Kolda said.

"On days when I drive to work, by the time I've driven to work and home, I'm much more irritable than I am on the days that I ride my bike," Parsley said.

As Sioux Falls changes, so has the way people bike in the city.

"I know now being on the bike trail versus being on the bike trail when I was a kid, when I was a kid and it was dark you didn't want to be on the bike trail because it was a scary place to be, and now you can be on the bike trail until 10 at night and it'll be packed," Parsley said.

City officials do other things as well to attract bicycle enthusiasts.

"Bicycle rodeos for the little kids, free helmets. We have the Tour De Sioux Falls. Every year, it's something else that we've really tried to do out of the planning office," city planner Jeff Schmitt said.

Now there are even bike lanes in parts of the city and new laws for when cars and bikes interact.

As the city continues to grow, Schmitt knows keeping cyclists safe will become an even bigger priority.

"Look at these streets and you say, 'So there's two lanes of traffic with a turning lane; where's the bike lane? Where can bicyclists be? Where's their aspect where they can be?'" Schmitt said.

"The increase in danger, I think, is just an increase in traffic flow, whether it's from 41st Street or 57th Street out to the west side. The main arteries are just getting busier and busier and in general, we're more and more impatient," Brown said.

Riders can visibly see how Sioux Falls has embraced cyclists, but everyone agrees that there still is work to be done.

"I think cyclists could improve on some of the techniques they use to be better citizens out on the road, and just like anywhere else in the nation, drivers could pay more attention," Kolda said.

"We're a platinum city, which is fantastic. We're doing really well.  We're doing better, but we're not to gold. We're not to the best," Schmitt said.

It's changes over time that could lead to an even bigger increase in the number of bicycles we see on the roads and trails.

"Go for it. It's free. It doesn't cost anything. There's no entry fee to use the trail. You can hop on any time you want, take it all the way around the city," Parsley said.

"Bikes have gotten lighter; easier to ride.  They can be custom fit. Once you get back on one if you haven't been on one in a long time, the fever will bite you again because it did me," Brown said.

Schmitt says that future improvements to help cyclists in Sioux Falls will come from community responses and concerns. If you would like to share your thoughts on what could be changed, contact the Sioux Falls City Planning office.

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