SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Bicycles will be heading to city hall in September. 

The Falls Area Bicyclists, a volunteer organization, is looking to gain more support from the city of Sioux Falls in its 2023-2027 Capital Improvement Plan. On Tuesday, the group published an open letter to Mayor Paul TenHaken, city council members and leaders with the Sioux Falls Public Works and Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation departments.  

The letter praises the city’s existing bike trail but takes aim at “dedicated funding for safe and connected on-street routes.” The letter points out for 2023, there’s $67 million budgeted to streets and highways but only $300,000 is allocated to pedestrian and bicycling improvements.

“The CIP is also a testament to how expensive it is to maintain all the streets we’ve already built,” the letter states. “This in turn generates more vehicle congestion and a built environment that is increasingly hostile to anyone outside a car.” 

Matt Cook with the Falls Area Bicyclists told KELOLAND News the last Sioux Falls Bicycle Committee plan was published in 2015 and high priority items from that plan haven’t been addressed. 

“We want to make it happen for our community and now is the time in the budget cycle with the city,” Cook said. “The big one that FAB, Falls Area Bicyclists, is pushing for right now is the 15th Street corridor.” 

Cook said the 15th Street bicycle boulevard would be a newly constructed path connecting the existing bike trail, near the Great Plains Zoo and Sherman Park, across Kiwanis Avenue to 15th Street.  

“You can cut through the middle of town on a dedicated bicycle corridor with lots of traffic calming methods, signage and street markings,” Cook said. “This is a safe place to be, the infrastructure supports it and then people will use it. When it’s built, people use it.” 

KELOLAND News reached out to Mayor Paul TenHaken’s office about FAB’s budget concerns. TenHaken said he supports investments in active transportation.

“We have supported investments in active transportation through prioritizing pedestrian, bicycle, and transit accommodations,” TenHaken said in an emailed statement. “This budget is again proposing new investments in our recreational trail and neighborhood accessibility projects. We will continue to support active transport projects while balancing that with the many other demands for our capital dollars.”

Cook said the $300,000 for pedestrian and bicycling improvements in the budget is hard to track because there won’t be dedicated line items to certain projects. Cook said the city has installed a traffic signal near that intersection for people to cross Kiwanis Avenue. 

He also said the city installed chicanes on 15th Street to narrow the traffic down. 

“Drivers, when we feel constricted, we slow down,” Cook said. 

Cook said advocates would like to see funding for the 15th Street project and keep building on bike-friendly projects like the pedestrian buffer on Dakota Avenue and a bicycle lane installed at 49th Street and Oxbow Avenue.  

“That’s great. That’s amazing. Let’s keep going,” Cook said. “It’s about embracing the complete streets project or the mentality that the city says it has.” 

The 2023 budget has $342,000 allocated for the bike trail to expand from Lien Park to Bahnson Avenue and the Dawley Farm Trail from 18th Street to 26th Street. 

Car use vs. bicycle use in Sioux Falls 

Cook said the FAB organization has 200 members, but pointed out thousands and thousands of people ride the bike trail every day. He believes the number of people riding bicycles for transportation is undercounted in the city. 

Cook said he understands Sioux Falls is an automobile-prominent city. One community health report from 2022 showed 84% of residents drove alone as the main mode of transportation.  

“That’s not 100%,” Cook said. “We have people in town who either don’t own cars, whether they choose not to or can’t afford to.” 

He noted most journeys in the United States are under five miles and keeping focus on riding options not on the bike trail should be addressed. 

“The bicycle network that is in place isn’t designed to send people down those main arterial routes,” Cook said. “A lot of it is residential. It’s side streets; it’s quiet roads.”