Sioux Falls bike trail dangers increase for both riders and walkers

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — As the pandemic continues, more people are using the Sioux Falls bike trail for the first time.

The city reports a record number of users as people try to get outdoors. In fact, officials say use of the bike trail is up by 200%.

But for one group, this isn’t the good news you would expect. A number of cyclists who use the trail say new users, who don’t understand proper bike trail etiquette, are putting everyone at risk for injury.

Jim Gray has been riding the bike trail for years. He says it’s good for his body and his soul.

“I tell people it’s an overwhelming sense of well-being that comes from the physical fitness of being out here and I just ride against myself. I just do it to see to see how many times I can do it,” Gray said.

But that enjoyment isn’t what it used to be. Nowadays there is a certain amount of stress that comes with riding on the bike trail. Gray has had three major crashes in the past few years, including one that put him in the hospital for weeks.

“I had a brain bleed, with a helmet on. I had broken ribs. What else was wrong? broke my back in two places,” Gray said.

Along with a dislocated collar bone, dislocated shoulder, internal bleeding, bruises and scrapes. His most recent crash wasn’t the most serious, but it was scary. A family on bikes riding three abreast coming toward him.

“I saw them and long story short, a head-on collision, they left me a little room but at the last moment a young boy lost control of his bike and we hit head-on, and with that, I flipped over my bike again,” Gray said.

Gray says he was headed east; when he landed, he was headed west. Luckily, the little boy was ok.

He says it comes down to people walking or riding and not paying attention or just not knowing they are putting themselves and others at risk. The city says they know there is a problem.

“Trail safety has been a constant conversation for us, ways we look to improve as the community grows and we get more trail users, trying to find ways to communicate trail etiquette and the rules of the trail to different trail users,” Kelby Mieras, the Park Operations Manager for the city of Sioux Falls, said.

Right now, there are some rules posted and you will find them on signs stating the 15 miles per hour speed limit and talking about advising when to pass. You can look up more information, but some people say more is needed.

“We’ve got kiosks around the trail that talk about speed. Ask people not to walk four abreast and take up the entire trail. Just to be courteous of all the trail users because obviously the bicyclists are going to be faster than the walkers and joggers and yet we need to make sure everybody is safe and courteous on the trail,” Mieras said.

Mieras says the city is looking at adding signs spelling out trail etiquette and creating public service announcements on the city link website.

“We worked through the National Recreation and Park Association through forums and look to see if anybody’s got that silver bullet and really there isn’t one. Trail etiquette and being courteous of other users is the biggest thing. If we can just do that, then everybody can be safe on the trail system,” Mieras said.

Sioux Falls bike trail system

For Gray and other riders like him that’s good news. He says cyclists know this is a multi-use trail; he just wants people to know that they are putting themselves in danger when they don’t take other users into consideration and that includes bike riders.

“As my doctor wisely said to me, ‘No more concussions,'” Gray said.

Here are the rules of the road for the bike path.

  • Control your speed; there is a speed limit of 15 mph.
  • Keep to the right. Yield to pedestrians and slower moving traffic, except when passing.
  • Be careful at crossings. Look both ways.
  • Groups of trail users should never occupy the full width of the recreational trail.
  • Advise others when passing, most commonly by saying, “On your left.”

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