So you are ready to try riding your bike to work. How do you arrive safely? The best instruction comes from taking a class such as those offered by a certified instructor. Check out those offered by FABed in Sioux Falls.
Here are a few basics on choosing your route in Sioux Falls.
The Bike Path
The Sioux Falls bike path loop is an outstanding feature in our city. It was primarily designed as a recreational trail so it is unlikely your start and end points lie on the path. However, if you can include the trail for a portion of your commute, do it. Spending time on the trail in the morning is such a relaxing way to start your work day. Instead of spending time stuck in traffic, you share your commute with geese, deer, and a bunch of friendly bike commuters.
Many people new to cycling feel safer riding on the sidewalk. Sidewalk riding is perfectly legal unless posted otherwise. In Sioux Falls this means you cannot ride on the sidewalk on portions of Phillips Avenue or on 8th street near the Railroad Center. If you choose to ride on the sidewalk, there are several things to keep in mind. Statistically, sidewalk riding is more dangerous than riding in the street. In the last few years in Sioux Falls there have been several collisions between cars and bicycles on the sidewalk. Sadly some of these incidents resulted in deaths. Naturally, drivers tend to watch in front of their car. Fast moving objects on sidewalks are outside the normal field of view. Intersections and driveways are very hazardous places for sidewalk riders.
Sidewalk riding also comes with some special legal requirements. First, bicycles must yield to pedestrians on sidewalks. Slow down and verbally acknowledge your overtaking. Sioux Falls ordinances also require bicycles on sidewalks to stop at all road intersections and to yield to all motor vehicles. This stopping gives the rider a better chance of being seen but it seriously impacts the ability to travel anywhere quickly.
The most direct route between any two destinations almost always involves streets. When selecting a route, the best thing to do is plan your route as a bicyclist, not a car driver. When driving in Sioux Falls main corridors such as 41st and Minnesota avenue are thoroughfares for thousands of motor vehicles each day. These routes are terrible choices as a cyclist. Luckily in Sioux Falls, streets are laid out in a grid pattern. Choosing a street just a few blocks from these main roads will give you a peaceful, low traffic route. Consult the city’s bike route map (PDF) and try to find streets marked with sharrows (bicycle symbols painted on the street) or other dedicated bicycle facilities. Generally these routes are chosen for their low traffic and road conditions. It’s important to note bicycles are not restricted to any of the facilities listed above. Bicycles are classified as a vehicle. With a few minor exceptions, they have the same basic rights and responsibilities as any other vehicle on the road.
Whatever route you choose for your commute to work, it’s a good idea to pre-ride your route on the weekend. This will give you an idea of the obstacles you might encounter. You can time your ride so that the first time you ride to work you don’t have to stress about arriving on time.
BikeSiouxFalls Contributor Clint Kolda