A group of people working on community improvements want a bike lane on Flandreau’s First Avenue but a few property owners on the street disapprove.
The lane proposed for the north side of the street would take away parking in front of houses for tenants, Mike and Kathi Wede told city council members at the Aug. 5 meeting. The couple owns three houses in the 800 block of First Avenue and said driveways are too short for two vehicles so renters must park on the street.
“We really need the parking,” Kathi Wede said. “I’d just like it to be shared so if you need to park there you can.”
Wede said she supports a bike lane but not on that street because it is an inconvenience and she could lose renters. “All of our tenants do not want a bike lane. Neither do we.”
Dorothy DeChiro, who lives on First, said she thinks the street has too much traffic and is narrow when cars are parked on both sides. “I’m just kind of befuddled why our street was picked.”
The committee working on making Flandreau a healthier community said sharing the lane in both directions, as the Wedes suggested, would not be safe and would be no different than the way the street is now. The bike lane plans call for the south side of the street to have a shared lane so those bicyclists would ride in the traffic lane with cars, but shared lanes in both directions should not be implemented, members of the committee said.
The committee, a group of volunteers who came together through the Healthy Hometown initiative and have been working on ideas for more than a year, are looking at a safe path to school for students who ride their bikes. A long-term plan is to have a designated bike lane going east on a different street.
First Avenue, which was recently completed, has the newest infrastructure and a crosswalk and crossing guard at the school. At 40 feet, it’s also wide enough for a five-foot wide bike designated bike lane, said Jeff Pederson, city administrator.
The issue will come before the city council again at the council meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 19.
“This plan, the project all comes out of a massive group effort to say what can we do to improve this city?” said alderman Jason Unger. Besides encouraging the community residents to move more, the Healthy Hometown initiative has committees that are working on eating healthy and feeling good about where we live.
Alderman Brad Bjerke said he wasn’t ready to vote for the bike lane, although he supports the idea. “I think this is a great deal, a bike path through town. But I think we need to address the parking issue before we get going.”
Earlier this summer, the bike lane committee held a simulated designated lane on Pipestone Avenue, but the feedback was that too many people were uncomfortable with biking with that amount of traffic, said Kelley Ramsdell, a committee member.
Some council members said they support the bike lane while others weren’t sure they would support it if people who live on the street don’t like it.
Alderman Unger said it’s an easy decision. Other communities are doing bike paths and are buying land to put them in their small towns, he said. It’s a way a community can grow.
“People are moving to those communities and investing in those communities, and that’s where people want to live,” he said. The way it is now, Flandreau’s growth isn’t sustainable and the community needs people to move in.
“People are moving to Dell Rapids. Our own community members here are moving to Dell Rapids,” he said of the neighboring town which also has a bike path. “If you’re willing to take a step, take a step. Do it.”
The council decided to ask the committee to look at other options and come back with additional ideas.
After a meeting Aug. 8, the committee decided the north side of First Avenue still is the best option. One committee member rode the street on a bike each day during the week, and there were 35 percent more cars parked on the south side of the street than the north side. In addition, most driveways held two cars.
“There are more cars that are always parked on the south side than the north side,” Ramsdell said.
In addition, the committee said common sense would be used to solve other concerns. If there is a funeral at Redeemer Lutheran Church, the street could definitely be used on the north side for parking. The church’s three spots also could be used on Sunday mornings, if needed.
“These are just things we are going to work around,” said Mayor Mark Bonrud, who supports the proposed lane on First.
“We want to better the city. We want to make it safer for kids,” he said. “You’re going to have the naysayers that their coffee is never hot enough, the sky is never blue enough, the water is never wet enough.”