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South Dakota 33rd Friendliest to Bicycles—Needs Infrastructure, Texting Ban

The League of American Bicyclists has issued its 2017 report on bicycle-friendly states, and South Dakota doesn’t totally stink! We rank 33rd, up from 39th in 2014 and 38th in 2015.

League of American Bicyclists, Bicycle Friendly State Report Card—South Dakota, Jan 2018.
League of American Bicyclists, Bicycle Friendly State Report Card—South Dakota, Jan 2018.

Only 0.6% of South Dakota commuters bike to work… but that meager number is still better than in 32 other  states. We also have the 10th lowest bike-fatality rate and 17th-highest per-capita federal spending on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Those better-than-average rankings make up for woeful state efforts in infrastructure, legislation, and other policies that support pedal power. What does the League recommend to make South Dakota more freewheeling?

  • Build on the HealthySD initiative to increase coordination between State agencies and incorporate biking and walking as part of increasing physical activity.
  • Adopt a statewide Complete Streets policy. The National Complete Streets Coalition has a model state policy and a variety of other resources to ensure adoption and implementation.
  • Adopt a statewide bicycle plan that addresses each of the five “Es”, has clear implementation actions, and performance measures to gauge success. South Dakota is one of 16 states that has never had a statewide bicycle plan. At a minimum, a statewide bike plan should address how the state DOT can create safe long distance bicycling routes on state roads and provide a basis for cooperation on creating safe bicycle networks between the state DOT and municipalities.
  • Add bicycle safety as an emphasis area in the state Strategic Highway Safety Plan and aggressively fund bike safety projects.
  • Adopt a primary enforcement texting ban for all drivers that prohibits, at a minimum, writing or sending text messages while driving. As of July 217, 43 states have a primary enforcement texting ban for all drivers.
  • Provide specific training to engineers and planners on how to plan, design, and implement bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, including protected bike lanes, safe rural bicycling routes, and other facilities that have become more widespread in recent years. Significant changes in best practices have occurred recently and training is essential to ensuring that communities in your state have access to the best possible solutions for their bicycle and pedestrian safety and mobility issues [League of American Bicyclists, Bicycle Friendly State Report Card—South Dakota, Jan 2018].

More bike lanes are essential, and not just recreational paths out on the residential fringes of town. Bike paths should facilitate practical travel to work, school, and shopping areas (Aberdeen, how about a protected path out to Target and Wal-Mart?).

We also need to push fiddling with one’s phone behind the wheel into the same stigma as drunk driving. I’ll happily accept the same restriction on bicyclists—whether you’re handling a steering wheel or handlebars, your hands and your eyes have one job, delivering yourself and your precious cargo safely home, not texting.

Now spare me your, “Oh, we’re too rural, it’s too cold!” excuses. Minnesota gets just as cold and has plenty of country roads, and they rank second. Washington has rain, which is worse for biking than cold, and they rank first. Utah has the middles of multiple nowheres, and they rank eighth.

Making it easier to get around on bicycles will do more to boost South Dakotans’ health and happiness than kicking people off Medicaid if they don’t have jobs. I won’t propose a bicycle requirement (hmmm… require state officials to bike to their offices at least five times a month?), but South Dakota should do more to promote the bicycle option.


  1. Fred Deutsch 2018-01-10 15:52

    And the League’s most recent award for a Bicycle Friendly Business in South Dakota goes to the Watertown business of . . .

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-10 17:43

    Well done, Fred! What did you have to do to qualify for Bronze… and how much more does it take to get Silver and Gold? Is such recognition expensive for small businesses?

  3. grudznick 2018-01-10 21:45

    Is there a way we can tie bicycling to Medicaid? Could people on Medicaid be required to bicycle to their new jobs to enhance their health and peace of mind? I smell a list minute amendment to that law bill about telling people to get out there and work harder, and you never know…you just might be able to buy a fancy tricycle or one of those lay-down-and-pedal bicycles that confuse people at intersections.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-01-11 06:27

    Grudz, tying bicycling to Medicaid is probably as problematic as tying work to Medicaid, since we’re talking about a population that consists of lots of people who are in tough situations. Let’s focus on getting waist out of government by having state employees bike, first.

    We could incentivize health by providing free bikes at public offices for public use.

  5. o 2018-01-11 08:21

    grudznick, I like your idea of using big government to encourage bicycling. How about we eliminate the private/corporate jet tax deduction and shift to a bicycle tax deduction.

  6. mike from iowa 2018-01-11 08:39

    Nice pun, Master. Waist out of gubmint by exercising. Master for Governor!

    Mayhaps you could chain bikes to wingnut legislators and peddle their fannies into the 21st century.

Comments are closed.