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SF Leaders Launch Complete Streets Proposal

Kealey Bultena

The City of Sioux Falls is now part of a national effort that focuses on protecting people while they use public streets. More than 200 cities are taking the US Department of Transportation’s Safer People, Safer Streets challenge. Local leaders are providing city councilors a policy proposal regarding complete streets.

Leaders say a complete street provides for the needs of all of its users. That means that the road has room for bikes if cyclists use that route, that pedestrians have safe places to walk, and that cars have enough room to operate in the same space with people who aren’t using vehicles.

Sioux Falls Public Works Director Mark Cotter says the city is working to incorporate dedicated bike lanes on arterial streets.

“That may involve buying more right of way to accomplish that, but we may also then be connecting more neighborhoods, more schools so that becomes a cost benefit. Ultimately where we invest into our streets comes from our sales tax dollars,” Cotter says. “Now if we go into a core neighborhood street, we may not need an actual dedicated bike lane but we may just need to paint sharrows on the pavement, and really that’s just to enhance communication that you’re sharing the road with a bicyclist. Very low cost, but very good from an awareness standpoint.”

Cotter says other times planners can look to shorten walkways across traffic, incorporate larger areas for people to board public buses, and calm traffic where too many cars go too fast.

Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether says the city is not repaving every street in town, but he says planners should consider everyone who uses the road when they build new infrastructure and revitalize aging streets.

“Even though we may only have a handful of accidents or injuries or fatalities, we do get a bevy of phone calls from people in four-wheel drive trucks, people in cars that are mad at the cyclists, and then I’ve got cyclists that are mad at the four-wheel drive trucks and the cars,” Huether says. “And I think this living in harmony, trying to understand that they both have deserving access to the road.”

The complete streets focus involves multiple city agencies including the health department. Public health director Jill Franken says people physically benefit when they use active means of transportation.

"This is an effort to create a community that uses multiple modes of transportation in your everyday lives – that it’s not just walking to exercise in the evening or it’s not just biking for recreation, but this is really to increase our capacity as a community to use those types of transportation in your everyday lives to get to work, to get to the store, to get to someone’s house that you’re going to be hanging out with, whatever the case may be," Franken says. "But that’s what we’re aiming for and that’s what we’re seeing communities being able to capitalize on because we know there’s health benefits in your community associated with using multiple modes of transportation in these ways."

The policy proposal goes in front of the Sioux Falls City Council Tuesday evening.