Ferdinand and Jocelyn Bergh stop in downtown Brookings after a ride across the city on their bicycles. The couple is among multiple Brookings residents who travel mainly by bike in town. Photo by Charis Prunty/Register
• Some Brookings residents choose to leave the car in the driveway
BROOKINGS – An employee of the USDA bug lab just north of town, Mike Bredeson says he and some of his co-workers have been known to employ a little good-natured peer pressure when encouraging others to ride their bikes to work. He says the ones who do ride stand out.
"You can really tell, just from the mood of people, especially in the morning, those that rode their bike in," Bredeson said. "You feel better when you do it. On rainy days when I don't ride my bike to work, it just takes me a lot longer to get going.”
Bredeson is one of multiple Brookings residents who choose to bike around town rather than drive. Like others, he has a car (or, a truck), but has decided to use it sparingly.
"As long as I'm in Brookings, my pickup sits and it doesn't cost me a dime and I go by bike everywhere,” he said. “Brookings as a community is small, and if you ride around on a bike, you'll find how easy and accessible it is on a bike."
Growing up in Minnesota, he didn’t bike much on the gravel roads around his house. But when he got to South Dakota State University, he found he could sleep an extra 15 minutes each morning if he took a bike to class rather than walking. Then he told himself he could buy a nicer bike if he used it for commuting. Bredeson said he saved more than $500 in parking passes alone during his college career by riding a bike on campus.
Jocelyn and Ferdinand Bergh have a similar story. Both grew up riding bike for fun – Jocelyn in Murdo and Ferdinand in South Africa – but when they got to Brookings, they found biking was an easy means of transportation. It’s also become a hobby for them, and they recently invested in touring bikes that they use to get around town and hope to take on longer trips, such as Tour de Kota.
Jocelyn just graduated from SDSU, and Ferdinand will finish next spring. They work part-time jobs at the hospital, and he works on campus in a plant science lab. Like Bredeson, they own a car but regularly choose to take their bikes.
“Where we live now, I can bike in 10-20 minutes, depending on where I’m going in town,” Ferdinand said. “We’re not even that close; we live by the airport, so it’s kind of far from campus, but it still takes 10-15 minutes.”
Bikes an investment
Their touring bikes, which are more comfortable for extended riding, were an investment. But you don’t need anything fancy to get from one place to another, they said. And once you buy a bike, it should last you a lifetime and beyond.
“These frames are made of steel, so they’re supposed to last, as long as you don’t have an accident or leave them outside,” Ferdinand said.
“The only thing we’ll have to change over time would be gears, tires, but the frame will last. And, these are the most expensive part of the bike.”
Clint Miller, another Brookings resident who often rides his bike to get around, said he puts almost no money into maintaining his bike. He purchased a nice bike at a discount, and fixes it himself. Miller directs the Brookings Community Bicycle Collective with Robin Nelson, which offers free use of its tools to the community, plus free help in learning to do repairs.
“To me, there’s next to no cost except for buying lubricants and buying tools when they break,” Miller said.
That’s by keeping it simple, Jocelyn and Ferdinand added: Some bike riders can shell out a lot of cash buying bags and trailers and other accessories, but those things aren’t necessary for everyone, they said. Many bikers can bring home groceries in their backpacks.
Meanwhile, they are saving money on gasoline, oil changes, car washes and sometimes even car insurance. Terry Spitzenberger, director of Eidsness Funeral Home in Brookings, said that’s one reason he often chooses to ride to work.
“Saving on gasoline and exercise, for the obvious physical activity that it creates,” he said.
Spitzenberger favors a “kick bike,” which has no pedals and is propelled forward when he swings his leg and kicks, like a big scooter.
“It maybe doesn’t lend itself to dressing up in a suit and dress shoes. But, on a day when I can be more casual, I often ride,” he said.
There are some drawbacks, Jocelyn said: Carrying things with you is more difficult on a bike than in a car, you can get sweaty while riding (even in the winter), and you have to be prepared for things like rain and snow. Salt on the roads in the winter can damage the gears and other metal pieces on a bike. Those who ride in the winter either outfit their bike for the season or sometimes have a separate bike reserved for winter riding, she said.
And, it’s difficult to get rid of your car completely when you live in South Dakota.
“It’s good if you need to go to Sioux Falls, and it’s really necessary to have a vehicle in South Dakota, especially when you have family clear across the state. You can’t really bike to Murdo in a day,” Jocelyn said.
Several of these riders noted that biking is not without its hazards here. Some bike paths are dirty and some roads are in ill repair toward the shoulder, where bikers are expected to ride. Eighth Street South, for example, has a bike lane, but they said there is often gravel and debris in that lane, forcing bikers to swerve around it into the car lane.
"The street is really nice and clean and not rocky or gravely or anything, where the car is, but the bike lane is full of gravel and things like that,” Bredeson said.
Riding on sidewalks
Other streets in town are the same way, they said, which makes cyclists want to ride on the sidewalk.
“I can understand a lot of bicyclists want to ride on the sidewalk instead, because the sidewalk is clean and you won’t dump the bike. And, sometimes on the road it seems a little dangerous, especially Sixth and Medary,” Ferdinand said.
“It seems dangerous, especially if you’re unsure of yourself and don’t know what you’re doing,” Jocelyn said.
“It would be lovely to see a lot more bicyclists out on the road, because then you expect to see bicyclists and cars know what to expect when they see a bicyclist, especially when they’re riding properly – when you ride like a car, on the right side of the road, instead of in the opposite lane. I’ve seen so many people riding in the opposite lane,” she added.
According to “Bike Brookings!” a cycling guide available from the City of Brookings, bicycles are vehicles and belong on the road. Cyclists are to ride with traffic and follow all traffic rules. Bike riding is allowed on residential sidewalks, at a slow pace, but it is prohibited in business districts like downtown Brookings. Miller said he sees a lot of cyclists riding predominantly on the sidewalk, which he said can be dangerous, or riding against the flow of traffic, as if they were a pedestrian. He’s hoping with time, more cyclists will understand how biking is supposed to work and the city will support them with more clean, safe places to ride.
“It’s the kind of thing that’s just getting started here. So, we have a ways to go,” Miller said.
Contact Charis Prunty at firstname.lastname@example.org.