Like trails are the right thing to do, even if you only take the healthy lifestyles and family activities they promote into account.
The other issue that we haven't addressed enough is survival. It seems like hardly a week has passed this summer without a story of a bike rider being struck and killed by vehicles on roadways.
If you think someone's not going to die or be maimed on that dark section of the Lakeside blacktop some night, or be struck riding in fast traffic on Highway 7 between Storm Lake and Alta, or on the airport road, you're kidding yourself.
We have local committees on trails, and that's great. What we don't have is money. Doing a stand-alone trail can cost a million bucks a mile - and that's IF you can get access to the property needed.
About 50 people have been killed in the past 10 years in Iowa car-bike collisions. In a striking irony, during the "Mile of Silence" on the RAGBRAI ride this year to remember those killed and injured while biking, a retired journalist was struck from behind by a pickup and killed on the route by a driver who claimed to have not seen anything. In the middle of RAGBRAI, and you're not looking out for bikes?
Yes increasing traffic and numbers of people using bikes may be part of the trend. But I would venture to guess there is another reason. Anyone who has done any riding on roads can tell you war stories of close calls when car drivers are busy looking at their cell phones instead of what's in front of them. Are we enforcing distracted driving penalties, and are these penalties strong enough?
Iowa is one of only 10 states that has no law about passing bicycles. Such a bill was introduced during the 2016 legislature, and lawmakers, unbelievably, failed to come to an agreement to pass it.
How difficult is this, really? You set aside politics for one moment, and you unanimously pass a bill that requires vehicles to change lanes when going around bikes, just as they would to pass a car or a motorcycle, and you save lives.
Bike riders around here will tell you stories too of getting run off the road, accidentally or otherwise, or being clipped by a car mirror, or pelted with gravel off a speeding truck inches from them.
The Iowa Bicycle Coalition has a petition going around now, with thousands of signatures demanding safety changes including a passing law. It's ridiculous that it takes such a thing to cause legislators and our governor to do the proper thing.
By July, the number of fatal car-bike incidents this year in Iowa had doubled that of the entire season last year. As more people take up riding for recreation and fitness, it's going to get worse, unless real efforts are made to separate bikes from high speed road traffic.
That means dedicated bike trails, something we sorely need here, or at least roads that during repaving projects are widened enough to have a reasonable, marked bike lane on one side.
If you look up the Department of Transportation's home page, you won't even see a tab for bicycling, though certainly there are more people commuting on bikes in this state than there are by aviation and railroad.
If you search enough, you find a grand total of three funding programs mentioned, and any money is incredibly competitive and hard to get, or at least that's what local committees conclude.
The department's main emphasis when it comes to bikes seems to be its online map of bike trails in the state, which basically looks like someone has spilled some drops while painting a ceiling. About all it shows in our area is a minuscule blue dot for the LakeTrail in Storm Lake, which frankly, a lot of riders don't use because high pedestrian traffic and pets create injury concerns as well.
A nifty internet map and app is fine, but we need some real state investments in new trail projects, especially those circling our natural resources areas, like Storm Lake, and connecting tourism areas, like Storm Lake to the Iowa Great Lakes.
It sure doesn't look like we are headed that way, with the state cutting millions from the DOT budget this year and closing some of their facilities. And, six years after the voting public approved it, state officials still haven't managed to deliver the 3/8 cent sales tax for outdoor resources in the state. That's what - $600 or $700 million and counting that could have helped water, habitat, parks and trails over those years lost to the cause forever?
It seems like state leaders are more eager to make way for out of state oil pipeline through its roads and rivers, than they are for safe recreation for their own residents.
Voters passed that fund because they don't want to see the state continue to lose people because it doesn't offer outdoor recreation that other states do. Like being able to safely ride a bike.
Communities have the will. Why don't we have the way?