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Dickinson 'not bike-friendly'

Dickinson residents Kim Callahan and Joyce Braun take a rest from riding bicycle around the city Saturday. Riding has become dangerous with the increase in traffic.

An oil boom in western North Dakota has brought more traffic to the area, including more bicyclists, and the roads are becoming more congested and dangerous, officials and peddling enthusiasts said Saturday.

"I like Dickinson, but it's not very bike-friendly because you are in with the traffic," said bicycle rider Kim Callahan, Dickinson.

The number of leisure-trail users has increased, said James Kramer, Dickinson Parks and Recreation director. He gets multiple calls about the city's master trail and concerns about riding in town.

"All of those activities kind of require a dedicated space rather than on the road just for safety reasons," he said.

Joyce Braun of Dickinson tries to avoid heavy traffic when riding her bicycle, but she would like to see more trails.

"I came from South Dakota. We lived in Wyoming and they always had really nice trails," she said. "Here, there's nothing."

Often people think of bicyclists as pedestrians and believe they should get off the road, Dickinson Police Department Officer Thomas Grosz said. Bicyclists have the same rights as a vehicle operator, according to city ordinance.

"They have to do that with common sense, and they shouldn't be driving in a 40 mph zone as if they are part of traffic," he said. "Other traffic needs to respect the bicyclists' rights as well."

Bicyclists are not permitted to ride on sidewalks if they are 15 years of age or older, and they must also use a path if one is near the road. Otherwise, they must ride on streets as close to the right side as reasonably possible.

"A lot of our master trails plan is connected by city sidewalk," Kramer said. "For some reason, we have never put together a total mileage of that entire plan."

The city trail plan needs an overhaul, Kramer said.

"With the way that our community has grown and with the amount of new traffic on the roads, I think it's part of the future planning that needs to take place," he said.

City officials are working on a comprehensive plan known as "Dickinson 2035: Roadmap to the Future." The plan includes establishing bicycle paths.

Until the plan is in place, pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicle drivers should pay attention to their surroundings and ride or drive defensively, Grosz said.

"Just because they have the right of way doesn't mean they are going to get the right of way," he said.