Letter to the Editor

Lake roads unsafe for walkers, runners and bikers

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The lake road along the east side of West Okoboji Lake, from Monarch Cove on the north to the site of the former Inn on the south, is a three-mile stretch of narrow, two-lane pavement marked by several sharp curves and blind hills.

It's a road where large vehicles associated with delivery, services and construction are often parked in clusters along the roadsides blocking almost an entire lane, sometimes for hours at a time.

It's also a road that accommodates scores of walkers, runners and bikers each weekday morning, and even more of them on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

The final piece of this hazardous equation is the motorized vehicles – lots of them, including many that choose to exceed the speed limit.

It's an equation that will almost certainly equal a disastrous tragedy for one, or even a group, of the walkers-runners-bikers at some point in the possibly-near future.

There are no doubt other stretches of lake roads where the same problem exists. I'm writing about this one because it's the one I know. I have been a summer resident at roughly the midpoint of this stretch of road for more than 50 years and this summer I have become a serious, daily walker. Some days I walk to the north, other days, to the south.

This morning, I was walking south facing the traffic at a curve in about the 5400 block of Lake Shore Drive along Hayward's Bay when a vehicle suddenly came roaring toward me at a speed I estimate between 40 and 45 miles an hour. It swerved at the last minute to avoid me as I jumped toward the grass at the side. It cleared me by about 3 feet, and a woman walking behind me commented as she passed me a few minutes later, "That car sure didn't leave you much room."

This three-mile stretch of road lies mostly within the city of Okoboji and the speed limit is 25 mph. There are five speed limit signs facing each direction along the Okoboji section, at least one of them partly obscured by a tree. Traffic is further moderated along this section by two stop signs and a few, small signs suggesting that motorists "watch for bikers and joggers." The north end of this stretch of road, beyond the Okoboji city limits, is about one-half mile long and is in Dickinson County — the speed limit is 30 mph. There is one speed limit sign for northbound traffic, none for southbound.

The small police or sheriff's vehicles do patrol the three-mile stretch, but I never have seen a vehicle pulled over for speeding.

The road clearly can't accommodate the growing volume of its varied users safely, but any solution involving new construction probably is years away. In the meantime, this road and its non-automotive users desperately need continual speed limit enforcement via radar by the authorities. Also needed, in no particular order, 1) at least twice as many speed limit signs, 2) much larger or lighted speed limit signs that will catch drivers' attention, 3) ongoing pruning of tree branches and bushes that obscure the signs, and 4) roadside parking limitations of some kind.

There really isn’t a lot of choice. The alternative almost certainly will be a very bad scene – both for the victims and for governmental units that fail to act in such an obvious situation.


Arnold Garson