Dakota Five-O organizers cite safety concerns in requesting road closure for race

August 23, 2018

DEADWOOD — Organizers of the wildly popular Dakota Five-O mountain bike race, Perry and Kristi Jewett, were on hand at the Aug. 14 Lawrence County Commission meeting to request the closure of a county road from Harvard Ave. and Hill Street to Tinton Road and McGuigan Road during the race.

Perry Jewett said this is the 18th year of the event, the single-biggest event in the state held on National Forest Service land, and that when the ride opened up April 1, 700 riders — a sell-out — occurred in less than 44 minutes. The race takes place Sept. 2.

“We’ve self-imposed the cap at 700 for safety reasons and for the best experience for the riders coming in,” Perry said, making the request for the road closure from 10 a.m. to 4-5 p.m. on race day. “We’ve never closed it in the years that we’ve done it, but it’s been a safety concern. Riders are leaving town to go up through the Passion Play, outside of Spearfish. …The concern is for people coming back into town in the afternoon on that section.”

Perry explained that the race has grown so much that the road gets quite busy, with riders taking off and riders racing back in, all on the same road.

“It’s a high-speed area that they’re coming down,” Perry said. “There’s a lot of riders in town for this event.”

“And there’s a lot of spectators, beyond just local traffic that use that road,” Kristi added. “There’s hundreds of people that are driving that road to go watch the racers, so it creates a lot of congestion on that road.”

“We’ve done it for 17 years with no problem and out of all the safety concerns, this is probably one of our biggest and we just want to mitigate it before it is a problem. They’re traveling down that road at similar speeds to the cars. You know, they can zip down that road at 25, 30-mph real easy.”

Perry suggested McGuigan to Oliver Street as a better route for this type of traffic.

Highway superintendent Allan Bonnema said 514 is the average daily traffic number on Hill Street.

Commissioner Brandon Flanagan asked if Bonnema had issues or concerns with making the road available only to local traffic on race day.

“The logistics of it is who’s going to be manning and making sure traffic does not go through. That’s a concern and it’s Labor Day weekend, which means there’s going to be a lot of extra people in town besides the racers, tourists heading up to the lake and what not, so I do have concerns about how we control and keeping those roads closed for, basically a period of eight hours.”

Commissioner Randy Deibert asked if the race is a city-sponsored event.

“We’re independent, but the city supports our event,” Perry said. “We finance everything … but they do put up barricades in town and the bike lane coming in and out of town. They do work with us to support the event.”

Commissioner Randall Rosenau asked if volunteers are used for the event.

Perry said about 50 volunteers help staff the event.

“Is it possible they could man one of these?” Rosenau asked.

Perry said yes.

Bonnema said the closure would really need to be published beforehand in the newspaper and suggested using message boards at aforementioned locations.

Captain Tavis Little of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office said he felt that the message boards would be a great utility for that setting.

“To provide information as far as directing them around to an alternate route,” Little said.

Flanagan asked if Little saw any issue with closing the section of road in question or restricting access.

“Closing, I would be opposed to because you limit so much of the public’s access,” Little said. “And people are sensitive to their friends not being able to get to their house. Restricting it down and providing traffic control requires some effort by the event venue, but we can work with it.”

Deibert said he didn’t have a problem with modified closure if the cooperating agencies cooperate.

“It’s real hard to approve something when we don’t have the logistics worked out,” Deibert said. “The intent, I don’t have an issue with. Short notice is a bit of a problem.”

“My opinion is similar,” Flanagan said. “I would approve it, as long as you guys and the sheriff’s department and the highway department were all comfortable with what the result was going to be. If there wasn’t a comfort level with everybody, it wouldn’t happen this year.”

“What would happen if you didn’t do it this year?” Deibert asked.

“We’ve done it 17 years without it,” Perry said. “I don’t want to inconvenience anybody with this race. That’s my thing. I’ve never shut down a road. I let the riders know they’re on open road, but it’s gotten large enough and a big enough deal, I think we need to look at something like this in the future.”

Deibert suggested the use of the county’s two message boards to help address safety this year, given the short notice.

The Commission decided that due to short notice the closure would not be an option presently, but it would reconsider the request next year. A motion to allow staff to support the event to the extent deemed appropriate, not including a road closure was successful.

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