Boise Bicycle Nerd Survives On Attention

Night bikeTo say Bob Tencate likes attention is an understatement. When he hits the street it is impossible to NOT notice him and that’s the way he wants it. He really stands out in a crowd.

Tencate is among a growing community of “transportation cyclists” in Boise who have forsaken automobiles in favor of bikes to get to and from work. For these avid two wheel pilots, it isn’t just a fair weather sport–they hit the streets in most any weather day or night. That’s where the attention thing comes into play for Tencate.
He ALWAYS wears a helmet and dons a brilliant orange vest trimmed in fluorescent electric lime tape as he pedals a bike with more flashing lights than a police cruiser. The only thing he lacks to clear traffic is a siren. From the front he has a brilliant LED headlight that will strobe or shine steady. From the back he sports the slow moving vehicle triangle found on farm tractors along with a set of tail lights that can be seen a mile away. “See and be seen” is a GUARDIAN safety slogan that could save a life.

With the recent rash of tragic and deadly bike accidents in Boise, the GUARDIAN has decided to provide a forum for both motorists and cyclists in an effort to bring some attention to the problems as well as offer some potential solutions. Monday a 93-year-old man apparently traveling the wrong way in traffic collided with a car at Roosevelt and Franklin on the Boise Bench. Elsewhere a 16-year-old sans helmet tumbled off a two wheeler and cracked his noggin. No vehicle was involved in that incident.

We have contacted some of the major players to get them onboard the safety bandwagon. Ada County Highway District is distributing a 48 page safety brochure and bike law digest compiled by the Idaho Transportation Department. It will be available in bike shops and fire stations this week for free.
The AAA Auto Association will probably be advocating safety vests, helmets, and lights similar to those used by Tencate. Boise coppers will no doubt be making more contact with errant cyclists–they already patrol and enforce traffic laws violated by automobile drivers.

Meanwhile, Team Dave will do the usual task force/committee to look at what can be done to preserve Boise’s status as a “Bicycle Friendly” community.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Educate, educate, educate.
    When a kids gets his first trike, parents should talk to him or her about safety. And keep it up — increasing it with the first two-wheeler.
    And I do believe every school should require a class in bicycle safety, starting in first grade and repeating it (along with increased details) in each grade.
    Many schools offer or arrange driver’s training, but a kid going out on a two-wheeler often gets no instruction on general safety, let alone explanations of law.
    Good that ACHD is making brochure “available” and AAA and coppers trying, but until they find a way to get the info to every rider, not just the ones who will pick up the brochure or the ones the coppers stop, the tragic deaths and injuries will continue.
    Of course, no matter how much you educate them, there will always be a few fools who ignore it all, just as there are among motorists, but it’s the best bet, nevertheless.

  2. Education is the key but as Gordon pointed out it will be tough. The people riding bikes because they don’t own cars would be a great target markets. They are generally lower income and don’t seek out information. I ride downtown and by the shelter areas(Americana) and see them all the time quite often riding against traffic. Maybe some seminars/information could be passed out in these areas.

    The copy being distributed by ACHD and IDOT can also be seen here.

  3. sam the sham
    Jun 23, 2009, 6:20 am

    Bob’s great outfit makes a lot more sense than the lycra “bike racer” get up so very popular today. The vest is a very good idea, as are the lights.
    I agree with Gorden as well. If ALL kids learn bike safety then even those who choose never to ride as an adult can be more bike aware.

  4. Spoke Wrench (Corrected Post)
    Jun 23, 2009, 7:01 am

    Tencate is right,. If you are going to mix with the cars, you better look like something they are used to seeing, or they won’t.

    As for Team Dave’s attempt to maintain Boise’s “Bicycle Friendly” status, too late. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (link below), Florida used to lead the nation with 7.3 cyclist deaths per million population. I say Florida used to lead because, so far this year, Boise City is running at a rate of roughly 15 cyclist deaths per million people.

    Be careful out there!

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  5. Serendipity
    Jun 23, 2009, 7:48 am

    These changes show some progress is being made in the ongoing conflict. Although I don’t ride a bike because of a health situation, I’m going to get a copy of the manual anyway, in case someone around where I live needs to see it. Please post info on where to get those vests (like Tencate’s.

    My biggest beef is the speed allowed on inner city streets—Harrison should be 25mph not 30, same for all the others downtown or near it. The cities I lived in back east maintained 25mph as the default in-city auto speed. Much safer for everyone: pedestrians, bikers and cars.

  6. Readers should also notice Bob’s little helmet rear-view mirror. I never leave home without mine.

    I’m convinced that even the most annoyed motorist won’t deliberately hit a cyclist… if he sees the cyclist.* And Bob sets the standard on being highly visible.

    (* An insurance company just paid $100,000 to a cyclist who was deliberately run into by a customer of theirs, in Portland. And their customer lost his driving privileges for life.)

    Another missing component of community bike-friendliness is ENFORCEMENT. The stated policy of the BPD in the past has been, “Bike violations aren’t a priority for the department.” Traditionally they have only issued tickets to cyclists when an accident is involved. I sincerely hope that policy has been revisited, in light of the recent tragedies.

  7. Touching on Bikeboy’s last comment. BPD should be handing out warning tickets to cyclist with the requirement they attend a bike safety class. No fine if they attend the class.

    There is a bunch of great ad campaigns online that have been sponsored by local governments. They provide education for motorist and cyclist. A couple of my favorites.

    Fort Collins Coexist Campaign.


    EDITOR NOTE– Clancy, thanks for the links. Look for something from the Top Copper in the next day or two in answer to your suggestion.

  8. Gonna have a lot to suggest.

    Boise also needs a avenue for getting more people into the streets. Ciclovia started in Bogota and is a weekly event to get citizens out in the streets. Ciclovia’s promote health, safety awareness and environmental benefits.

    Wikipedia entry
    San Fransisco’s Sunday Streets
    Portland’s Sunday Parkways
    Miami takes it a step further and adds some rides teaching ‘vehicular riding’.

    EDITOR NOTE– Reforma Blvd. in Mexico city is closed Sundays to cars and opened only to bikes.

  9. I have to disagree..

    Let me set a scene…It is 5PM. In front of you is an evil rich fellow in a Hummer. He is driving 10 MPH in the middle of your lane. As you drive along behind muttering to yourself, the Hummer sort of slows down at the next stop sign and then drives on through to continue on the other side at 10mph. He next turns without signal or stopping at the next stop sign and is now driving the wrong way up a one way street.

    Would the police write a warning and send him to driver ed…nope.

    Now put that fellow on a toy, call it a bike, and we speak of education.

    No, arrest or ticket the fellow if an auto driver would have been arrested or ticketed for doing the same thing.

    I realize I cannot take these toys and death traps off the road, but everyone should insist people on those things obey the same laws we all do.

    Would we allow a car that failed its government crash tests on the road? Would most states allow a car that has failed the safety intersection on the roads? No and no, yet we let a toy far more dangerous on our streets every day, flaunt the laws, greatly increase pollution (all those cars idling behind them) and we do it without a pause…

    Bikes are PC…angry drivers are not.

  10. After reading the Statesman’s comment section the last couple of weeks, Cyclist could meet the motorist in the middle on some of their concerns.
    Concerns of motorist:
    1. Riders 2 abreast or more
    2. Hill Road and other busy roads
    3. Wrong way cyclist/rule breakers

    1 and 2 could be solved with some common courtesy. Bike clubs/teams could ask members to stay off Hill Road and other busy roads during peak times- 5pm – 6pm. Also single file only on these roads. Mountain bikers compromise by staying off trails when muddy. Rock climbers stay off the Black Cliffs during nesting season. 3 could be solve with some education and enforcement together.

    Bikeboy wrote a great piece about everybody’s frustration and getting along on the road.

  11. JIMV – I’ve ridden a bike for my TRANSPORTATION, here in Boise, Idaho, since 1986. 350+ days, 5500+ miles per year. And I take a slight bit of offense that you ignorantly refer to my chosen mode of transportation as a “toy.” (It’s no more a “toy” than the evil Hummer you allude to in your parable, or whatever you use to get from Point A to Point B in.)

    By the way, I agree with YOU on the point of enforcing traffic laws on bicyclists. That, IMO, would be the best impetus for getting people educated… if they knew they were risking both life and dollars! (Risking life doesn’t seem to be much of a disincentive to a lot of yokels-on-bikes out there.) It might also raise the status of the lowly bicycle in your eyes and the eyes of a lot of other folks who dismiss it as a “toy” and nothing more.

    (There are, however, numerous instances of motorists getting some sort of “traffic school” educational alternative, rather than losing their license. So Clancy’s suggestion is totally valid.)

  12. sam the sham
    Jun 23, 2009, 4:11 pm

    Ok folks. I love riding, but there ARE some cyclists who really p… me off because their attitude is not unlike the “I own this part of the road/bike path and the part you’re on, too” – it is as if they are still driving their cars.

    I’ve noticed some who make it dangerous for little kids who are riding on the green belt – BAD FORM. Kids are being taught what the signs are and what to do when someone is biking towards them and there is someone walking close by, etc. If you HAVE to go fast, get back on the road.

    Also, while I do understand the thought that asserting oneself while biking in traffic makes one more safe, there have been times that I (while peacefully driving my car/vw bus) have understood anger towards the jerk on a bike. Bike riders need to consider how they ride as they may be a part of the the bad attitude towards all cyclist.
    I learned to bike in this town. It’s never been a bike friendly place, but traffic is now insane. We, as riders, need to always be better than non bikers
    It is NOT them and us. Should we not ALL be trying to get along? Life is hard, folks and we are all in it together.
    I am weary of this us vs. them thing going on everywhere.

    Bikes are PC… but not all of the people who ride them are.

  13. “And I take a slight bit of offense that you ignorantly refer to my chosen mode of transportation as a “toy.”

    Bikeboy, until you pay your fair share of road taxes and registration fees for the thing, and until it is given the same load of safety requirements required before it can be on the road, it is a toy.

    as you note, drivers have to have a license and pay a registration, every year, bike riders have no such requirement.

  14. It’s gonna take vigilance by both parties to resolve this issue. Bikers and vehicle operators both need to realize they don’t exclusively have access to the roads and need to be more defensive when on the street.

    By the way, nice plug on KBOI this morning! I was just about to call myself and mention the article.

  15. Bill Goodnight
    Jun 23, 2009, 8:26 pm

    As one who has had a near-death experience bicycling in Boise (bilateral subdural hematoma), I am appalled at the sense of immortality displayed by bicyclists in the city.

    Having rights and exercising them has no relation to survival. My learned sense of survival includes avoiding traffic at all costs, maximizing the use of bike paths and always watching motorists, including the use of a rear view mirror.

    Bicycling should not be a social activity. Talking while riding is as dangerous as texting while driving. Defensive riding is, in the final analysis, the key to survival.

  16. Same problem, different state

    Folk might be interested to see the problems are the same everywhere and the indignation from both sides is identical…

  17. JIMV – you’re straying WAY off topic (safety) with your ill-founded declaration that cyclists don’t pay their fair share. But I feel compelled to respond.

    Points to consider:
    1) How do you determine the “fair share,” first of all? In all fairness it would somehow have to be based on wear-and-tear, I would think. (Unless you think some convoluted year-of-manufacture formula is the fair way!)
    2) Most cyclists – at least the ones in my circle – are supporting a registered motor vehicle (or several) as well, that sits off the roadway when they are cycling. (I own two registered motorcycles and the Missus drives a minivan.) I’m making a contribution, even though my motor vehicles likely do a lot more sittin’ than most.
    3) Registration is a tiny slice of the road maintenance revenue pie. (ACHD’s 2009 budget lists registration fee revenue at $4.5 million, compared with property tax revenue at $31.7 million! Source:

    Regarding safety… I’ll forthrightly declare that cyclists can’t depend on a big ol’ cocoon of steel to protect ’em if they mess up. Yeah – we get squished like a bug! So a responsible cyclist is much more vigilant in operating in a way to AVOID smashups! If only drivers had such high stakes… I bet they’d be more careful!

    (By responding, in no way do I want to infer that I accept your declaration that bikes are toys based on your criteria. You’ll never convince me that my tried-and-true, older-than-motorcar, super-thrifty-and-efficient, non-polluting form of personal transportation isn’t superior to yours in every way!)

  18. JIMV:
    Back to the why give riders a warning and not the Hummer driver:
    Supposedly, the Hummer driver has taken a test in order to get a driver’s license.
    The bicyclist has not.
    That’s why I stress education. I suppose there could be a required rider’s license, but unless you want to also make the legal riding age 16, licensing little kids could be a bit strange.
    But stopping the errant rider and issuing a warning could be one step in education; I’d favor a warning along with telling the rider that if he/she is ever caught doing the same violation again, he/she will receive a real ticket.
    Really, though, your idea that any vehicle for which one doesn’t have to have license and registration is therefore a toy is one of the strangest twists of logic that I’ve ever encountered!
    And I don’t think your apparent antipathy toward bicycles helps make your point, but just kind of demeans it.

  19. R Chris Lambing
    Jun 24, 2009, 6:59 am

    It,s very interesting to see that now there is such attention to bicyclists and safety after the recent Tragedies. We at THE IDAHO COALITION FOR MOTORCYCLE SAFETY have been addressing the same issues for years and are the Watchdogs for Legislation that affect Bicyclists, motorcyclists, Equestrians, and to some degree Pedestrians. We would like to invite the Cycling community to take a look at what we do and who we are. Our website address is Please contact any of the members listed for more info. Thank You R Chris Lambing ICMS PSA Promoter.

  20. As long as a tiny minority of folk have the full use of the road, while paying nothing for it, and get to drive vehicles that are unsafe on those roads and get to basically ignore traffic laws that apply to drivers, we will have the problem we have. That problem is not drivers hitting cyclists, but instead unsafe vehicles placed in situations where their presence presents a hazard. Until riders are treated the same as drivers when the break the law, the problem will remain. The tiny minority wags the dog of the vast majority. Bikes are PC while driving is mundane.

  21. I’m a part-time biker, part-time driver and I’m generally moderate on this issue (in that I understand and tend to agree with both sides in this debate).

    I will admit, however, nothing but sheer rage at the idiot bikers that want to creep up behind and to the right of me while I’m stopped at a light. In more than one instance I’ve attempted to turn right on a stop or red light only to nearly plow into or have a biker plow into me.

    I understand bikers don’t have to necessarily stop at lights and signs. Fine, so long as they understand and appreciate right of way rules. But if you’re going to consider yourself part of traffic, then you sit in traffic at the light like the rest of us. You sneak up behind me while I’m trying to make a right turn into traffic, and I won’t feel bad for a second that you end up on the pavement.

  22. Tj, I’m TOTALLY empathetic to your gripe about the on-the-right “idiot bikers.” (This may be harsh, but idiot bikers who are operating illegally must accept responsibility for the predicaments they likely find themselves in quite frequently.)

    By saying that, I trust you are NOT one of those “idiot drivers” that doesn’t signal your intention to turn! I’m NOT a mind reader!

    On many roads, there are bike lanes along the right edge. I will use the bike lane and ride to the intersection… hanging back a bit for safety.

    If you’re there, signaling your intention to turn, I’m happy to yield the right of way.

    Unless a motorist is signaling to turn, I will assume one of two things. Either: 1) the motorist intends to continue straight, or 2) the idiot driver is going to turn right into my path – illegally, since a signal is a legal requirement. (I’m especially wary if a driver is yappin’ on the phone… that usually takes precedence over legal driving.) Either way, defensive survival riding dictates that I expect the worst.

    (Pardon my “French,” but sometimes I feel like shovin’ that turn signal wand “where the sun don’t shine,” when the idiot driver obviously doesn’t make use of it anyway.)

  23. …the GUARDIAN has decided to provide a forum for both motorists and cyclists in an effort to bring some attention to the problems as well as offer some potential solutions.

    Jimv, We see your point of view. How about some real life solutions? Changing laws will be tough and not attainable in this forum. I refer you to my post on July 23 at 1:55 pm. I admit cyclist have a public image problem. Bikeboy’s linked article admits this frustration too. But we come up with a solution to help the spandex crowd get along better with motorist.

    I remember the first time being pulled over for speeding at age 16. Officer Ruska gave me a stern warning and told me not to let it happen to again. I was never pulled over by Officer Ruska or anyone else in that county. Enforcement through education can work for cyclist as it did for me.

  24. Bikeboy –

    Your point is well taken. I try to signal every time it’s necessary and/or warranted, but admittedly there are times I do not.

    I agree with your point that “defense survival riding dictates that [a biker should] expect the worst.”

  25. Spoke Wrench
    Jun 24, 2009, 5:27 pm

    Motorist tend to complain about idiotic cyclists, and they are often correct in that assessment.

    However, for all the times a motorist has gotten impatient an put a cyclist in danger by passing too close, etc., it is rare that they are being delayed from anything more pressing than catching back up to the bumper of the preceding vehicle.

    In my mind, tailgating is not sufficient justification for snuffing a cyclist, no matter how boneheaded the cyclist’s behavior.

  26. sam the sham
    Jun 24, 2009, 9:48 pm

    this is not US VS THEM

  27. Holy moly Jimv, who gave you title to the roadways? Bikeboy has knocked down every one of your fallacious assertions and you continue like he didn’t say anything.

    Those toys of which you speak allow us to get exercise per doctor’s orders, make your air cleaner than you are making it, and reduce the country’s reliance on foreign oil. What does your toy do? The fact that you pay next to nothing to pollute our air makes you a little hypocritical.

    You need to get used to the idea of sharing the road. I’m a big fan of the t-shirt that reads “one less car”. I long for the day we close off downtown to them and you have to lumber that butt of yours on two legs. It’ll be good for everybody.

  28. Alive but no fashion sense. All his flashy stuff didn’t cost enough to keep the bike gods happy either.

  29. How about a bike fee to pay for the bike related costs? Kinda like the boat fee I gotta pay on my boots to make sure they are free of snails.

  30. Zippo, you’ve compelled the bike nerd to break his silence. 🙂

    “No fashion sense”? You’ve got that right!
    I would much rather be unfashionably alive than cool in a coffin.

    “Didn’t cost enough”? Maybe by some standards, but “she’s got it where it counts, kid”.**
    Anyone who has been in the market for high power bicycle lights knows that they don’t come cheap. On the other hand, the investment is minimal compared to the cost of an emergency room visit, or a funeral.

    My motto when it comes to visibility is: “Better overkill than be killed”.

    **(with apologies to Han Solo)

  31. I lived in college community and if you didn’t stop at stop signs by putting one foot down, if you rode on wrong side of the street, or if you didn’t ride in the bike lane, $50 ticket for each one. Most folks learned very quickly.

  32. “I lived in college community and if you didn’t stop at stop signs by putting one foot down, if you rode on wrong side of the street, or if you didn’t ride in the bike lane, $50 ticket for each one. Most folks learned very quickly.”

    I like this and I’m a cyclist. It irks me to no end when I see a spandex pack on Hill Road riding two abreast and mostly NOT in the bike lane. They’re all chatting and only paying attention to the cyclist directly in front of them. They are very difficult to drive around, even on the relatively wide sections of the road.

    Come on, my spandex friends, ride single file on these busy roads. When you get out beyond the crazy streets, feel free to go two abreast. BUT like the guy out front who uses hand signals to warn the pack of road hazards ahead, the guy in back should use a whistle to warn the pack of the approaching cars so everyone can split to single file until the cars pass.

    It’s not rocket science. Keep riding and stay safe.

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