City Government

“E” Will Get You Passing Grades On Bikes

Deputy Chief, Boise PD

The tragic deaths of 3 cyclists this last spring led to a call to action for the citizens of Boise to become more aware of the bike riding public. It seems that there are many polarized attitudes regarding bike riders on public streets. If you read the blogs, there are many people that feel as if the bike riding community does not belong on the city streets. They should be relegated to the bike lanes, greenbelt, and foothills. There are equally strong feelings from the Biking community about sharing the roadways, providing a safe passageway, and providing equality in roadway sharing.

The fact is that bikes and cars will share the same roadways, always. It is important for both sides of this discussion to realize this fact. Motorists need to become more aware of bike riders, provide for a safe riding corridor, and allow bikes the same courtesies that other vehicles are allowed and given.

Cyclists should remember that they are at a distinct safety disadvantage while they are on the roadways. They need to be conscientious, responsible, and safe while riding their bikes on public roadways. There are over 3000 traffic crashes each year involving two or more motor vehicles. Most of these crashes result in no injury or minor injuries to those involved. However, bike/ motor vehicle crashes almost always lead to some type of injury to the bicyclist. It is for this reason that bike riders should be most vigilant in their safety procedures.

The Boise Police Department realizes that things that don’t get counted don’t get done. Due to the tragic deaths in May 2009, the BPD took a strong look at the 3 E’s of problem-solving. The department increased the enforcement of bike ordinances in 2009. There was over a 100% increase in bike citations from 2008 to 2009.

In addition to enforcement, education was a major focus this year. Our Mountain Bike Unit provided bike education to over 29 area schools, civic groups and City Recreation classes. They provided in-house bike rule education to all patrol officers, and they also attended several public forums on bike safety issues that were sponsored by the biking community. Additionally, the officers of BPD made a very concerted effort to stop and educate bike riders throughout the spring, summer and fall. The Boise Police Chief put out an advisory to all officers to take a vigilant attitude towards bike violations. Anecdotally, there were literally hundreds of contacts made by our bike officers, SRO officers, and patrol officers to warn and educate the public.

The final E represents engineering. BPD is working with ACHD to ensure that roadway design is adequate for the biking public. Areas of concern are addressed at monthly meetings with ACHD. Additionally, a member of the Mountain bike Unit is assigned to the ACHD bike safety task force. This group meets monthly to discuss strictly bike safety issues.

The safety of our citizens is very important to the Boise PD and we will continually strive to make Boise “The most liveable city in the Country”.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Casual Observer
    Jan 23, 2010, 2:19 pm

    Interesting. At least two of the three fatalities, and perhaps all three, involved bicycles that were fully within the the scope of what they should be doing. One was stopped in the turn lane waiting for the light, and was run over. The one on hill road was riding legally when the driver, making a left turn, crossed the center line and obliterated the cyclist. I am less certain about the third event.

    Where I am going with this is, these cyclists appear to have been doing everything they should have been doing when they got killed. Boise City’s response: Crack down on the cyclists!

  2. And even some very very careful drivers have had the misfortune of colliding with a bicycle. So please don’t anyone be so arrogant as to think they can’t be that person too. I hope the outcome of all investigations and/or legal trials involving these matters are genuinely fair and consider all the facts. I’m somewhat concerned that the biker group is applying enough pressure to bias an outcome.

    ACHD: A shortage of funds has caused there to be several areas on the edge of where the growth stopped in 2006 with dirt shoulders, rather than the planned bike lanes, on busy roads which lead between housing and the places kids like to hang out. ACHD often does not notice these areas until after someone is hurt. Please do focus on all three of the “E’s”.

    There will be a new tax on bikes. How will the money be used?

  3. As a dedicated transportation cyclist, I applaud the BPD’s increased emphasis on bike enforcement! Thank you, Mr. Kerns and colleagues; keep it up!

    If cyclists want to be treated as legal, legitimate road users, they need to know and follow the laws. Frankly, I have at least as many negative encounters with lawbreaking cyclists (think riding against traffic!) as I do with careless motorists. And when the official department policy is, “Bikes are not a priority,” is it any wonder that the general public has that same opinion?

    If I’m riding legally, I have no reason to resent or fear the increased enforcement. Conversely, I’m all in favor of getting the careless and scofflaw cyclists off the road; they are the worst possible ambassadors for my favorite mode of transportation.

    I expect that likewise, motorists who endanger cyclists by operating negligently and illegally will deal with our law enforcers.

    Steve Hulme
    aka “bikeboy”

  4. Motorists don’t see cyclists because they don’t look for cyclists. In that way a bicycle is similar to a motorcycle. Drivers MUST be aware of everything that is going on around them. Get off the damn cell phone, quit texting and pay attention to what you are doing! We have forgotten that when we turn that ignition key on, we are pointing a lethal weapon in the direction of our travels. Cyclists must maintain defensive vigilance. Just because you are doing everything correctly doesn’t make you less dead. Hopefully, with added awareness, we can spare any more families from having to endure the nightmare of losing a loved one.

  5. cyclops is “dead on” with his observation about seeing cyclists. Black clothing in the shade late in the day make it nearly impossible for a driver of a car to see a cyclist.

    I ride my bicycle around to pay bills go to the post office and get some exercise. I had one too many near misses with cars and had to do something. I went down to the local screen print shop and bought several SAFETY YELLOW t-shirts for when I am riding my bike. The difference in visibility and cars giving me some room was nothing short of dramatic. I hate the color but like the distance cars now give me on the road.

    The t-shirt change convinced me drivers were not trying to deliberately run over me, they simply could not see me all that well.

    The other thing drivers of cars have to understand is cyclists try to stay in tire tracks due to all the goatheads. Bike tires just don’t have the stuff to stand up to this menace. The far right sides of most streets and roads are loaded with broken glass, goatheads and other debris bike tires don’t tolerate very well.

  6. Write “Nike” on that yellow T-shirt and charge $82 at an over-priced bike shop. That way we can be sure all the in-taffic riders wear one.

  7. I think its a two way thing. Get the people off there cell phones and cyclist need to quit riding side by side down Hill Rd. I see them riding sometimes 3 abreast and all running stop signs. Then they add there I-pods to the mix and its as bad as cell phones.

  8. I would like to see all users of the roads become better ambassadors to their chosen mode of transport.

    Maybe the Deputy Chief could have some meetings with the local bike clubs/teams about some voluntary restictions during group rides. The restriction would help ease perception of motorist viewing cyclist as elitist jerks. Epecially on roadways such a Hill Rd where a majority of motorist have had issues with cyclist. Riding 2 abreast (legal) is not always prudent.

    My daily riding always focuses on getting to my destination safely. I make sure I don’t put a “chip on the shoulder” of the motorist so their next cyclist encounter is untainted.

    I would suggest to BPD and ACHD to reach out to cyclist for areas of engineering improvement. This would focus efforts to get the worst fixed first.

  9. I for one do not want to discourage bicycles from the streets of Boise. I do however agree with those that say riders should take some personal responsibilty. To many times you see cyclists out at dusk or dark wearing the darkest clothes they can find in the closet, running red lights, listening to there IPOD. This is all unexceptable, if I take my auto and run red lights, drive around at night with no headlights or tail lights, and talk on my phone or have head phones in my ears so that I can’t here whats going on around me, then it is my own fault when I get smashed by another motorist. Common sense is an uncommon virtue these days and I think there needs to be more personel resposibility, If a cyclist gets run over while riding the wrong direction, at night, while jammin out to there IPOD oblivious to the rest of the world, well thats just sad. It’s nothing else, it’s just sad that they did not recognize that they were putting themselves in a situation where they could be killed. One more note, ACHD has a hard enough time building and maintaining roads on the revenue they bring in without having to make every road eight to twelve feet wider to accomidate bikes, share the road share the cost. I don’t know just how many miles of main roads there are in this city but eight to twelve feet multiplied buy millions of feet translates into millions of dollars in additional expense.

    Everyone be safe and think about what we are doing rather than just going through the motions and the world will be a much better place.

  10. If Goodrich/Goodyear etc. can make a tire that survives an aircraft carrier landing, an Indy race, Miles and miles on a longhaul truck… I’d say you bike folks are getting ripped off if all it takes is a Goathead to ruin your fun.

  11. The elitist jerk two or more abreast blocking traffic can be fixed with a law that says slower traffic give way.

  12. The law (in Idaho): Persons riding bicycles upon a highway shall not ride more than two (2) abreast except on paths or parts of highways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding two (2) abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.

    So – it’s legal to ride two abreast on a public road. However, not if you’re impeding traffic.

    The problem isn’t a lack of laws; it’s a question of their enforcement. If a few of those “elitist jerks” get some wallet-pain, perhaps they’ll try just a bit harder to be good citizens on the streets.

  13. car registration fees help fund roads as do gasoline taxes, how do cyclists contribute?

  14. Here we go again! They contribute by not making our crappy air any worse! The also contribute by having fewer cars in front of you on your way to your crappy job downtown!!!!

  15. We may need to add standard disclaimer to any bike article. Something to the effect we are here to discuss safety, education and enforcement. Any talk about cyclist paying their fair share is not relevant and has been thoroughly discussed previously.

  16. jjmalone: car registration fees help fund roads as do gasoline taxes, how do cyclists contribute?

    Should the people who aren’t paying their “fair share” be run off the road? Otherwise the question seems irrelevant, like Clancy says. (And previously discussed ad nauseam, here on the Guardian and elsewhere.)

    But just in case jjmalone is “new” here, and sincere…

    Most cyclists – the adults, at least – own one or more vehicles that they pay registration fees on. In addition, it may surprise jjmalone that $32 million of ACHD’s $79 million budget comes from PROPERTY taxes. Most cyclists I know live under a roof.

  17. Clancy, I agree. Not only are these arguments irrelevant but they are also inaccurate.

  18. Yossarian_22
    Jan 28, 2010, 5:53 pm

    Subject: Three feet to pass legislation is coming

    Three Feet to Pass Legislation is coming at the Idaho Legislature.

    Here are some basic facts and points to make when discussing the issues it raises:

    This is safety legislation.  It protects pedestrians and cyclists but also by establishing understandable rules, helps drivers avoid the misery of an injury incident.


    1. The main purpose of the three-feett passing legislation is to educate the public about how far is a safe distance to pass vulnerable road user. Many motorists believe just avoiding contact with a vulnerable road user is all that is required. Most motorists are often unaware of the danger of passing somene else to close too closely. It can result in startling the person leading to a crash from reflexive action/fear.

    2. A three-feet law has been enacted in at least 14 states (Arizona (2000), Arkansas (2007), Colorado, (2009), Connecticut (2008) Florida (2006), Illinois (2007), Louisiana (2009), Maine (2007), Minnesota (2004), New Hampshire (2008), Oklahoma (2006), Tennessee (2007), Utah (2006), Wisconsin (1973)). New Jersey has a statute passed by the assembly and now pending in the State Senate. Four other states recommend three feet in regulatory documents–Kentucky, Washington, Kansas, and Texas.

    3. The law is used more as an education tool to provide safe practices than as an enforcement tool to punish law breakers. It gives officers, government officials, and civic groups the opportunity to inform drivers what a safe minimum distance is by use of a common measure (3 feet or one yard) that can be easily remembered.

    4. No expectation exists that police will have to use some sort of special distance-measuring equipment to see if the motorist is within 36 inches. The point, instead, is to communicate that the motorist needs to pass safely, and 3 feet  better defines a “safe pass.” This benefits police officers by providing a simple standard they can explain.

    5. Use of numeric distances to educate the public is not uncommon in traffic laws. For example in Idaho we have 49-634 (200 ft limitation on passing), 49-635 (no passing within 100 ft of an intersection)

    6. One concern raised with any three feet law is that it may require a motorist to go over the center line to pass a vulnerable road user. However, crossing the center line to pass a cyclist, farm vehicle, pedestrian is commonly done now. In any event, to avoid any question on this point, the proposed three-feet law includes a provision to clarify that motorists may cross a center line to pass bicyclists or pedestrians in situations that are safe as is the case under 49-635(3) already.

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