City Government

Illuminating Idea Could Save Bike Riders Lives, Offer Coppers Chance To Issue More Than Tickets

The GUARDIAN has posted numerous stories promoting bike safety and invariably the comments turn to “Bikes vs Cars.”
We don’t know any car drivers who want to hit bikers, but we sure see a lot of bikers who simply disregard their own safety. In nearly 50 years of working and living in Boise we have seen the car-bike issue evolve. Used to be coppers visiting schools telling kids how to stay alive.

Today, the typical biker is not a young kid going to school. Today’s bikers are 20-30 somethings using bikes for transportation and motorists never know where they are going to pop up. Everyone has stories of near misses with bikes jumping off sidewalks into intersections, going against traffic, and the real scary one–bikes at night without lights.

We have suggested some increased awareness through police contact. Rather than heavy handed ticket writing, we think coppers should make traffic stops with bikes, especially at night when those riders with dark clothing and no lights haunt the streets. Our idea is to acquire some cheap flashing red LED lights and just give them away to riders with the admonishment to get proper lights to ride at night and pass along the safety lights to another rider in need of some illumination.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Chief Mike Masterson
    Oct 11, 2013, 8:16 am

    Good morning Dave and thank you for not only giving awareness to this important issue but for calling with your idea of police acquiring a supply of flashing red strobe to hand out when contacting bicyclists not having the proper lighting and reflectors. I appreciate your generosity in offering a donation but at a dollar each we can find money in our budget and buy 400 of them. When we stop a cyclist to warn/possibly cite for lack of proper lighting my hope is for officers to hand out the flashing red strobe to get them to their destination safely.

    I also like your idea of “paying it forward” by asking the cyclist once they get the proper lighting and reflectors on their bikes to pass it along to another cyclist they may “may run into” (figuratively) in the same situation without lights. I hope to make it very clear however that these flashing stobes are a temporary fix and not designed to replace the need for approved lights and other safety equipment.

    Of course we both know this solves only a small part of the problem. As we implement this plan we continue to work on other issues of bike-car-ped complying with laws and respect for each other to protect them and each other while using our streets and sidewalks. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Awareness is crucial. Education needs to be mandatory. There is no education for bicycles within the school curriculum or drivers education classes. A driver does not have to re-take the drivers test ever. So we are left with an uneducated population who still thinks they need to ride their bikes against traffic (#1 way cyclist are killed). The drivers ed manual has a fantastic chapter on bicycles (chapter 5, free PDF online also) but they do not have to teach it. It is difficult to ticket a population who doesn’t know their rights and responsibilities in the first place. Yes, it is the cyclist’s responsibility to know the laws, but that doesn’t help them with automobile drivers not knowing what they can and cannot do. Education and awareness is key. Yet this state will make no steps towards funding or implementing education for the entire population.

  3. Never dreamed I see the Guardian proposing that taxpayers give out free lights to those freeloading cyclist using the public right-of-way without paying fuel taxes. Isn’t that some kind of socialism?

    EDITOR NOTE–You show your lack of insight! Not only did I propose the lights, I offered to pay for them. I am down to the last one of 10 that I give away when I encounter unlit bikers who will accept the proffered light.

  4. I drive a school bus and my biggest fear is hitting a bicyclist on Hill Rd or Seaman’s Gulch. Education is the key. Suggest a training video that shows what a cyclist looks like from a motor vehicle especially in the dark, without reflectors or lights and wearing dark clothing.

  5. Great column, Mr. Guardian. And Fantastic to see that Mr. Masterson read it, and responded!

    I’m a veteran transportation cyclist here in Boise, and I used to frequently call the police to request more enforcement on my fellow cyclists. (If you think it’s scary to see an against-traffic cyclist when you’re in your car, try it on a bike, when that cyclist is on a “chicken collision course” with you, and heavy traffic alongside!)

    Without fail, the person at BPD was sympathetic, but explained to me, “Bicycle violations are not a priority for the Department.”

    The results of that policy are obvious and epidemic – against-traffic riders, cyclists darting about like squirrels, no lights or reflectors after dark.

    If past history is any indicator, our new rash of fatalities will result in a month or two of lip service, and then we’ll be back to Business as Usual.

    If the police don’t educate and enforce, who will?

    I try to educate, but it’s discouraging because when I tell some yahoo his riding practices are both illegal and dangerous, most often the reply is, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Only not in those words. The police might get a bit more respect than an old fat guy on a bike.

  6. Mr. Guardian… just for clarification, I hope this post doesn’t suggest to anybody that either of the recent bike-riding accident victims was violating the law!

    HOWEVER – it’s a safe bet that neither one was seen by the driver of the involved motor vehicle.

    My take can be seen HERE.

    EDITOR NOTE–We agree, no fingers pointed. I was amazed at how many posts we have on bike safety and still people needlessly die.

  7. Lights are great, if you have both front and rear. The wrong way cyclist needs a white light also.

    Education is a must and should come from BPD, bikes shops and local cycling organizations like TVCA and BBP. A “spoke card” with simple rules for staying safe would be a good low cost solution. These could be handed by officers instead of tickets and by cycling organizations at various events and bike shops.

    Here is an example that would fit on a card. Source BBP Oct. newsletter.
    1. Ride Right- Follow the same rules of the road as cars.* Ride on the right hand side of the road unless merging into another lane.
    2. Lights At Night- You are legally required to have a front light and at least a rear reflector at night. We encourage a rear light as well.
    3. Be Predictable- Using your hand signals and riding in a way that is predictable will help cars and other riders know your intentions.
    4. Be Aware- Understanding, and evaluating your surroundings will help you plan your next move, and prepare your self for upcoming scenarios.
    5. Know Your Rights- Understanding your legal rights to the road will help you ride and educate others.

    *Idaho does have a unique law that allows bicycles to slow down and treat stop signs as yield signs and red stop lights as stop signs.

  8. I agree with the article: To add to it…

    Just like cars and drivers must meet and follow safety standards and laws so should bikes and bikers. Why to coppers don’t enforce against bikes is pure politics on the mayor’s part.

    Additionally, it is way past time to put a visible license plate on bikes. A biker’s anonymity is a big factor in the arrogant disregard for laws and vehicle drivers on the roadways.

  9. I agree, Steve,
    But the state, ACHD and the city need to do something to make roads like State St. & Federal Way, where the recent spate of killings have occurred, (as well as, Fairview, B’way and many others we could name) safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Crossing or cycling those streets is scary and, sometimes, deadly.

  10. The low enforcement priority of cycling laws long predates the present administration. I’ll bet that the current mayor never indicated to the police that they should go light on bicyclists breaking the law.

    Should visible licenses be required of pedestrians, too?

    BTW, a license plate identifies the vehicle, not the operator. As many cyclists can testify, reporting a license number doesn’t do much good if you can’t identify the operator.

  11. rabula: The state, ACHD and the city need to do something to make roads like State St. & Federal Way, where the recent spate of killings have occurred, (as well as, Fairview, B’way and many others we could name) safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

    I can’t disagree with that. However, there are some roads that are definitely problematic, due to “real estate constraints.” The only way to add bike lanes on the “State Street Bottleneck” would be to eliminate motor lanes, and I don’t see that happening any time soon. (Personally, I mostly take Ellis Avenue, a block northeast. It’s a designated “bike route” with low traffic, and worth the detour, IMO.)

    I believe Federal Way has FINE bike/pedestrian facilities! There’s a separated and dedicated bike/pedestrian path almost from end to end, and striped bike lanes in both directions. I don’t know how it could be made any safer. (Roadway users – both motorized and non-motorized – also need to be vigilant in accident prevention. The rise of electronic handheld gizmos is the biggest threat to safety in 2013, in this observer’s opinion.)

  12. befiel ist befiel
    Oct 11, 2013, 11:37 pm

    In typical America 2013 fashion, a situation that simply requires common sense, some easily acquired manners and of course streets and sidewalks painted in a manner that make sense, this has become a situation described by bikers where car “gangs” are now stalking bike ”gang”s who simply are “fighting” for their civil rights. With so much anger and willingness to confront and fight within the ranks of the local bicycle riders here, maybe we could redirect some of that fighting spirit to the middle east and end this little adventure by Christmas. Naw…guess it’s easier to ignore traffic laws, spit on cars flip off drivers and then go hit the coffee shop. Turning left from Curtis on to Emerald a young 20 year old male was riding the wrong way towards the intersection literally in the middle of the road. Had I not seen him as I made my turn and stopped in time,( because he definitely was not aware of what he was doing), he would have been on my hood. At least a dozen people witnessed it and he calmly rode off listening to his IPOD as if nothing had happened. Took me 15 minutes to calm down realizing how close I had come to being blamed for his reckless behavior. At this point I am all for outlawing the things ….I fear the riders and the bikes themselves that seem to have minds of their own. At least the riders seem unable to control the dam things.

  13. Dave Kangas
    Oct 12, 2013, 6:59 pm

    Kudos to the Guardian! A great idea but IMHO it won’t sink in.

    A car going down the street without a tailight or headlights stand to get a ticket. The blinker doesn’t work or you change lanes without using your blinker you get a ticket. Every driver knows and understands the implications. In most cases, not all, all you are preventing is a fender bender or a close call. Even in a bad wreck, safety belts, crush zones and air bags prevent most serious injury.

    A car hits a bicyclist and it is immediately serious and life threatening. Make the laws, write the tickets and force bicyclists to take ownership of their own safety and well being. If a driver doesn’t see you, he just didn’t see you…..Did you do everything to be seen? Even then, accidents will happen.

    I do not understnad why it is any less serious for a bicylcist to be reckless and unsafe than a driver. Who stands to lose more?

  14. Until bikers are held as accountable as motorists they will continue to disregard traffic and safety laws.

  15. Clippityclop
    Oct 14, 2013, 10:36 am

    HIll Road, Seaman’s Gulch Road, Dry Creek Road and Cartwright Road are very frightening when it comes to cyclists. PLEASE use flashing lights, don’t ride two abreast, watch your speed downhill and ability to control your bike and lastly, when you come up behind a horse walking on the side of the road, PLEASE start talking on the approach so they know you’re there. Remember, horses are prey animals. Let’s all share the road.
    Thanks so much for your consideration. I want all of us to be safe.

  16. Good idea, and I am glad Masterson commented. Thank you.

    I was curious about Marcus’s point. Bikes should ride against traffic. I am 39, and I never learned that in school. I learned you WALK against traffic, and RIDE with traffic. I am not sure if that is what you were referring to, or if times before I was in school, people were taught differently. My wife is a fair bit younger than me, and also learned the same way.

    I know most of my problems with bikes, come from the “riding against traffic” variety. I do think the police need to make bikes a priority, since I believe that will save lives. I am not saying ticket everyone, but educate.

    I do notice a lot of bikers switching between being out on the roadway and then onto sidewalks, and taking the best of both worlds. When you don’t realize they are making that switch, it can create some issues, as well.

    I really don’t understand why Boise police are only after car drivers. They should be equal with the law, and not just targeting one aspect.

  17. First I am an avid cyclist and follow the rules as best I can/ know. The main problem is education on both sides. The second is an unwillingness to share the road by both parties. Lastly the use of common sense by both parties (which they may or may not have) Have a nice day!

  18. Rifter:

    All 50 states have a “ride the same direction of traffic” law for bikes. All wheels must go the same direction. Ride right. My job is to teach in the schools and driver ed classes about how to use a bicycle. I was stating that the #1 way cyclists are killed is by riding against traffic. Many folks come up to me and ask in what direction they should walk and ride. “Walk left and ride right” I advocate for the laws in place in Idaho for cyclists.

    Bike laws in Idaho:

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