After Recent Deaths, Boise Bicyclists Come Together To Make The Roads Safer

Nov 7, 2013

About 80 people crammed into the Boise Bicycle Project Wednesday night. The diverse crowd included drivers and cyclists of all ages and affiliation – but there was a common theme.

“We are in this together," says Lisa Brady with the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance (TVCA). "There is no driver out there that wants to hit a cyclist, and no cyclist that wants to be hit by a driver.”

A diverse crowd packed into the Boise Bicycle Project for a meeting on bike and pedestrian safety in the Treasure Valley.
Credit Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Brady helped organize the public meeting, which was the first of it's kind. The meeting was called by a coalition of bike advocacy groups in response to recent deaths of two Boise bicyclists. Brady says she couldn't have been prouder of the turnout at the event.

“I wanted to cry actually, because I’ve wanted this to happen for a very long time," she says. "That all of the entities come together – police, county, city, state, clubs, advocacy, schools – and sit down and have a meeting.”

Boise Police Department Deputy Chief Pete Ritter is an avid cyclist. Ritter thinks an education campaign about the rules of the road for cyclists and drivers would make the roads safer.

“The safest situation is when cyclists and drivers all understand the rules and they follow the rules," says Ritter. "I think a lot of the negative interaction comes from people who don’t understand what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Ritter says one of the laws people often aren’t aware of has to do with bikes on sidewalks. He says that a lot of accidents happen when bikes going against the flow of traffic on sidewalks reach a driveway or an exit to a parking lot. A turning car may not see a fast-moving biker on a sidewalk until it’s too late.

Ideas of how to increase awareness of laws and make Boise safer for everyone flowed throughout the hour-and-a-half discussion. One idea was to strengthen drivers' education courses by emphasizing bike safety to new drivers, which supporters say could create the safest generation of drivers yet. Another topic was city planning, and how agencies like the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) can better address bike safety issues through better street design.

“The more people that ride bikes, the more critical the engineering of the roadways becomes," says Ritter. "There [are] other cities that have done very creative things with bike corridors and bike pathways to limit the interaction between cars and cyclists and cars and pedestrians. And I think as Boise grows, we’re going to have to look at some of those solutions.”

Some people said the recent deaths of two cyclists and one pedestrian are wake-up calls. But Gary Casella says there have been wake-up calls like this in the past. Casella is with Look! Save A Life, a bike safety awareness program that started in 2009. That was after a series of three cycling deaths that rocked the Treasure Valley.

Casella says most bike riders know their rights and biking laws – its distracted drivers who need to change the most.

“To have a paradigm shift in our driving culture is going to take everybody in this room to spread the word, and look out for each other,” Casella says.

There was discussion of the 2012 law that bans texting while driving statewide, and whether a hands-free cell phone law is also needed.

Despite the recent spate of accidents, the Boise Police Department says the roads are safer. Four years ago, there were 160 reported collisions between cars and bikes. So far this year there have been 86.

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio