Friday, August 10, 2007

ACHD Bicycle Open House Recap

Yesterday afternoon was the ACHD Open House. Oddly it was held at the Covenant Presbyterian Church at 5 Mile and McMillan, rather than at ACHD headquarters. (The church may actually be near the population-center of the county, but it's rather distant from the Halls of Government. Perhaps by design.)

My route to the gathering (by bicycle, of course): Curtis Road to Fairview to Five Mile. On the way home I took Emerald instead of Fairview. I was wearing my Boise Bike Week t-shirt that says ONE LESS CAR in big letters on the back; I hope it put motorists to thinking.

Although I derive an awesome amount of personal satisfaction from passing long lines of queued-up motorists (which happened on all three of those streets at Rush Hour), I also feel a bit of empathy for them. Consider the east-west corridors. Chinden is undergoing a big project near Five Mile. Ustick is, of course, torn up for a couple miles. Fairview has a major project going on at the intersection of Maple Grove. Emerald is also down a few lanes at Maple Grove. What is ACHD's recommendation for people who are traveling from east to west? Does it seem like bad planning, to have so many corridors disrupted at once?

Regarding the actual Open House... it was well-done, but I didn't get a whole lot from it. (Maybe some did, who haven't been following the issues for years. Also, I wasn't surprised to see many familiar faces there, from among the local "bicycle activist" community. Including Gary Richardson, former ACHD Commissioner, who enthusiastically embraced the notion of "alternative transportation" during his time in office a few years back.) It seemed well-attended with interested citizens. ACHD had some interesting displays showing various road-design cross sections, etc. They had a "Pravda"-like slate, where you could pen your own ideas as to what would make our community more bike-friendly. They also had a map where you could mark your favorite and least-favorite roads, etc.

I scribbled some comments on the sheet they asked everybody to fill out.

My comments were consistent with what I always say about our town... with a few glaring exceptions, we've got a good infrastructure for bicycles, and it generally is getting better. I think ACHD has done a good job of including bike facilities where appropriate, as they've made improvements. Obviously there are some problem areas, where there's just not enough width to comfortably accommodate all classes of bicyclists, and no relief in sight. (I'm enough of a realist to understand that the taxpayers can't afford to widen Orchard Street by 12 feet for bike lanes, for example.)

Where we are lacking is in EDUCATION and ENFORCEMENT. There is no formal effort to educate cyclists - children or adults. In many cases, kids are learning bad cycling habits from mentors who don't know themselves. (Riding against traffic always comes to the forefront.) And there is precious little being done to remind motorists that cyclists have the same rights to use the road as do motorists. And the Law Enforcement Community looks at bicycles as toys rather than transportation. They declare openly that "bicycle violations aren't a priority." Unless an accident is involved, they seem happy to ignore cyclists. Vigorous enforcement of bicycle laws would go a long ways toward legitimizing bicycles as a valid mode of transportation.

4 comments:

db said...

+1 on everything you've said, Bikeboy. I went early (just after it opened at 4) and left similar comments.

It bothered me a little to see comments like "We need dedicated bike lanes or paths all over the city", when it would obviously be costly to do so. You're going to keep voting against taxes, but you want your government to pay for, say, 50 miles of new pavement plus maintenance?

Your example of Orchard is spot-on. My feedback stated that ACHD should focus on creating several connecting roads going east-west and north-south. Leave some arterial roads, like Fairview and Orchard, to the cars, and upgrade others (I'd like to see Franklin, Maple Grove, Emerald, Victory, among others) to encourage bike traffic. I encouraged them NOT to make decisions based on rider volume (Hill Road would get a huge amount of the pie), but rather on connectivity. "If you build it, they will come."

Finally, I really encouraged the use of sharrows to help educate motorists and cyclists alike on how we should behave as traffic.

Overall, I was happy that ACHD was taking comments and giving us food for thought, but I'm skeptical about how much gets done in the future. Most of this has been done before, and the results have been piecemeal at best.

danielo said...

And let's not forget that there is still time to submit comments on the project (by Aug 23) to bikes@achd.ada.id.us.

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