Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A new, safer dawn for local cyclists?


I like to think we all recognize the value of living in a "bike friendly community." (At the "bronze" level... but hey, it's better than nuttin'!) And that all of us are dismayed when we hear of tragic accidents resulting in cyclist injuries or fatalities.

With last summer's three fatalities still painfully in mind, on January 12 the City Council considered - and passed, with minor but significant amendments - some new laws recommended by the mayor's Cycling Safety Task Force.

- It is now a misdemeanor to throw or "expel" stuff at cyclists or pedestrians, or to intentionally harass them.
- Cyclists have to get off and walk, on crowded sidewalks.
- Cyclists can now be charged with misdemeanor "reckless cycling."
- Motorists must leave a safety buffer of at least three feet when passing a cyclist. (When presented to the Council, there was a "whenever possible" clause. But after testimony and discussion, that clause was removed. It's "at least three feet period" as enacted.)

Essentially all of the testimony generally favored the new laws. The last lady to testify was the exception. She told some harrowing tales of near-misses with irresponsible sidewalk-riding cyclists, and wanted mandatory registration of bicycles and mandatory display of a registration number, so citizens could better identify the scofflaws when complaining. (I was sympathetic to her - bonehead cyclists are the worst possible thing for the cycling community.)

The new laws were passed 6-0. Mayor Bieter was absent; Council President Maryanne Jordan was acting mayor at the session.

I testified that it's meaningless to pass new laws, if there's little enthusiasm about enforcing those laws. (In the past, the stated position of the Boise Police Department has been, "Bicycle violations are not a priority." I've not seen anything to indicate that position has changed.) I told the Council members they could do more to make cycling safer by enforcing existing laws. (But I can also support the newly-passed laws.)

Councilmen Shealy and Eberle both stated that "we can't legislate respect and courtesy." Nevertheless, I always hope respect and courtesy can be maintained, for everyone's safety and sanity.

The Task Force also recommended stepped up enforcement and education. If I were in charge, those would be my areas of emphasis. (Previous commentary HERE.)

Clancy was also in attendance, and gave some fine testimony. Afterwards he showed me his cool LED strobe/headlight. [Clancy - I could still see you clearly, among a number of cars, when I was 4 or 5 blocks up the road. That light is a keeper!]

(I snapped the photo on the morning of Jan. 11.)


Clancy said...

Your comments about lack of enforcement were spot on and the Deputy Chief was listening good.

The Boise Picayune said...

Unfortunately, unless it's caught on video or the motorist is stupid enough to admit it, even a 4th Rate Lawyer from a 3rd World Law School oughta be able to kill that charge.

Even Eye Witnesses - who, as any Prosecutor or Defense Attorney will tell you are notoriously unreliable - won't change that dynamic.

It's window dressing for the general public, and a distraction from genuine - albeit costly - solutions.... See More

But hey... "It's betta than nuthin!"

The Boise Picayune said...

The 3 Foot Rule, that is...

Bikeboy said...

Picayune, think how much more unenforceable that law would've been, if it had been written, "whenever possible, maintain 3 feet"!!

Another point of view... if I were sitting on a jury trying to determine if a motorist violated the 3-foot rule when he hit a cyclist, I could be convinced that YES... that motorist DID come within 3 feet!

(Similar statutes have recently been passed in other jurisdictions. Boise might've set the example for Idaho... but I believe there are similar STATE laws in Colorado and Utah, at least. The jury is still out on whether they are effective or not.)

Clancy said...

Sadly most of these laws will only be enforced after an accident.

db said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
db said...

(Sorry, typos.)

I appreciate you taking a role in the city meeting, as well as elsewhere.

I enjoyed the fact that you "guest posted" at The Guardian site..., until I read the comments section. Aye-yi-yi.

bob t said...

The so-called "three-foot" law is just a clarification of a statute which requires that those who pass do so "at a safe distance". I would suggest that "three feet" is no more unenforcable than "safe distance", but it at least gives motorists an idea of what is safe and what is not.