Last year, following three local cycling fatalities, Boise's mayor convened an ad-hoc task force to come up with recommendations on how cycling could be made safer. (Previous commentary HERE.) Among their recommendations was the enactment of some new city ordinances, for both motorists and cyclists. Most are similar to laws that are on the books in other states and cities.
A public hearing will be held on Tuesday, January 12, beginning at 6pm for citizens to testify.
A summary of the ordinances (from the City Website):
• A new law making it a misdemeanor for a motorist or any person to intentionally intimidate or harass a cyclist by threatening physical injury or throwing an object at him or her.
• A new prohibition on reckless operation of a bicycle in a manner "as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property," also a misdemeanor.
• A requirement that, whenever possible, a motorist provide a minimum safe distance of three feet when passing a cyclist.
• Specific rules for riding bicycles on sidewalks, including a requirement that the cyclist dismount "when the number of pedestrians using the sidewalk renders bicycle riding on the sidewalk unsafe."
• Creation of "heels down" zones on specific, highly congested sidewalks (such as downtown) where cyclists would be required to dismount at all times.
• Clarification that motorists at intersections must yield to oncoming cyclists when turning left and cannot cut off cyclists traveling in the same direction when turning right.
Do we need new laws?
I'm not convinced. Primarily because as I see it, the most pressing problems are lack of education and lack of enforcement. There are already laws on the books to regulate both driving and cycling, that our law enforcers elect not to enforce. (Or to classify as "low priority.")
What good will a half-dozen new unenforced laws do?
Instead, let's have the Mayor and Council direct the police department to learn the bicycle-related laws, and enforce them more vigorously! (I hope I can attend the hearing and make that comment.)
On a brighter note, the news release says, "Work is progressing on other recommendations... including expanded cycling safety education programs." I hope so - that could actually make a difference!