Friday, January 8, 2010

Public hearing on cycling safety ordinances

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!


bob t said...

Although these new laws would appear to be redundant, I believe that their implementation will result in a greater awareness of cyclist rights and responsibilities, which hopefully will lead to better enforcement. Therefore I am cautiously in favor.

Clancy said...

More education is important. The Boise Bike Project will be having some City Streets/Commuting How To rides during May.

Bikeboy and Bob, I think you guys would be great candidates for helping out with your vast knowledge.

Anonymous said...

To be fair to the city, the proposed new laws are only one small piece of the task force's recommendations. Those recommendations are styled as "6 Es": engineering, education, enforcement, encouragement, equality, and evaluation.

The education and enforcement recommendations are the most extensive. They do include "bicycle law training for police" (noted as both completed and ongoing), as well as a comprehensive bike safety program for grades 3-6 and a multijurisdictional "safe streets for all" campaign.

How many of the recommendations will get implemented, and how effectively, will be up to advocates-- like the readers of this blog. We must, at the coming public hearing and outside of it, press the City, County, ACHD, and ITD to vigorously implement the task force's best ideas.

The report is well worth reading, especially for the bike accident density maps.

Bikeboy said...

Dear Anonymous:

I TOTALLY want to be fair to the City, and I posted commentary on the entire plate of Task Force recommendations HERE. (Same link as in this blog entry.)

I believe this upcoming hearing is specifically addressing the proposed new ordinances; while they have merit, my personal belief is that "education/enforcement" is where our fine community is most lacking.

Thanks for reading and commenting.