Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Roadways to Bikeways"

The ACHD had another public forum on their Roadways to Bikeways project yesterday (Nov. 14).

ACHD - is Ada County Highway District. It is the public agency in charge of building and maintaining most of the roads and other public thoroughfares in Idaho's most populous county.
Roadways to Bikeways - is a project aimed at making our community more bike-friendly. It seems to mostly be focused on the infrastructure, and specifically adding more connections between multi-use roadways and the limited network of dedicated bike/pedestrian facilities.

I didn't attend "Open House #2" (yesterday's meeting), but links to the information that was presented can be found here. (Click on any of the "Open House #2" documents.)

I attended "Open House #1" a couple months back, carefully reviewed the presentations, filled out the questionnaires, etc.

While I think it's laudable that ACHD is sincerely trying to improve connectivity to the dedicated bikeways, and I support their efforts (and I use those bikeways whenever it's practical), the reality is...

According to their website, ACHD is responsible for some 1800 miles of roads and streets in the county, and 120 miles of "bike lanes, recreational pathways and wide road lanes for motor vehicle and bicycle use." Transportation cyclists have destinations that don't happen to lie along those 120 miles of bike-oriented corridors. ACHD's focus and goal must be on making all 1800 miles of roads as bike-friendly as they can possibly be.

While it's impractial to envision all 1800 miles of roads with bike lanes (contrary to what some so-called "bike advocates" advocate), I believe these actions would be a good start:

- Making intersections bike-friendly. Many of our intersections are controlled by what's called a "ground induction loop" - a low-tech metal detector. When a big chunk of metal hovers above the loop, it asks for a green light. But bicycles frequently don't get noticed by the loop. ACHD makes an effort to mark intersections when people call and complain (with a yellow paint-stripe directly above the loop). But ALL of those intersections should be inventoried and regularly marked, just as a matter of procedure.

- Educating both motorists and potential cyclists that BIKES BELONG! Not only on the 120 miles of dedicated pathways and lanes, but on all 1800 miles of roads in the county.

- Combining the education with an enforcement effort. Bike traffic laws need to be vigorously enforced before bikes will ever be perceived as a legitimate form of transportation. (Currently, most bike-infractions are ignored, unless an accident is involved. And there is a lot of pent-up resentment among motorists, when they deal with cyclists running red lights, riding against traffic, weaving from lane to lane, etc.) And motorists who act aggressively toward cyclists, are unwilling to yield lawful right-of-way, etc., also need to be educated through enforcement. (Rednecks in pickup trucks and Rice-burner punks don't give me much respect when I try to explain... but they might listen to the Man in Blue.)


Josh said...

I agree whole-heartedly with your post!
Dedicated bike lanes are OK, but they tend to reinforce the thinking that bikes don't belong on the road.
It's also a common excuse for people to not use bicycles for transportation. I've heard people tell me that they would ride to work if there were bike lanes all the way from their house to the office.
There is a bike path that I could use as part of my route to work everyday, but I don't because it's slightly out of the way, and it's difficult to transition from the bike lane back onto the road (motorists aren't looking for me).

db said...

Like you, I couldn't make the second meeting, but went to the first one and filled out their forms, etc. And like you, I think the education/enforcement factors are just as important as, if not more important than, bike lanes. Nice post.

Bob T said...

While it would be nice if all intersections would have the detectors marked, a good start would be if the ACHD could mark all those located on designated bike routes.

There are several intersections where I ride where I either have to depend on other vehicles to trigger the light or go to the corner and press the walk button. I don't feel comfortable crossing when the light is red, even though this is legal in Idaho.