Thursday, August 27, 2009

Texting while driving is UP in Washington

In the past 18 months, the percentage of Washington-state motorists who text-while-driving has increased from 6% to 18%, according to a survey taken by an insurance company.

This is despite the fact that "45 percent of drivers are more concerned about the distractions caused by text messaging than with other distractions." And 70 percent of motorists believe that text messaging should be a "primary offense." (Meaning that the police can pull you over and issue you a citation specifically for text messaging. Currently they can give you ticket, but only if they pull you over for something else you're doing wrong. Or after you smash into somebody while text messaging.)

Every day I hope I don't get smashed into by somebody who's distracted.

Article HERE.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Comments submitted to the B.C.S.T.F.

The following are comments I submitted to the Boise Cycling Safety Task Force, regarding their recommendations.

- Previously mentioned HERE.
- The recommendations I'm commenting on can be seen HERE (PDF).

I encourage all interested parties to submit comments, either in person or via email (


I'm taking the opportunity to comment on the "Boise Cycling Safety Task Force Recommendations," and about the topic of safe on-street cycling in general. Your attention to the topic is appreciated by this transportation cyclist.


I fully support all the recommendations of the Task Force.

In my opinion, ACHD has done a commendable job of including bike-friendly facilities in all new projects, and have retrofitted existing roadways and intersections everywhere feasible. I've got confidence in their direction, as a general rule.

Now and then I see a bike-lane striping job that makes me scratch my head... for instance, when a turn-only lane crosses over a bike lane. But ACHD seems to be getting better all the time.

One additional suggestion - regarding "ground loops" that trigger traffic signals. I'd like EVERY triggered intersection to be sensitive enough to detect a bicycle. If it isn't - FIX IT! And when the road is chip-sealed, resurfaced, re-striped, etc., the stripe crew should ALWAYS put a stripe down to indicate where the loop is located. (They try to respond when a problem intersection is reported... but how nice it be if they tried to eliminate those "problem intersections" without a citizen requesting it!)


I'd support the committee recommendations.

However, to me it seems futile and meaningless to pass a bunch of new bicycle-related laws, when the laws already on the books aren't enforced!

Unless things have changed since the recent spate of bicycle fatalities, the STATED position of the Boise Police Department has been, "Bike violations are NOT a priority for the Department." (I've called numerous times over the years, to complain about cyclists who ride against traffic - putting my life at risk - and have consistently told that by people who responded.)

Currently, we are anxiously waiting to see if motorists who killed (!) cyclists will be charged with a crime. Months have passed since those accidents, and each day adds to the skepticism about whether Boise is serious about protecting cyclists and maximizing their safety. (Pedestrians, too, since a couple weeks ago.)

Will "bike violations" become a priority for the Department? Or at least on equal footing with motor-traffic violations? Will the mayor and city council direct the BPD to enforce (and learn!) the laws regarding bicycles, even if a traffic accident isn't involved? THAT, in my opinion, is the single most significant thing that you could do to improve bicycle safety in Boise. PLEASE!!


I fully support all recommendations of the Task Force. Particularly #7, "Bicycle law training for police." And I hope it would include an increased prioritization of bike violations (see Enforcement, above).


It's all good. As gas prices continue to fluctuate generally upward, that will probably be more "encouragement" than any city-sponsored campaign.

How about a "CARS ARE FOR THE WEAK!" campaign? hahaha


It's all good. (To my way of thinking, this is an extension of "education.")


Yep. Come back in six months or a year and see if enforcement has improved. Check the number of citations for against-traffic riding, for example.

Good luck with your efforts! I'll be out there riding even if things don't get any better. But it would be comforting to feel like the city - particularly Law Enforcement - "has my back."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tour de Fat follow-up

I attended, but very "peripherally."

Friday, the night before, my granddaughter and I had ridden the Bike/Bob down to Ann Morrison Park, the "scene of the crime," to play at the playground and the water fountain. We saw the extensive staging area for Tour de Fat, serene and quiet. (And we had a grand time at both the playground and the fountain... despite a flat tire. I was patching the tire as dusk approached. Mackie was dashing about nonstop - typical - in and out of the spray. I pleaded with her to stay where she could see me and I could see her. Despite my pleadings, she would disappear around the base of the fountain... it was always a relief to see her emerge on the other side.)

The next morning... we returned to the scene, via Bike/Bob. Our timing was flawless... we got there maybe 2 minutes before the parade rolled! (One of my complaints about Boise's May "Pedal Power Parade" is that they advertise a starting time... but it's not adhered to. It's hard to wrangle a toddler with a 15-second attention span for an hour, while waiting for the event to begin.)

Something set Mackie off... I'm guessing it was the two dudes with Alice Cooper face-paint on their "chopper" bicycles. (Excellent face paint and bikes!) Or perhaps it was "Nacho Libre." She saw something that scared her, and she started weeping. I hunkered down next to her and reassured her that they were all nice people, and nobody would hurt her, and then everything was all right.

The parade was fantastic!

I intended to take photos... but I was mesmerized to paralysis! There was an awesome variety of crazy costumes, perhaps surpassed only by the assortment of crazy contraptions the participants were riding on.

Obviously there was an infinite variety of standard 2-wheeled, chain-driven bicycles from authentic classic vintage machines to tandems to today's carbon titanium offerings. But besides that, there were tall bikes... two bikes welded together side by side... menacing-looking long-wheelbase custom "chopper" bikes... huge contraptions driven by four or six stokers, the only resemblance to a bicycle being the spoked wheels.

There was a "trike" that had a standard automobile seat for 2 passengers, with pedals for each, and two wheels underneath and a steering-wheel out front. (THAT looked like fun!)

Doctor Seuss meets Rube Goldberg!

We joined in at what we thought was the back of the parade... but there were hundreds of additional participants who were watching the parade go by and then joining in at the back. I'm thinking there were at least a thousand bikes (or somewhat bicycle-like contraptions) that participated.

We headed for home after the parade, and a half-hour of playground bliss.

As a first-time casual participant, I was impressed by how happy and community-minded and cooperative everyone seemed. Summer of love! I was also struck by how quietly so many people could move from one place to another... even a thousand bicycles are pretty much silent! (Particularly when compared with the annual "Motorcycle Awareness Rally" that I usually ride in... and where half the participants seem to be making as much noise as they possibly can. It's really a little embarrassing.)

There's a nice photo gallery at the Idaho Statesman website - click HERE. (If you start crying - don't blame me!)

I'd enjoy reading some comments from other people who survived the 2009 Boise Tour de Fat... post away! (Thanks.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tour de Fat is coming!

The New Belgium Tour de Fat will be passing through Boise this Saturday, August 22.

Unfortunately, I've not attended one in the past due to other commitments. But I hope to check it out this year. (I remember that last year, one lucky participant was given a sweet new bike, in exchange for taking a pledge that he would park his car and use the bike for his exclusive transportation. I would dearly love to hear how it went for him, and if he's stuck to the pledge.)

For those not familiar, I get the impression that Tour de Fat is kind of like a cross between a bike celebration and a Grateful Dead concert. (Is that accurate?) There is a spirit of festivity in the air. New Belgium commercial products flow freely, I imagine. (Hopefully all participants ride responsibly, regardless! A party is no excuse for operating-while-impaired.)

The Tour is also a fund raiser. In Boise, it benefits the SWIMBA (Mountain Biking) and the TVCA (Cycling Alliance). It tentatively goes from 9am to 4pm. Much more info HERE.

I particularly like the "Ten Commandments of Tour de Fat":

1. Put no means of transport before thy bike
2. Honor all other bikes: All bikes are good bikes, and all those who ride them are good people.
3. May every generation come forth: This is a family friendly event...
4. Thou shall come as a participant not a spectator
5. Thou shalt not bring booze; But enjoy the supplied malted adult refreshments responsibly...
6. New Belgium shalt not profit
7. Remember the purpose, and bring not your pooches
8. Keep the day true with thy good juju: (The ride is free, but we suggest a $5 donation to the good bike advocates who are putting it on for you...)
9. Thou shall rise early: Since Tour de Fat is a free show, we sometimes get more folks than we can accommodate. Once we're full, we will handle overflow like a restaurant or bar: one in, one out...
10. Thou shalt not steal thy neighbors' bike: Don't even think of leaving with a bike that doesn't belong to you. Modern-day horse thieves will be dealt with by angry mob, pitchforks, and torches.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Reluctant Hitchhiker

On Saturday afternoon, I was riding along Joplin Road, which goes nearby some big ponds and slow-moving ditches. (It's down below the Chinden H-P complex, for locals who might not be familiar.)

When I came across a turtle sauntering down the side of the road!

It appears to be a painted turtle, with a shell maybe 8 inches long and 6 inches wide.

Most likely it's a wild turtle; I've seen 'em in northern Idaho in Coeur d'Alene Lake, but never in Boise until Saturday. (If they survive the winters in north Idaho, south Idaho would be suitable as well. They are very elusive in the wild; if you get close, they'll usually jump off their sunny rock or log, and head for water.)

I've recently been reading "Yertle the Turtle" - the Dr. Seuss classic - to my granddaughter. And every time, she points to a turtle and says, "Want one!" So I sensed some planetary alignment and unexpected good fortune when I spotted my Boise turtle.

The next 11 miles of my bike ride were challenging, as I rode home one-handed, carrying a squirming turtle in the other. I got some strange expressions from a few passers-by who noticed. (If anybody had asked, I would've told 'em, "I tried bringing him along on a leash, but he just can't keep up!")

I called Mackie up to see what I had found, and put the turtle on the floor. She screamed hysterically and headed for the closest exit. I demonstrated to her that the turtle wouldn't attack her, and 30 seconds later everything was fine.

The turtle spent the weekend in a big wheelbarrow with dry "land" at one end and enough water to submerge in the other. He ate some lettuce and yummy tuna fish. That's not a good life for a turtle; this evening Mackie and I will take him home.

(She met a little garter snake earlier in the year under near-identical circumstances. Strangely, she was more terrified of the turtle than the snake. She doesn't like spiders, and I guess the turtle looks more like a spider.)

Friday, August 14, 2009

"Get off the road!"

Yesterday I was riding south on Cole Road, between Emerald and Franklin (near the mall), during afternoon "rush hour." I wasn't particularly comfortable, but I was riding legally, staying as far to the right as "practicable," and going around 20mph. (There aren't really many alternative routes in that immediate area, that are much better.)

Most of the motorists dealt with the sharing situation with patience and grace.

However, I had an encounter with one female motorist in a pathetic little green Neon.

She came up behind me and laid on the horn.

Like everyone else, within maybe 10 seconds she was able to go on by. As she drove by, she and her passengers were screaming "Get off the road!" at the top of their lungs.

(Is more education needed? Would that constitute "intimidation"? If I was supposed to be intimidated into hanging up the bike, it didn't work.)

Predictably, they proceeded to the next red light, where I caught up with them.

There were four people in the car, all most likely "Generation Z" (that's for "Zombie" - late teens or early 20s, with that glazed-over "gamer" expression on their faces).

I told the driver, "I'm sorry to hold you up. I didn't realize you were in such a hurry to get to the next red light."

She proceeded to tell me, in a soliloquy punctuated with profanity for maximum effect, how I had endangered their lives by forcing them to go out into the other lane. (It's a four-lane road, and they had to use the other lane that goes in the same direction to get by.)

I explained to her - although I felt like it was generally a waste of breath - that I was operating legally, and that sometimes faster traffic has to wait for a break to get around slower traffic. And that she should call the police if she felt I was violating the law.

If such a motorist thinks I'm anxious to share the road with somebody of her mentality and comprehension, she's got it all wrong! If she thinks I was deliberately delaying her - wrong! If she thinks her right to use the roadway takes precedence over mine - wrong! If she thinks that trying to share the road and work patiently with other roadway users to minimize the unpleasantness will diminish her quality-of-life or delay her in a meaningful way - she really needs to calmly consider whether honking and screaming is really the best solution.

(I always wonder if such folks would behave in exactly the same manner if they were being followed by a police officer. I'm thinking it's unlikely. Of course, I also like to think that a police officer would know and enforce the law in such a situation, although I really don't have any evidence to support that opinion.)

Bike safety improvements a-comin'?

A committee was convened by our city fathers, following three tragic and high-profile fatal car/bike accidents. From what I can determine, the committee was composed of cyclists of multiple stripes, city bureaucrats, representatives from the police department, etc.

They came up with a list of recommendations, which can be seen HERE. (PDF document)

Many of the recommendations seem like such "no brainers" that I almost wonder why they were included. Do we really need to clarify that you can't make a turn across the path of an oncoming cyclist? Or harass, intimidate and threaten cyclists? Are bike riders so dumb that they won't get off their bikes on a sidewalk that's teeming with pedestrians? WOW! We've really "dumbed down," haven't we?!!

The city is conducting two public comment sessions later this month. Interested parties should express their interest whenever possible. I intend to participate. Both sessions go from 6pm to 8pm.

1) August 25 at City Hall (150 N. Capitol Blvd.), 3rd Floor
2) August 27 at "City Hall West" (333 N. Sailfish Place), Sawtooth Room

Or comments can be emailed to

(Based on the number of hostile and ignorant comments that are posted following each bike-related story in the Statesman, I always wonder how we gained the status of being a "Bike Friendly Community." But in reality, I believe most of those comments are made by a small number of bellicose citizens, and don't reflect the prevailing opinion. At least I like to believe that most residents want to live in a city where it's safe to get around on a bike. It would be interesting to know how many of those anti-bike folks spout off and encourage the city fathers to ban bikes from the streets altogether.)

I continue to believe that all other issues are secondary to 1) enforcement and 2) education.

What's the point of updating our current laws, and perhaps adding new laws, if the police department has no intention of enforcing those laws? Has the Boise Police Department changed its stated policy, that "Bike violations are not a priority for the Department"?

And currently there is essentially no effort being made to educate people - both motorists and cyclists - about how to safely share the infrastructure. Or that bicycles are legal means of transportation on our roads - even the ones without bike lanes.

Monday, August 3, 2009

How about some BIKE CASH for Clunkers?

The lead story in the news is the astounding success (?) of the Cash-for-Clunkers program.

Just in case you've not emerged from under your rock for a week or so, here's how it works. If you surrender your worn-out old gas guzzling car for a more fuel-efficient model, the taxpayers will reward you with up to $4500 to apply to that new fuel sipper. The dinosaur is supposedly rendered never-again-operable with a fatal dose of stuff that gets poured into the engine. And apparently the $4500 reward to the taxpayer is in the form of a more fuel-efficient transportation fleet, and more prosperous new car dealers.

The program burned through $1 billion in a week, and they are currently trying to pick the taxpayers' pockets to the tune of another $2 billion.

Reader Scott asks, how cool would the Cash for Clunkers program be if, instead of $4000 per car, they gave $2000 cash toward a new car and $2000 toward a bike and bike accessories? Or toward alternative transportation, period.

Scott has a great point!

Why should this program only benefit car drivers? Why shouldn't I be able to unload my '66 Chevy pickup truck, and replace it with a sweet new 2-wheeler? Forget going from 10mpg to 30mpg - I'd go from 10mpg to infinite MPG!

A fella named Ed Wagner out of Tulsa, OK, makes another valid point. If you're in the Boise area, you should TOTALLY identify with this:

There's a constant refrain we hear from motorists who can't stand the thought of slowing down in order to pass a bicyclist safely. It appears with monotonous regularity in newspaper comments after nearly any story about cycling. "Bicyclists don't pay their fair share for the roads," they drone. "They don't pay taxes or licensing fees."

Ed explains (to whoever is open to FACTS) where road money comes from, and also points out that bicycle facilities are frequently scrapped because we can't afford 'em. And yet, when it comes to "cash for clunkers,"

... it appears motorists will be getting three billion dollars in subsidies this summer alone.

Let's see if the people who rant about cyclists "not paying their way" mention Cash for Clunkers! (Yeah, right!)

Ed's piece can be read HERE.

A guy named Adam Voiland makes a similar proposal, "Benjamins for Bikes." Sweeet!