Thursday, October 29, 2009

Will the Task Force result in improved Cycling Safety?

[This one's pretty big, so here's the "Executive Summary": The Cycling Safety Task Force released a report with recommendations on how to improve cycling safety here in Boise. I like their recommendations, but question whether there's the "political will" among those who can make a difference, to do more than give it "lip service."]

The city's ad-hoc Cycling Safety Task Force has just released its final report.

It can be seen and/or downloaded HERE. (NOTE! It's pretty big - 71 pages, 4+mb PDF file. In traditional government fashion, I counted 19 pages that are essentially blank.)

The report says they used the LAB "Six Es" approach:
1. Engineering (road improvements, bike lanes, signage, signalization, visibility, maintenance).
2. Enforcement (code changes, enforcement priorities, penalties).
3. Education (cyclist/motorist training, promotional programs, publications, officer training).
4. Encouragement (Promotion of cycling as a healthy and environmentally sound method of transportation and recreation).
5. Equality (cyclists’ ability to utilize roadways and access all destinations).
6. Evaluation (continuous improvement).

My hat is off to the task force; they obviously had the best of intentions, and every one of the recommendations makes sense to this citizen/cyclist.

Except for their proposed redefinition of "bicycle." They want to change the definition to "include tricycles and other multicycles." Friends... the "bi" in bicycle means two! Even an edict from the City Council won't change that!

(It's kinda like redefining the word "marriage." But that's a whole 'nother discussion that I won't participate in, at least on the BikeNazi!)

I suppose it's easier to change the definition of "bicycle" in the City Code, than to alter every line of the code where "bicycle" is mentioned, to include "tricycles and multicycles." And I'm probably just being picky.

Highlights include several new proposed laws:
- "Reckless bicycling" is added to the Code, and classified as a misdemeanor.
- "Bicycle Licensing" is recommended. The intention is to aid in recovery of lost and stolen bicycles. They would charge an administrative fee to be determined by the City Council.
(A note - the City already has a voluntary registration database, where users can register their bikes via an online form at the City website. I did, several years back. So far, it apparently hasn't helped in recovering my bike which was stolen on Sept. 27.)
- Bike violations are infractions. Currently most are misdemeanors. Changing them to infractions makes them "civil" rather than "criminal," and reduces the fine to $5 plus court costs. (I believe the theory is that cops will be more likely to issue infraction citations, than they have been to issue misdemeanors.)
- "Three-foot rule" is added. "Whenever possible," a motorist must leave "a safe distance, but not less than 3 feet," between his vehicle and a bicycle/cyclist when passing. (The "whenever possible" renders the law non-enforceable, IMO.)
- Harassment of cyclists and pedestrians. It becomes a misdemeanor to threaten or throw (or otherwise expel!) stuff at walkers and riders. (Frankly, it's sobering that we might need such a law.)

Here's the problem with the changes in City Code, as I see it...

In a civilized society, laws are sometimes necessary to compel civil behavior. (In a perfect world, where everybody is responsible, they might not be needed at all.) Unfortunately, like parents who scream vile threats at their kids, but never follow through with punishment... laws that are enacted but not enforced are WORTHLESS! Until there is a change of heart by our law enforcers, who have shown no institutional will to enforce laws on cyclists (or on people who victimize cyclists), precious little will change in the real world.

And obviously the police can't be everywhere; we also need a general change of attitude on the part of the citizenry. But education and enforcement are the only way to get us slowly steered in that direction.

I'd be in favor of everything the Task Force recommended. (Except maybe their redefinition of "bicycle." I don't want to have to replace my Webster's!)


bob t said...

To me the three-foot verbiage sounds like "if it's not possible to pass safely then it's OK to pass unsafely".

Clancy said...

I agree on the 3 foot rule. Not gonna make anyone safer. I think this graph sums up bike safety at least for what bikers can do.

The Boise Picayune said...

Was there at the Council Meeting.

My answer... NO!

Just like texting-while-driving, there are ALREADY laws on the books that cover this issue.

Until the Prosecutors, Judges and Juries start hammering narcissists like the drugged out woman wheeling the Hummer that struck and killed a stopped cyclist, nothing-but-nothing-but-NOTHING will change.

Regardless of how many task forces meet, and ordinances are past.