I sent this message to the Boise City Council and the Deputy Police Chief who was in attendance:
Dear members of the Boise City Council, and Deputy Chief:
Greetings. I wanted to follow up on the 1/12 Council meeting, where the topic of cyclist safety was discussed and new ordinances passed. You may remember me; I testified. Mostly I wanted to convey my belief that more aggressive enforcement of bicycle-related laws is the best thing the City can do, to improve cyclist safety. (Although I can support all of the new laws passed.)
In my opinion, the high water mark of the meeting was when Councilman Shealy said, "The safety of the cyclist is more important than the convenience of the vehicle." Amen to that! I think we all can agree. Not only that, I believe most Boise citizens would be in total agreement.
But nonetheless, I believe many citizens view cyclists as a "protected special class," and frequently as above the law. They tend to remember those heart-attack moments when they barely miss some bone-headed bike rider who's swerving from lane to lane with his earplugs jammed in, or who blasts through a red light as if he's the only person on the planet. (Graceful interactions with responsible cyclists are quickly forgotten. The brain is funny that way.)
I don't know if you read the comments posted at the Statesman website, in response to the stories. The last time I checked the story about the Tuesday Council meeting, there were 150 comments. Many were from disgruntled motorists, angry - in many cases rightfully angry - about boorish cyclist behavior. The new laws, perceived to be additional "protections" for poorly-behaving cyclists, will only foster the hard feelings. One guy says he'll add some 3-foot pieces of rebar to his pickup truck, so he can make sure to obey the new 3-foot law. Surely most of the comments are just folks "blowing off steam," but they are likely rooted in genuine feelings.
As a 24-year, 130,000-mile veteran of year-round transportation cycling on the streets of Boise, I continue to believe - strongly - that the best way to improve cyclist safety is significantly more vigorous enforcement of "bike" laws.
Write some tickets for "reckless cycling"! Please!!
When a cyclist "blows thru a red light"? Write him up!
Riding against traffic? I requested statistics from the Police Department. In a recent five-year period, five tickets TOTAL were issued by BPD for that violation! I've seen five violations in a day! (Many riding directly toward me, and I have NO idea what they'll do when we converge.)
By stepping up enforcement, and making sure it is publicized, you can send out some important messages:
1) You can serve notice to bicycle riders that they, too, are expected to know, understand, and follow the law.
2) You can reinforce in the minds of the "motoring public" that bicycles are legitimate vehicles, and that cyclists have not only the RIGHTS, but the RESPONSIBILITIES of being roadway users.
From the Task Force Final Report's (PDF, 4.2MB) "hoped for" results: "Enforce 8" making most violations infractions, "Violators more likely cited; provides greater ability to deal with juveniles." I hope that prediction pans out.
And from "Educate 7" bicycle law training for police, "Raise officer awareness of relationships surrounding bicycle/motorist interactions."
The Task Force was a great contribution to continually making our community more bike-friendly. My viewpoint is that education and enforcement are where we are most severely lacking, and the Boise Police Department can take that ball and run with it... if they choose to do so. (And of course I understand that they're already understaffed and overworked. My hat is off to our men and women in blue! I just hope they can make a deliberate decision to bump up "bike enforcement" a notch or two. It could make a HUGE difference, particularly if there is some publicity. If you give some tickets to bad cyclists, I can promise that the good cyclists will be in your corner!)
Thanks, for your generally-thankless work.