Hopscotch Bike Lanes

According Bicycling.com Boise holds the #30 spot on the list for most bikable cities. The website cites the 22-mile Boise River Greenbelt Trail, 100+ miles of mountain biking trails in the Boise Foothills and the Boise Bicycle Project as the reasons Boise was given the #30 spot. These are, indeed, assets to the community but bikability falls short when cycling anywhere else around town.

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A stretch of the Boise Greenbelt, http://www.flickr.com, accessed 10-21-13

The transportation corridors throughout the Treasure Valley focus attention on the use of cars, without consistently providing choices for other modes of transportation. This has reinforced a car-centric mentality for many citizens of the area. A map created by the Ada County Highway District highlights the existing cycling infrastructure. Looking at this map one clearly sees the missing links to smooth travel between the north, south, east and west edges of the valley. With the kind of connectivity currently in place, finding a safe route with space allocated for cycling is next to impossible. Traveling too far west puts cyclists into no man’s land. Cars are given priority and any other transportation mode is an afterthought. Primary transportation corridors seem to ignore the possibility of any transportation mode other than a car.

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Typical result of construction of highways encouraging the further construction of highways, http://www.wikimedia.org, accessed 10-21-13

While recent work to widen Highway 44 near Linder Road included segments of bike lane, the clear priority is to quickly move cars along the highway. Despite the width of pavement provided for cyclists, using this lane would be challenging because it only exists for a short stretch and cars are prioritized, as the goal of the project is clearly to move more cars through the intersections. However, the Idaho Transportation Department, as a part of their administrative policy (A-28-04) stated their commitment to achieve “a safe, effective and balanced multimodal transportation system”, including the development of “the transportation infrastructure to improve conditions for bicycling and walking”.

The Downtown Boise Implementation Plan details the plans for improved opportunities for traveling with downtown Boise in a variety of ways, creating safer spaces for pedestrians and cyclists while maintaining vehicle accessibility. The plan is intended to be implemented within the next 5-7 years. This is great for the central area of the city. Hopefully, this will start a valley wide trend for more cycling. While many who work and play in the downtown area live in nearby residential areas, much of the downtown Boise workforce are commuting from farther west.

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Looking down Capitol Blvd http://farm1.staticflickr.com, accessed 10-21-13

Additional plans and policies approved over the last few years encourage focus on increasing the safety and access for pedestrians and cyclists. One example of such is the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) Complete Streets Policy. COMPASS also provides a guide for communities to follow to enhance their bikability.

While what we currently have is not great, according to the plans, things will be getting better.

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3 thoughts on “Hopscotch Bike Lanes

  1. Thanks for writing this Jen, good article. After living away from Boise for three years I was surprised at the level of improvements in just that short of a time — and the increased numbers of cyclists (and not just the lycra & spandex set). And frankly, if Bicycling magazine ranked San Francisco as number 8 on its list of most bike friendly places — it must be using some sort of weird New Math in its calculations. In comparison to Boise, SF’s bike infrastructure sucks (lack of bike racks, prohibition of bikes on BART during commute hours, etc.).

    • Thanks Dean! This came from personal experience and reflection that stimulated further investigation. The rankings are a little odd. I’d like to see some for “most improved” instead of just a strait list of winners.

  2. This brings up a real issue of the disconnected nature of bike lanes here in Boise. I often don’t ride my bike to places that I would like to because getting to a bike friendly area where I feel safe requires riding down a busy street with no bike lane. I do hope to see more connectivity and better options for cycling, not just around Boise but around the valley.

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