by Andrew Crisp
Attendees crowded into the U.S. Bank Plaza June 6, quickly divided between support and criticism as they pored over plans to reshape downtown Boise’s streets. An open house hosted by the Ada County Highway District, City of Boise and redevelopment agency the Capital City Development Corporation featured white poster boards, filled with public comment that largely revolved around biking.
“Biking should not jeopardize a private residence with one car only parking at their HOME,” wrote one visitor.
“We need less parking/more bikes … There are no cars at Disneyland and people love it!” wrote another.
“I support replacing parking with bike facilities. This requires a change of habit-thought-activity. Difficult adjustment but vital to improving overall transportation system.”
At issue were components of a substantial makeover of the city’s streets, the clunkily named Downtown Boise Implementation Plan, which calls for conversion of a handful of one-way streets to two-way traffic, the addition of more bike lanes and bike racks, and perhaps even roundabout intersections, not to mention fresh pavement.
Creating a more comprehensive bike route network is one of the program’s goals, according to Craig Quintana, ACHD Chief Information Officer. Those projects are designed to coincide with work already slated for Boise’s streets.
“We just want to coordinate it, so we’re one and done,” he said. “People don’t want death by a thousand cuts—‘Oh you went and put a sewer line in, oh you did the geothermal, oh you did the sidewalks, and now you’re doing the asphalt?’ People want it all done at once, so you just rip the Band-Aid off.”
It’s a chapter some downtown cyclists are eager to see written. Public comment called for better routes across dangerous roads like Front and Myrtle Streets. The public used sticky notes to add their comments to colorful maps of the city.
As for re-striping some of the city’s one-way roads to two-way streets, “It’s back to the future,” said Boise City Council member Elaine Clegg.
“They were always two-way streets. We changed them to one-way streets with the understanding that, somehow, we needed to move more cars through downtown,” she said. “What we really need is to get people downtown.”
Clegg said the conversion could change how citizens interact with those roads.
“There’s a lot of evidence that [two-way streets] provide better commercial activity and better access. They slow down traffic to an appropriate speed, while still letting people get through to places they need to, and just better overall,” she said.
Quintana said ACHD plans to partner with the city and CCDC to install other amenities, which could include facilities to make downtown more friendly to alternative modes of transportation
“It would be great if we had a couple of air stations,” he said. “Let’s face it, you might carry a patch kit and a tube, but you hit some glass, and it’s going to be more than you can fix on the side of the road.“
Just how bike-friendly the plan will be when implemented remains to be seen. But Quintana confirmed building a downtown more accessible by two-wheels—rather than four—is one of the goals.
“We might not be there right off the bat, but yes, certainly to make it a more bike-friendly downtown. This is really only supposed to be the next five years, and who knows what comes next,” he said. “This is the first chapter.”