Kyle Swanstrom

Class project evolves into police reference tool

| May 09, 2012
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- Jeremy Lanningham

Kyle Swanstrom is not the most-famous cyclist in Boise and he's far from the most prolific. In fact, the 19-year-old, 6-foot, 5-inch high-school senior wishes he rode more.

"I would love to get on my bike more than I do," he said. "Now that the weather is better, I'm definitely going to ride more often."

But Swanstrom, who will be graduating from Boise High School on Thursday, May 31, and heading to the University of Idaho in the fall, will leave his hometown with a lasting legacy—The Boise Cyclists' Pamphlet—already being used by the Boise Police Department. To personally thank him for his efforts, Swanstrom recently had a couple of unexpected visitors at Boise High: Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and Chief of Police Mike Masterson.

Where did the idea of your pamphlet come from?

I take a Leadership and Community Responsibility class. It's an elective that I think more students should be taking. I approached my teacher, Jan Solberg, with an idea to help out the bike community.

On occasion, we've seen a tense divide between drivers and cyclists in Boise.

Absolutely, but what I've seen is a lack of understanding between the two groups, and that has definitely contributed to some of that divide. I wanted to increase the knowledge of what bicyclists can and can't do. And I wanted to get that information into the hands of as many people as possible: cyclists, drivers, everybody. I can tell you, as a driver, that I've seen bicyclists can do some crazy things.

Like what?

Biking the wrong way, for one thing. And blowing completely through intersections without even looking. But there are things that cyclists can do that drivers can't.

Such as going through stoplights.

But only if you're not interrupting the flow of traffic. Nothing is a substitute for Boise City Code, but the pamphlet is a quick reference to get a really good idea of what you can and can't do.

When comparing Idaho's rules of the road to Boise in particular, I'm certain that you found that our city has some unique protocols.

Like Boise's contra-bike lanes, which go against traffic. BODO probably has the most visible contra-lanes in the city. It's a specifically designed lane because they don't want bikes crowding the sidewalk and the cyclists need to be able to flow at a good pace.

And Boise has its much-discussed 3-Feet-to-Pass law.

Which makes it particularly tough for motorists when cyclists are on the edge of that bike lane.

Did you work with the police department to put your pamphlet together?

You don't want to start a project unless you know if it's needed or not. They validated that. Plus, they knew all the resources I would need to get the correct information.

You're on your way to college soon, so who will be responsible for printing and distributing the pamphlets?

Ms. Solberg pointed out that sustainability was a big question. If it's sustainable, it will be around forever. The police told me that they wanted it on their department's website, which is great because anyone can access that. They have also printed it out for all of their officers to use as a quick reference to put in their ticket book. Police officers can't memorize everything and the quick references help.

Police Chief Mike Masterson and Mayor Dave Bieter showed up at your school April 12 to say thanks.

We were having an assembly to get some information about prom, and when I walked into the gym, I saw a number of police officers and then I saw my parents. That was a pretty big surprise.

That must have been a pretty big deal.

I thought they were joking when they said I should make a speech, but that's what happened. I told my class that anyone could do what I had done and they all had that power. I have an incredible class of peers. That day was pretty decent.

How will you spend your summer before heading off to college?

I applied to be a firefighter either for the Forest Service or the BLM. Plus, I like to hang out with my girlfriend, Shelby.

Is she graduating as well?

She's a junior, but she wants to go the U of I in 2013.

Are you having those awkward conversations about what happens when you go away to college?

Yeah, bummer.

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