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Mail and Commentary March 7, 2012

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"Hey Sierra Club of California ... What happens in Idaho, stays in Idaho!"

--anonymous,

(boiseweekly.com, Cobweb, "Shoot a Mountain Lion, Lose Your Job," March 1, 2012)

Snobby Republican

I found the comment from Domenic Gelsomino, state chairman of the Idaho Federation of College Republicans, distasteful: "We're tired of seeing moderate and liberal Republicans take over the mantle of our party. They're leading the party that is truly not the Republican way." (BW, Features, "Elephant in the Room," Feb. 29, 2012.) I would be curious what he feels is required to conform with the "Republican way." In the words of one of the presidential candidates, "what a snob" Mr. Gelsomino is.

--Bob Neilson,Meridian

Slap on the Wrist

Over the past year, Story Story Night has become my favorite monthly Boise activity, and I look forward to the funny, moving and insightful stories I am told every month. I have also found that I love sitting in the audience, that it makes me feel part of a warm, supportive community that comes together to listen to each other and share in happiness and grief. The audience at Story Story Night has always been supportive of each person that gets up on stage, laughing and sighing at all the right points (even if a story isn't that funny or sad or makes no sense at all).

However, this past event left me embarrassed to be part of the audience. During the story slam (when people from the audience tell five-minute off-the-cuff stories on the month's theme to win a great prize), the audience stirred, talked and at one point clapped loudly in order to get a speaker off the stage. In the audience's defense, the speaker had gone well over his five minutes. However, Story Story Night has never been about running people off stage.

Then, following the story slam, when the host thanked all the people that help put on the amazing shows, the audience talked loudly, got up and left. This is a production that I am positive hundreds of people in Boise appreciate, as it sells out every time, and yet when the time came to say thanks, the people who work so hard to put it on were disrespected. I hope that next month the audience remembers their manners.

--Emerald Shirley

Boise

Biking 101

Thank Goodness for the Boise Weekly and their uncanny ability to "poke the bear." I'm sure I'm not the only person to comment on Judy Taylor's letter to the editor, and I'm sure Judy was not the only driver to respond to Josh Gross' incredible reporting on the 3-foot law (BW, Features, "Road Wars," Feb. 8, 2011). However, there are several roads to take in rebuttal, and rather than taking the high road or the low road I'm going to venture down the road of actuality.

Judy's letter was really pretty good on a lot of levels; it probably captured the thoughts of a lot of drivers and pointed out some real flaws with cyclists. Its biggest triumph though, was that it truly captured/exposed the underlying problem with the debate of bikes vs. cars and sharing the road.

Drum role please ... lack of education. The first and easiest step to enlightenment is to look up Idaho Code-Title 49 Ch. 7 and examine some of the laws about human-powered vehicles (aka bicycles). Once there, think back to Judy's use of the phrase "motorist lane." This does not exist, it is actually a "vehicle lane" and according to code 49-714, "Every person operating a vehicle propelled by human power or riding a bicycle shall have all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle ... except as otherwise provided in this chapter."

Section 49-720 is one of the "otherwise" mentioned and shows that there are some specific stop laws, including "a human powered vehicle approaching a stop sign is required to slow down, and if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection." Basically treat it as a yield sign. For stoplights, "a bicycle approaching a steady red traffic-control signal shall stop before entering the intersection." Basically treat it like a stop sign.

The laws say that cyclists have just as much right to be on the road as Joe Chevrolet. It means Judy needs to relax a bit when a cyclist doesn't touch a toe if he/she gets to the four-way stop first. And it also means that cyclists need to learn, practice and obey the rules of the road.

Currently, half of the states in our country have standard Safe Routes to School curriculum in schools that make bicycle education mandatory, but not Idaho. In fact, Idaho's SRTS program, that teaches thousands of kids about bicycle transportation with practically no budget, is about to be axed so we can repave another mile of the interstate. Think about what the heroes at SRTS could do if we actually gave them resources instead of taking them away.

SRTS gives us a great foundation, which we should continue to fight for and build on throughout the education system. Next we should consider spending more than 10 minutes discussing bike and pedestrian interaction in drivers ed. Maybe instead of cow-interaction questions on the state drivers test, we should consider joining 32 other states in the United States that have at least one mandatory bike question on each test. This is the underlying problem. It isn't the cyclist's fault, it's not the driver's fault, it's the lack of education in our system and everyone's fault for not fighting for it.

Judy, where your letter really started to crumble was when you started using words like "them" and "us." We're all using the road and that's not going to change, so there is simply an "us." Among all of "us" are good and bad cyclist/drivers and the best we can do is educate everyone that's using the road in every way possible.

There is no need to be terrified of cyclists. Cyclists don't need you to swerve into the other lane to get around them but at least 3 feet would be nice. And legal. There is a lot of good info on the Idaho Transportation Department's webpage about bike and pedestrian road use and a lot of great bicycle nonprofits that are happy to help you overcome your fear of cyclists. Oh yeah, Judy, cyclists sometimes ride on the painted white line instead of the middle of "their" lane because they don't want to get nailed when a driver's side door swings open from a parked car parked. It hurts.

--Jimmy Hallyburton Boise

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