City Council, With ACHD Commissioners, Hears From Bike Lane Stakeholders, Passes Anti-Camping Ordinance Amendment

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The Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners met Sept. 23 during a rare joint meeting to discuss a proposal from the bike lane stakeholders group. - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • The Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners met Sept. 23 during a rare joint meeting to discuss a proposal from the bike lane stakeholders group.

The Boise City Council and the Ada County Highway District Board of Commissioners heard from a group of stakeholders for Boise's bike lane project at a meeting the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 23. The stakeholder group proposed an ambitious plan for lanes along Capitol Boulevard that would be part of a still more ambitious plan to connect existing bicycle arteries in the downtown core to Boise State University, West Boise and beyond.

The proposal may eventually place buffered (painted) or protected (with vertical physical barriers between bikes and car traffic) lanes along Americana and Capitol boulevards, on the Broadway Bridge and Front Street, as well as dedicated lanes on other streets and "sharrows"—painted indications that motorists must share the road with cyclists.

But the aspect of the proposal that the stakeholders had most fleshed out was for Capitol Boulevard that includes a mixture of painted bike lanes or physically buffered lanes from Boise State all the way to the Capitol Building.

Though hashing over the Capitol Boulevard plan took up the bulk of the city council and ACHD's time, the achievement of the meeting was a consensus between ACHD and the City of Boise on enforcement of bike lane rules and the necessity for bicycle and motorist education to reduce frictions between the two primary users of Boise's roadways.

"We all need education for how to use any new structure we put in place," said ACHD Deputy Director of Planning and Projects Dave Wallace.

Referring to an ACHD poll that generated massive participation from motorists and cyclists alike during the controversial bike lane pilot project and found that many cyclists were using the lanes incorrectly or preferring to ride on city sidewalks, ACHD Commissioner Sarah Baker said that if the commissioners were going to sign off on a permanent set of bike lanes for downtown Boise, Boiseans would have to use those lanes correctly, and the city would have to create and enforce rules governing cyclists' lane use.

"What we got out of those comments is the unpredictability of bike riders. The rules need to come in as well," Baker said.

But city officials have long worried that the bike lane pilot project didn't last long enough for cyclists to learn and accustom themselves to bike lane rules. Boise City Council member Elaine Clegg countered Baker, saying that better bike lane use will come when bike lanes are installed.

"I think we're seeing a lot of bad behavior because there aren't a lot of good choices," she said.

City Council member Lauren McLean agreed.

"Once you paint and stripe an area, it won't be hard to get people to change their patterns," she said.

The Boise City Council also briefly discussed a proposed amendment to its anti-camping ordinance, which critics say targets the homeless. The ordinance was passed in a 5-1 vote, with the dissenting vote coming from Lauren McLean. It will prohibit police from enforcing the existing anti-camping law in the event that there is no room in an overnight shelter and the person sleeping or camping in a public space. Police may enforce the anti-camping ordinance if there is room in a shelter but has been removed because of unruly behavior, or is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

"[The homeless who are mentally ill or on drugs] are truly the most vulnerable," McLean said. "I have deep concerns."

Elaine Clegg and T.J. Thompson both said that the conversation about homelessness in Boise is ongoing, but that the amendment was a step in the right direction.

"There are solutions, but in our situation, we do need to re-engage this conversation on a very deep level. We're trying," Clegg said.

"It's not changing what we're doing now. We have a lot to do," Thompson said of the amendment.