A more complete picture of cycling in Boise should come into focus later this year. Plans call for three days of bike counts, starting Tuesday, May 15, covering dozens of Boise intersections. Quite appropriately, the count will launch during Boise Bike Week.
"We might have as many as 3 percent of the population riding their bikes to and from work," said Dave Fotsch, spokesman for the Central District Health Department and a bike count volunteer. "I see a lot of bikes out there, but you need a way to quantify that."
The 2012 count will mark the first time since the census began in 2007 that more than one survey will occur in a calendar year. The last count was held in September 2011. Rick Overton, one of the organizers, said that taking the temperature of bike usage often is crucial to having more concrete numbers.
"We feel like we are better heard when we can come to the table and actually have data and contextualize it," said Overton. "Having numbers gets us a lot more attention and respect."
The data is expected to serve as a foundation for future regional planning. When municipalities and transportation agencies look at infrastructure, analysts traditionally pore over motor vehicle data. However, as more cyclists hit the streets, groups are challenged with how to monitor usage for safety and efficiency in a car-heavy world.
"With a bike, there is no licensing, so there's no real way to reel them in, educate them and get them all on the same page," said Overton.
While the Ada County Highway District manages the roads, Boise manages its most-popular bike arterial, the Greenbelt system, within the city limits. When Boiseans clamor for more bike paths on city streets, they have to move through the county agency.
"When ACHD was doing the counts, they weren't really that concerned with the Greenbelt," said Overton. "There's no policy objectives for them there, and we were a little bit frustrated by that."
The volunteers hope to bring cohesion to the confluence of agencies associated with the issue--ACHD, cities along the Greenbelt and the Idaho Transportation Department.
"There are all these disconnects, and there is nobody in a management position to bring these together," said Overton. "It's generally people outside the system that bring this stuff together."