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Boise Bike Week's Ride of Silence: Critical Injuries, Killed Cyclists and a Call to Action

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Matt Edmond assists some of the younger participants before the May 18 Ride of Silence. - PATTY BOWEN
  • Patty Bowen
  • Matt Edmond assists some of the younger participants before the May 18 Ride of Silence.


Standing on the corner of Kootenai and Owyhee streets May 18, Jimmy Hallyburton, founder and executive director of Boise Bicycle Project, shared some grisly details of the Sept. 23, 2015 crash that critically injured 6-year-old Max Wyatt.

“Last September, Max and his dad, Joe, were riding back from school and crossed over the intersection. [The driver] saw Joe but she didn’t see Max,” said Hallyburton. “She started going across the intersection—even though Joe and Max had the right of way—and basically hit him and dragged him for 50 feet or so.”

After being pulled from beneath the car, the child required 13 surgeries, several skin grafts and a three-month stay at a Salt Lake City children’s hospital.

Treasure Valley bicyclists listened to the story moments before embarking on the 2016 Ride of Silence, a highlight of Boise Bike Week. Riders wore black armbands and, true to the spirit of the event, rode in silence to honor the deaths and recall the injuries of bicyclists hit by vehicles, both locally and across the United States. 

Now in its ninth year, the Ride of Silence briefly stopped at the intersection of Kootenai and Owyhee—where Wyatt was hit—before riding on to Boise State University for a road safety forum led by Hallyburton, Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance President Lisa Brady and TVCA board member Tom Laws. 

The stop at Kootenai and Owyhee sparked riders to later talk with the younger Wyatt and his family at the Boise State forum.

“It’s a terrible, terrible crash, but there are good things that happened because of it,” Hallyburton said. “Because of Max’s family’s hard work and them being willing to be a voice ... there’s going to be initiatives to keep more kids from being hit.”

Hallyburton added that on Thursday, May 26, the Wyatt family will be at the Idaho Capitol when Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter designates May as Bicycle Safety and Awareness Month.

The Ride of Silence is a highlight of the annual Boise Bike Week. - PATTY BOWEN
  • Patty Bowen
  • The Ride of Silence is a highlight of the annual Boise Bike Week.
“By working with Gov. Otter and the Idaho Transportation Department, we were actually able to get mandatory bicycle questions put on the statewide drivers education exam,” said Hallyburton. “It's already effective; and anyone going through drivers education now knows that there’s going to be at least one or two questions about pedestrian and bicyclist safety on the exam, so instructors have to teach it.”

During the panel discussion portion of the forum, attendees crafted a list of community initiatives that would make Boise safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. Hallyburton said he would share the list on the Boise Bicycle Projects Facebook page, and community members can then help pick the top three to further initiate.

“The reason that things like the drivers license questions happen is because the community has so much outreach. For anything to really happen it is going to take these grassroots initiatives,” he said.

Capital City Development Corporation project manager, TVCA board member and Ride of Silence participant Matt Edmond said by simply biking more, citizens can make the roads safer.

“Ninety percent of people in these areas go to and from work by driving, and I think that’s such a result of the last hundred years where virtually every public policy favored the private automobile. That really brought about the paradigm we currently see,” said Edmond. “If we were to balance that out a little bit, I think we’d see a lot more people biking.”

Edmond said by getting more cyclists on roads, drivers will get used to looking out for them. Even though Edmond said he considered most Boise drivers to be conscious of cyclists, he doesn’t always feel safe biking with his two kids.

“It’s very scary going out with kids who don’t have the best judgment and who are just learning these things and really needing to stay on top of it,” Edmond said. “It’s important to acknowledge bicyclists as vulnerable road users, especially recently when we have people like Max, who got struck.”

Laws added that the city of Boise was “heading in the right direction” because it has started to “look at transportation from a full perspective.”  One improvement, he said, was the creation of so-called “complete streets.”

“The idea behind [complete streets] is making streets accessible to all users, whether you’re a walker, a biker or an automobile driver,” Laws said.

Laws works at COMPASS, the regional planning agency for Ada County, and explained that pedestrian and bike counters installed this year in Boise will ultimately make creating complete streets even easier.

“Now we’re able to take that data and expand upon it, asking 'What are the seasonal trends?' and, 'When does bike use go up and down?' And we'll be looking at the difference between commuter and recreation,” he said. “I’d say in the past two years our knowledge of walking and biking has really grown tremendously.”

Hallyburton urged more citizens to be involved with any one of the number of initiatives that will be shared following Boise Bike Week.

“It’s got to be a bigger community project than just the Boise Bicycle Project or just the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance," he said. "Regardless of what you think of bicyclists, everybody wants a kid be able to ride and walk to school safely. That’s something that is pretty universal.”