Sometimes I’m sure my coffee compulsion will get me in trouble.
I ride my bicycle to work as much as I can in the summer, and I could easily bypass Fairview Avenue on the commute from my West Boise home. Cycling might tone my quads but my judgment remains flabby; many mornings, I still hit the Starbucks at Fairview and Cole Road to pick up a coffee.
This decision places me in the teeth of Ada County’s second-worst cycling intersection. As Patrick Orr reported Sunday, 10 car-bicycle accidents occurred at Fairview and Cole from 2007 to 2011. The worst intersection, with 11 accidents, is up the road a few miles, where Fairview meets Meridian Road and Cherry Lane.
I’m going to focus on Fairview and Cole today — because I know it firsthand, and because it nicely illustrates some of Boise’s cycle commuting problems.
The first and most glaring problem is infrastructure. Fairview and Cole were not designed to accommodate cyclists. Bike lanes are non-existent; shoulders are narrow. Even if everybody does everything right, following the rules and extending common courtesy, the roads put two-wheelers and four-wheelers in close proximity. You can ride Fairview, but it is by no means relaxing.
Some help is on the way at least at the intersection. A $5.6 million widening project is scheduled for 2017. The project will include bicycle lanes, said Matt Edmond, a senior transportation planner with the Ada County Highway District. As for widening Fairview, and adding bike lanes on either side of the Cole intersection, that work won’t begin for at least a decade.
That’s a long wait, and it dovetails with another problem. Bicycle commuters, like motorists, have a destination that usually requires them to take a main road. Even when I’m giving in to my coffee cravings, I spend as little time on Fairview as possible.
But it’s unrealistic to expect cyclists to do all their commuting on quiet, cycling-friendly side streets; it doesn’t always work that way.
So there we are. What’s the answer? It all comes back to a few basics.
• Know the rules of the road. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what the laws allow cyclists to do, and I’m not surprised.
The laws are confusing — and cyclists have their own set of rules.
If you take away anything from today’s column, let’s start here. To a cyclist, a red light is like a stop sign; cyclists can proceed after stopping and yielding right of way. A stop sign is akin to a yield sign; cyclists can proceed after slowing down and yielding right of way. If motorists and cyclists could just get on the same page about the rules, that would be a good start. (This one-page rundown from the Idaho Transportation Department is a good resource.)
• Don’t be stupid. This goes for cyclists and motorists alike. I’ve seen plenty of dumb decisions on both sides. Not just a disregard for the law, but a disregard of common sense.
Considering that the odds don’t favor cyclists who crash with cars, it forever baffles me to see some riders treat the commute like it’s their own personal time trial (that’s Kristin Armstrong’s forte, not yours).
• Don’t be rude. Most cyclists and motorists just want to get along. For every one motorist who honks, yells or otherwise hassles a cyclist, there are countless others who ease over to provide space, or wave a cyclist in at an intersection. But it’s the rude motorists, and the jerks on two wheels, who leave the lasting impression.
I know confusion over the laws and reckless decisions can lead to bad feelings. That doesn’t excuse bad behavior.
On Fairview, cyclists and motorists are in for a long hard ride. Lots of morning commutes in tight quarters. We’d best get used to each other.