Jimmy John's Cyclists: A Unique 'Focus Group' That Isn't Exactly a Fan of Pilot Bike Lanes in Boise 

"I don't like the idea of my whole side being a blind spot to a car."

Jimmy John's delivery rider Tim Cornell: "I use [the bike lanes], but because I want to."

Kelsey Hawes

Jimmy John's delivery rider Tim Cornell: "I use [the bike lanes], but because I want to."

At 11:30 a.m. on a weekday, Jimmy John's downtown sandwich shop: --known for its "freaky fast" delivery: --fills with 17 young men in red bike jerseys, helmets, elbow and knee pads. As soon as an order comes in, one of them literally runs through the store and hops onto one of the 17 bikes cluttering the racks out front. From then, it's on.

If you want to be the fastest Jimmy John's delivery rider, Shane Scaggs said you have to plan your route down to every curb hop and lane change. Being fast is rewarded with better pay and first pick of shifts.

Bike routes for Jimmy John's delivery riders recently changed when Ada County Highway District created buffered bike lanes on Capitol Boulevard, Main Street and Idaho Street early this month. Scaggs, who is now bike captain for Jimmy John's, has navigated downtown streets for three years and he isn't sure about the changes.

"I like the bike lanes, they're big and spacious. I like the candlesticks, which prevents the driver from feeling like they can use the lane at all," Scaggs said. "But I don't like that there's parking spaces on the outside of the bike lane. I don't like the idea of my whole side being a blind spot to a car. I would rather be inches away from the car where I can see what it's doing."

Scaggs went to the Ada County Highway District planning meetings for the bike lanes before they were installed. He told them "over and over" that they can have the safest bike lanes of anywhere, but without education of motorists and cyclists alike, it won't be effective.

"I put the emphasis mostly on the motorists because a bicyclist at the end of the day is just trying to protect their life. A motorist is trying to protect, what, their rearview mirror or something?" Scaggs said.

Riley Brunett has worked at Jimmy John's for two years and rides his bike up to 30 miles a day delivering sandwiches downtown. He feels the same concern over the parked cars between the bike lane and traffic. He worries the most about intersections, when it's possible the driver will see him only at the last second.

"It hides us, so now the drivers can't see us. I can't make eye contact with the driver, and that's my biggest issue. I can't see that this person acknowledges I'm there." Brunett said.

He also said he feels more at risk with drivers opening their doors into the bike lane. When shooting for a six-minute delivery time, calculating driver doors isn't helpful.

"Besides that, it's great," Brunett said. "It's a good direction and I'm glad [the city] is doing it."

"I use them, but not because I want to," said Tim Cornell, another delivery rider. "For us, they're questionable. I think for slower bikers with kids, it's good because it does provide some protection. But for us, I think it's definitely not a good idea. For any road cyclist going more than 15 miles an hour, there's a real risk of getting hit by cars turning across the bike lane. The cars can't even see you half the time, and that's if they're looking. Most of them don't even look."

Cornell rides six hours a day, five days a week, observing how bikers and traffic respond to the changes.

"I get that cars definitely aren't into it," he said. "Is it safer? For some cyclists maybe. For us, definitely not."

Two Jimmy John's delivery riders were hit by cars in the first week of the pilot program, though one of the cyclists was off work at the time. Both happened at an intersection where the motorist made a turn across the bike lane, striking the cyclists.

"A near miss is like an everyday thing when you're riding your bike downtown," Scaggs said.

ACHD's pilot program will last through May, and possibly extend into June. Planners said by the third week of May they will determine whether to stretch the pilot into June.

"I think within 30 to 60 days, we can find the information we need," ACHD Vice President Mitchell Jaurena told Boise Weekly (BW, "Citydesk, "Big Traffic Changes," April 28, 2014). "Nobody likes change. That said, we'll take all of the comments as factors and give it our most honest evaluation.

ACHD officials encourage cyclists and motorists alike to complete an online survey on their website: achd.org/projects.

But the new lanes will need to disappear, at least temporarily, in July when some major work is done to Capitol Boulevard's pavement. Beyond that, it's anybody's guess if the pilot will earn its wings for a long-distance commute.

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