ACHD Votes 'No' to Bike Lanes on Main, Idaho Streets in Downtown Boise 

click to enlarge RYAN JOHNSON
  • Ryan Johnson

The Ada County Highway District Commission on July 6 voted 3-2 against new bike lane infrastructure on Main and Idaho streets in downtown Boise.

"I think it's a recipe for disaster," said Commissioner Rebecca Arnold, who voted with Commissioners Sara Baker and Kent Goldthorpe against installing parking-protected bike lanes on the downtown thoroughfares. 

Those who voted against the motion, brought by Commissioner Jim Hansen, said there was too much development taking place downtown and the city of Boise had not yet passed any ordinances to enforce correct use of the bike lanes.

"I guess I'm a little disappointed you guys haven't jumped on that," Baker said.

Commissioners Paul Woods and Hansen, however, said the time is ripe for building the lanes, which have been on the city's wish list for years.

"The market is growing and Boise clearly wants in on this market," Hansen said. 

The "market" in question is the share of commuters and visitors downtown using bicycles as their primary mode of transportation. While downtown car traffic has remained stable since the 1990s, bicycle traffic has increased. City leaders, including Boise City Council President Elaine Clegg, said bike lanes are key to grow bicycle traffic where car traffic has stalled.

"The mode share will never be what it might be [if we don't have these facilities]," she said. "People are finding alternative ways to use downtown."

click to enlarge The city of Boise's preferred buffered bike lane option would remove a lane of traffic from Idaho and Main streets. - KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes
  • The city of Boise's preferred buffered bike lane option would remove a lane of traffic from Idaho and Main streets.
Public opinion on the measure was mixed, though most who testified before the commission said they were in favor of bike lanes protected from automobile traffic by parked cars. They included business owners, people who live near downtown and interest groups like the Capital City Development Corporation and Conservation Voters for Idaho. 

Chris Haunold, owner of Idaho Mountain Touring, said he ultimately supported bike lanes on Main and Idaho streets, despite believing the net effect  would be to decrease car traffic.

"I think it's imperative people have a way to get back and forth in Boise," he said.

Arnold and Baker both pointed to nine development projects taking place downtown as reason to hold off on making a permanent decision about bike lanes. Construction in the area has closed off vehicle lanes and diverted traffic, slowing cars' passage through the downtown core.

For city of Boise Comprehensive Planning Manager Darren Fluke, however, construction is an opportunity, not a barrier, for bike lanes.

"There literally isn't a better time for something like this than as these projects are wrapping up," he said.

Though the commission voted against the measure, it may revisit the issue once construction in the downtown core has been completed. In the meantime, the removal of parking spaces on Jefferson Street and striping of a bike lane there are set to continue, though the commission will address that issue at its Wednesday, July 13 meeting.
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