Parked vehicles pose danger in downtown bike lane

Don Day/BoiseDev.com

Don Day/BoiseDev.com

Downtown Boise famously is low on bike lanes.  But one stretch of road, controlled or influenced by the Capital City Development Corporation - does have a lane. It's painted green, blocked off from traffic, and relatively wide.

The lane travels on 8th Street from Main St. to Bannock St., and also picks up on an ACHD-controlled stretch from Broad St. to Myrtle St.

But on numerous recent occasions, we have observed the lane blocked by all manner of vehicles - including delivery trucks,  utility vehicles and even a fire truck.

BoiseDev illustration

BoiseDev illustration

In some cases (the fire truck), that's justified.  But most of the time, trucks blocking the bike lane causes a major issue.  Many of the violations are from delivery trucks - which are supposed to only make deliveries on the street between 6am and 10am - and park in the metered space area on the other side of the street (or on the case of the area near Broad St. - in the pullout by PF Chang's). 

The lane is what is known as "contra-flow" - meaning it is supposed to be used by cyclists riding against traffic on the one-way road.  Cyclists who want to go the other way are supposed to share the vehicle lane.

But when trucks block the contra-flow lane, cyclists are often forced out into the lane of travel - with cars coming the other direction.

BoiseDev requested public records of enforcement actions by either the Boise Police Department or the City of Boise's Downtown Parking Enforcement group.  The public records requests took about two weeks to fully fulfill.

Boise Police has not issued any tickets this year.

The Parking Enforcement team has - with six bike lane violations, seven bike lane warnings and seven fire lane parking violations since January 1st - an average about one each per month.

"Bike officers as well as parking enforcement personnel actively patrol and watch for problems on 8th street and other popular biking thoroughfares," Boise Police Department Communication Manager and Public Information Officer Haley Williams said. "This is a high use area for a number of people and for that reason we are constantly working with stakeholders to find a balance between safety and usability in the downtown core. "

After BoiseDev's initial inquiry on June 16th, and at least one constituent letter and several social media queries, BPD dispatched officers to check for issues.  Williams said they did not find anyone in the bike lane while out patrolling on June 21st - but they plan to keep watching.

"Currently our Neighborhood Contact Officer for downtown, bike officers, and other downtown police officers are patrolling 8th street on a daily basis," WIlliams said. "They are also in contact with the businesses who make and accept deliveries there."

Boise's political leadership has advocated for increasing the number of bike lanes downtown -- with most streets controlled by the Ada County Highway District.

Williams echoed the thoughts of city leaders - and said her department believes handing out tickets doesn't solve the problem.

"Officers address the issue of blocked bike lanes when they see it either by citation or education but long term the solution is not enforcement. It’s about finding the best way to have bike lanes going through the city."

Drivers who get one of the citations will pay $40.