Ada County Highway District

ACHD's Road Wizard Sunday, May 20, 2018 ACHD's Road Wizard

Pedestrian pathway on Five Mile Road has a curved curb that seems to cross the path at Blackhawk Court; readers react to the bicyclist-activated crosswalk flashing lights at River and 8th Street in Downtown Boise.

The Road Wizard Replies

Dear Road Wizard: On Five Mile Road both north and south of Victory Road the shoulder is separated from the road by a low concrete curb. This "protects" the kids walking to school. As a cyclist, I rarely ride in that protected shoulder, since it is often filled with sand, tree roots, and other debris. But one especially busy traffic night I rode in the shoulder. While watching for traffic and debris I came upon a curved curb that cut across the shoulder at the intersection with Blackhawk Court. I slammed on the brakes and turned hard right, missing going over the handlebars by inches. It is a scary hazard. Please help get any curved section of curb removed.


Road Wizard:

This may seem like a literal curved-curb crash course, but there is something to learn about the placement of the curbing. It was done intentionally because the pathway is meant to serve as a sidewalk, not as a bike lane.

The pedestrian priority was important because there wasn't a shoulder to speak of along much of Five Mile in this area, and there were sections without sidewalks. The path was built by ACHD to link what sidewalks have been constructed to provide a safer way for children to walk to and from school. The pathway was created by extending the road shoulder and installing curbing to prevent motorists from driving into the path.

At Blackhawk, the pathway angles away from the road and connects with an existing sidewalk that sits back a bit from Five Mile. Having the curbing follow the path of the path guides pedestrians to the sidewalk, especially people who are visually impaired and benefit from a physical indication of where to go. Without the curbing, the path might seem to send users into the middle of the road.

So the curb will stay, but ACHD plans to install some reflective markers or paint so bicyclists will have better advance notice of the curb, additions that will be especially helpful in low-light conditions. Although the path wasn't designed specifically for bicyclists, they are welcome to use it with care.

Dear Road Wizard: I think those bicyclist-activated crosswalk flashing lights at River and 8th streets in Downtown Boise make it less safe for a bicyclist even if they don't think they grant the right of way. When I see the lights flashing in the crosswalks, I am looking on the sidewalks to see if the person who hit them is still around and about to step out. I am certainly not looking behind the stop signs to see if a bicycle is about to pull out in front of me.


Road Wizard:

Josh, thank you for the feedback after your original inquiry appeared in the column on April 29. For those who missed it, there is a crosswalk push button positioned on the side of the street on 8th so bicyclists approaching the stop sign at River can activate the crosswalk-in-use lights. Another reader suggested reminding people that a bicyclist would be guilty of failing to yield to motorists at a stop sign if they pulled out in front of cross traffic when the crosswalk lights were flashing.

ACHD is planning to reconstruct some sidewalk ramps at the intersection in June. After that work is finished, traffic engineers will determine exactly what should be improved about the bicyclist button.

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