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David Wallace
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dwallace@achdidaho.org
 
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Downtown Boise Bicycle Plan

General Description

ACHD Commissioners on September 3, 2014 heard a briefing about creating a two-way, cycle track for bicyclists on Capitol Boulevard from River Street to Cesar Chavez Lane, potentially opening a new north-south gateway for cyclists into Boise.

Also, Commissioners were told of the possibility of adding a buffered bike lane -- one separated by a wide, painted barrier -- to most of the boulevard from River to Jefferson streets and adding a protected bike lane -- one separated by a line of parked cars -- along Boise City Hall. Unlike the buffered bike lane pilot project from mid-2014, the bike facilities would not reduce the number of vehicle lanes on Capitol.

The proposal from ACHD staff comes out of the stakeholder group working on a long-term plan for bicycle facilities for downtown Boise. Commissioners want to discuss the proposal, as well as longer term plans for Main and Idaho streets, with the Boise City Council at a joint meeting on September 23, 2014. The discussion will occur at Boise City Hall, during the regular Council meeting that starts at noon.

A stakeholder group for the Downtown Boise Bicycle Plan has been meeting since June with a goal of recommending a future cycling network. A fall 2014 resurfacing project on a portion of Capitol provides a good opportunity to implement changes to the road.

ACHD Commissioners asked for the group in the aftermath of the Buffered Bike Lane Demonstration Project, which ran from May and into June and generated a great deal of public interest and debate. The demonstration created a buffered, or protected, bicycle lane on Capitol Boulevard, Main and Idaho streets by taking away one vehicle travel lane and separating the cyclists from traffic with a combination of lane paint, plastic pylons and parked cars. Commissioners ended the demonstration and asked the group to recommend any modifications to the future bicycle network downtown, applying what was learned in the demonstration.

The starting place for the effort will be the existing Downtown Boise Implementation Plan, which laid out a schedule for infrastructure improvements for downtown Boise that includes bicycle facilities as well as the conversion of some one-way streets to two-way operation, among other projects.

Background
On Wednesday, June 4, 2014 ACHD Commissioners ended the pilot, and asked ACHD staff to work with interested parties on a strategy for bicycle facilities in downtown Boise by the end of August. ACHD crews removed the road markings that created the buffered bike lane demonstration project in early June.

The novel project drew an unprecedented amount of public interest, generating more than 11,000 responses to an online survey about the buffered bike lanes, as well as more than 1,300 e-mails and phone calls. The majority of the survey takers, by a split of 55-to-45 percent, opposed keeping the lanes as a permanent feature. A wider majority of those who sent in written comments urged scrapping of the bike lanes, which reduced Capitol Boulevard, Idaho Street and Main Street by one vehicle travel lane.

While Boise City asked for the lanes to be made permanent -- supported by a large number of area cyclists -- concerns or opposition came from the bicycle and traffic units of the Boise Police Department and from the majority of downtown business people who were surveyed. Critics cited issues of safety, convenience and aesthetics. Although the police noted confusion over the lanes and potential safety issues, officers also acknowledged that no car-on-bike crashes occurred as a result of the pilot.

ACHD measured a 20-percent increase in traffic congestion on Main and Idaho streets during the project, and also heard from many citizens who said they experienced backed up traffic. Valley Regional Transit said its bus drivers experienced three to five minutes of increased travel time getting through downtown at peak times. Although more cyclists were counted using the lanes, the increases were not deemed to be worth the tradeoffs in terms of appearance, traffic flow and decreased street parking.

Commissioners said the project showed a strong need for expanded bicycle facilities in downtown Boise and told ACHD staff to work with a group of stakeholders to come up with an implementation plan by the end of August. The plan may include buffered bike lanes, regular lanes enhanced by additional pavement markings and/or traditional bike lanes on routes the group finds appropriate.

The stakeholders group includes ACHD, the City of Boise, the Capital City Development Corporation, the Downtown Boise Association, Valley Regional Transit, and others. Information gleaned from the five-week pilot project will help the group examine parts of the pilot that were successful, as well as areas that may require a different approach. Those recommendations will be brought back before the ACHD Commissioners in August or September.

Time Frame

Start Date: June 2014
End Date: Fall 2014