Ada County Highway District

Questions and Answers

Question: Motorists pay for the roads with gas taxes and vehicle registration fees, so why should we pay to put in things like bike lanes?

Answer: While bicyclists in Ada County don't have to pay a registration fee for their bikes, they are probably paying to fund ACHD in other ways, such as through property taxes (the largest source of ACHD revenue) or sales taxes. Most adult bicyclists are also car owners, so they're likely paying registration fees on a motor vehicle. Taxes and fees born directly by motorists in the form of vehicle registration fees and highway user fund distributions (fuel taxes) make up only about one-third of ACHD revenue. With the exception of the rare person who pedals in from outside the county, it's fair to assume that bicyclists in and around downtown Boise are contributing some amount to the upkeep of Ada County roads.


Question: Why put in bike lanes and other improvements for bicyclists, when they ignore stop signs and traffic lights and other traffic laws? (Idaho Stop Law)

Answer: While bicyclists are legally allowed to roll through a stop sign if the intersection is clear, and proceed through a red light after stopping, if the intersection is clear this is known as the "Idaho stop law" some bicyclists choose to violate this and other traffic rules. This is a matter of education and enforcement rather than whether to invest in infrastructure. ACHD will work with Boise City the Boise Police Department on ways to improve bicyclist compliance with applicable traffic laws.


Question: Why put in bike lanes and other improvements for bicyclists, when they don't obey traffic laws? (Not Idaho Stop Law)

Answer: There are indeed some bicyclists who do not obey or are unaware of traffic laws, just as there are some motorists who do not obey or are unaware of traffic laws. This is a matter of education and enforcement rather than whether to invest in infrastructure. ACHD will work with Boise City the Boise Police Department on ways to improve bicyclist and motorist compliance with applicable traffic laws.


Question: Why put in bike lanes and other improvements for bicyclists, when they can ride on the sidewalk?

Answer: Although it's legal for bicycles to ride on the sidewalk, it's not considered a good practice, and it is not advisable in the downtown area due to the concentration of foot traffic and driveways. According to Boise City Code,  A bicycle may be operated upon a sidewalk except when the number of pedestrians using the sidewalk renders bicycle riding on the sidewalk unsafe. It could be argued that this is almost always the case in the downtown core. ACHD will work with Boise City the Boise Police Department on ways reduce sidewalk riding downtown.


Question: Won't taking away car lanes to add bike lanes increase traffic congestion downtown?

Answer: ACHD staff conducted an analysis of all the streets and intersections impacted by the buffered bike lane demonstration project, and found that in most cases that increases in peak hour delay would be nominal. In some locations, ACHD determined that the impacts of removing a travel lane would be unacceptable, and we modified the plans accordingly. This included maintaining three lanes on Capitol between Fulton and Front, and three lanes on Idaho between Capitol and 9th. That said, while the model can do a pretty good job of estimating traffic, it is not 100% accurate to reality. One reason for the demonstration project is to test this. ACHD conducted baseline measurements of delay and travel time on the affected corridors before the project began, and we will continue to monitor these throughout the demonstration project. Increased delay or travel time, if any, will play a large role evaluating the demonstration project and whether any changes should be made permanent.


Question: Why is the bike lane on the left side on Main Street?

Answer: While the bike lanes on Capitol and Idaho are on the (traditional) right-hand side, the bike lane on Main is on the left. ACHD did this to position each bike lane on the side with the fewest conflicts. On Capitol and Idaho, the biggest conflicts are on the left side of the street (left turns onto Front from Capitol and left turns onto 9th from Idaho), so it made sense to put these bike lanes on the right side. On Main Street, however, some of the biggest conflicts are on the right side of the street, including the right turn onto 9th and the current/future bus mall/transit center between 9th and Capitol. ACHD decided placing the bike lane on the left side of Main Street would reduce the potential for conflicts there.


Why now, and why only a month?

Answer: ACHD decided to start the demonstration project this May because it's about to invest a lot in street resurfacing on Capitol, Idaho, and Main in the coming years, and it wanted to test out the bike lanes beforehand to see if it's something that should be made permanent beforehand. Capitol will be resurfaced between Front and Jefferson later this year. Idaho and Main are slated for resurfacing east of Capitol in 2015. Additionally, major construction on these streets that would compromise the demonstration is scheduled to begin as early as June. Depending that construction, and on the preliminary findings, the demonstration may be extended on one or more of the streets.


Question: What's with having the bike lane between parked cars and the curb?

Answer: Although putting the bike lane between parking and the curb may seem odd, it does have some advantages. Putting the bike lane between the parked cars and curb greatly reduces the potential conflicts between bikes and cars pulling in and out of street parking. It also adds separation between the bike lane and the travel lanes, increasing comfort, and hopefully encouraging those "interested but concerned" cyclists to take more trips by bike. Protected bike lanes such as this exist or are being installed in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis, Memphis, New York, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, and elsewhere.


Question: Why does the project have to use those ugly candlesticks?

Answer: The candlesticks may leave something to be desired aesthetically, but they were the most effective treatment to use for the demonstration project in terms of speed, effectiveness, and cost. Concrete curbing would have been much more expensive would have taken much longer to install. Paint alone would have taken just as long to install as the candles, and would not have achieved been as effective; while many people are willing to drive over or park on paint, not as many are willing to do the same to the candlesticks. If all or part of the project is made permanent, the ultimate treatment will likely involve fewer candlesticks. However, it is unlikely that the candlesticks can be completely eliminated from any permanent treatment.


Question: Capitol goes north, Main goes east, and Idaho goes west; where's the southbound/outbound bike lane?

Answer: ACHD looked at a similar southbound facility on 9th, but due to the higher volumes and dual turn lanes to the right at Front and the left at Myrtle, we did not feel such a bike lane on 9th would be workable. We know this is a shortcoming of the demonstration project, and we will continue working on ways to address the issue of improving bike connections between downtown and the Bench and Federal Way.


Question: Loading zone impacts

Answer: Efficient freight operations are essential to a healthy downtown. That said, loading and unloading must be balanced against many other competing interests for space on downtown streets, including street parking, transit space, turn lanes, adjacent business interests, and now bike lanes. ACHD will continue to work with other agencies and downtown businesses on ways to ensure adequate space for conducting freight operations downtown, while not unduly impacting other interests.


Question: The bike lanes aren't worth the lost street parking.

Answer: ACHD does not take the removal of street parking lightly, but we had to remove the parking to fit the bike lanes in some places and in other places for safety considerations. The demonstration did partially offset the lost parking on Idaho and Main with the addition of 26 new street parking spaces on Capitol. In the event that all or part of the demonstration project is made permanent, ACHD staff will carefully consider where some of the lost parking might be restored without compromising safety.


Question: It's dangerous getting in and out of a parked car next to the bike lane.

Answer: Disembarking on the "travel" side of a parked car is always something that should be done with care, and in the event of a collision, per state code, the occupant of the parked vehicle would be at fault. On the "curb" side, even though there's a bike lane there, "candlesticks" are placed about 2 feet in from the parking lane; this plus a bicyclist's shy distance from the candlesticks should afford adequate space for loading and unloading on that side of the vehicle.


Question: What are the little green boxes for?

Answer: The little green boxes, known as two-stage bike boxes, are there to facilitate turns to the opposite side of the street from the side the bike lane is on (left turns on Capitol and Idaho and right turns on Main).

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