If you are going to ride a bike on city streets in Ada County, you may want to avoid Fairview Avenue and the arterial streets around it.
Recently compiled statistics from the Idaho Department of Transportation show those intersections are the most common places for car vs. bike crashes in Ada County during the past five years.
Those arterials are not designed for bike traffic which means drivers and cyclists who have to share those streets need to understand traffic laws and work to be aware of each other.
ITD reports say the total number of car-vs.-bike crashes in Ada County in 2007 was 143. The number in 2011? 179.
MORE BIKES, MORE TRAFFIC, MORE CONFLICT
Officials say there are more bikes on the road than ever, as former motorists react to high gas prices and embrace healthy lifestyles. But that also means more bike traffic on roads, which creates its own set of problems.
Sgt. Kyle Christensen, who runs the Boise police traffic unit, guessed it right when asked about Boises most crash-prone intersection. Fairview Avenue and Cole Road had 10 car-vs.-bike crashes between 2007 and 2011.
It doesnt surprise me at all. Anytime you have that kind of volume of (car) traffic, and the number of bikes, with many people being confused as to what is required of both, you are going to have crashes, Christensen said.
People need to educate themselves on the rules for cyclists and drivers, and be aware of their surroundings at all times, he said. Thats how to avoid crashes.
Some of the most dangerous places where bikes and cars mix are arterial streets where there are sidewalks, traffic, crosswalks at traffic lights and no dedicated bike lanes, Christensen said.
Not surprisingly, Fairview Avenue meets all those criteria.
Its the same at the Fairview Avenue/Cherry Lane/Meridian Avenue in Meridian intersection, which had 11 car-vs.-bike crashes during the same five years.
The ITD study does not indicate whether the drivers of the cars or the cyclists were at fault. Meridian police delved deeper into the ITD data to show a diverse mix of causes for the crashes at Fairview/Cherry/Meridian.
We have an almost 50-50 split between drivers and cyclists whose violations cause the crashes, said Meridian police Sgt. John Gonzalez.
We really need to make a conscious effort to share the roads drivers and cyclists really need to pay attention to their surroundings in these intersections, said Gonzalez.
ROADS VS. SIDEWALKS
People who ride bikes on sidewalks are considered pedestrians; cyclists on the road are like cars. Under Idaho law, cyclists on the road can go through a red light if they pause and find the intersection to be clear and safe.
A cyclist on the sidewalk cant roll into an intersection and become a car. Those cyclists have to act like pedestrians, which means they cant cross until the crossing signal gives them the OK.
Ive seen cyclists come off the curb and burst right into the intersection thats called sudden entry, and its not legal, Christensen said.
Another thing Boise police see often are cyclists riding against traffic on the sidewalk. Thats legal, but it makes them harder to see for drivers pulling out of businesses or at intersections.
The three intersections that tie for third place with eight crashes each Cole/Ustick roads, Curtis Road/Fairview Avenue and Orchard Street/Overland Road are all in heavily commercial areas with lots of commuter traffic.
FIND AN ALTERNATE ROUTE
Russ Stoddard, the founder of a coalition of cycling enthusiasts called the Boise Bike Brigade, says he is not surprised by the Top 10 list.
Heres the deal: I dont ride in those intersections, said Stoddard, who rides for commuting and recreation. I would never ride my bike out there (on the Fairview corridor). There is no real safe way for bikes to be part of that roadway. If I had to go somewhere like that, Id try to find an alternate route.
Stoddard, who lives in Boises North End, offered a practical example. Earlier this week, he was hungry for some Casanovas pizza, but he doesnt like to ride on Vista Avenue because of the heavy car traffic and lack of bike lanes. So he improvised a route through neighborhood streets.
Not only is it safer, but alternate routes through less-traveled city streets usually make for a more aesthetically pleasing ride, Stoddard said.
Ill add time and distance to my routes to get someplace. Its always a nicer ride, Stoddard said. To find a different way, you may have to tack five or 10 minutes on, but its worth it.
HILL ROAD AWARENESS
The last time the Statesman reviewed crash data, in 2008, the most crash-prone intersection between cars and bikes was Orchard Street and Fairview Avenue, with nine crashes between 2003 and 2007.
That intersection didnt make the Top 10 list this time. Neither did Hill Road a popular biking corridor in North Boise that probably has more car/bike interaction on a daily basis than anywhere else in Ada County.
My guess is that is because of awareness. (Drivers) know when they get on Hill Road, they will (encounter) bikers there, Christensen said. That road has clearly marked bike lanes. Cyclists know there will be cars.
Because cycling is so popular in Boise, law enforcement officials dont expect crashes between cyclists and motorists to ever go away.
To account for the growing number of cyclists, the Ada County Highway District has identified safety improvements in its Roadways to Bikeways Master Plan.
Some of the most crash-prone areas may eventually get bike lanes as part of ACHDs long-term plan to widen intersections, but those projects are years or decades away. The only road that might get bike lanes soon is the Fairview part of the Cole intersection, scheduled for widening in 2017.
Ada County has about 220 miles of bike lanes, and ACHD is adding new, dedicated bikes lanes to Ustick Road from Duane Way to east of Cloverdale Road and at the Pine Avenue and Linder Road intersection.
By the end of this summer, ACHD workers will have painted portions of dedicated bike lanes green at 17 locations where turning and merging vehicles have high chances of coming into conflict with a cyclist. The green paint alerts drivers to watch for cyclists while making turns.
The areas are mostly in Downtown Boise and Eagle and just a few are at the Top 10 crash-prone intersections. The reason: Many of those streets Fairview Avenue, Cole Road, Cherry Lane, Meridian Road and Overland Road dont have room for dedicated bike lanes.
At one intersection that does Curtis Road at Fairview ACHD officials decided not to add the green paint because numbers show that car/bike crashes there arent from cars turning right, which is what the green paint is primarily intended to identify, said Matt Edmond, a senior transportation manager with the ACHD.
ACHD workers are in the process of painting white bicycle symbols on streets without dedicated bike lanes that do have lots of bicycle traffic like 8th Street from the Greenbelt to Broad Street, or Bannock Street from 1st to 6th streets and 13th to 16th streets.
Stoddard said the ACHD paint plan should help reduce crashes on city streets.
Humans respond to visuals in a big way, Stoddard said. Just to have a bicycle painted on the street puts you in (the) frame of mind that there will be bikes around.
Patrick Orr: 377-6219, Twitter: @IDS_Orr