Sometimes Im sure my coffee compulsion will get me in trouble.
I ride my bicycle to work as much as I can in the summer, and I could easily bypass Fairview Avenue on the commute from my West Boise home. Cycling might tone my quads but my judgment remains flabby; many mornings, I still hit the Starbucks at Fairview and Cole Road to pick up a coffee.
This decision places me in the teeth of Ada Countys second-worst cycling intersection. As Patrick Orr reported Sunday, 10 car-bicycle accidents occurred at Fairview and Cole from 2007 to 2011. The worst intersection, with 11 accidents, is up the road a few miles, where Fairview meets Meridian Road and Cherry Lane.
Im going to focus on Fairview and Cole because I know it firsthand, and because it nicely illustrates some of Boises cycle commuting problems.
The most glaring problem is infrastructure. Fairview and Cole were not designed for cyclists. Bike lanes are non-existent; shoulders are narrow. Even if everybody does everything right, following the rules and extending common courtesy, the roads put two-wheelers and four-wheelers in close proximity. You can ride Fairview, but it is by no means relaxing.
Some help is on the way, at least at the intersection. A $5.6 million widening project is scheduled for 2017. The project will include bicycle lanes, said Matt Edmond, a senior transportation planner with the Ada County Highway District. As for widening Fairview, and adding bike lanes on either side of Cole, that work wont begin for at least a decade.
Thats a long wait, and it dovetails with another problem. Bicycle commuters, like motorists, have a destination that usually requires them to take a main road. Even when Im giving in to my coffee cravings, I spend as little time on Fairview as possible. But its unrealistic to expect cyclists to do all their commuting on quiet, cycling-friendly side streets; it doesnt always work that way.
Whats the answer? It all comes back to a few basics.
Know the rules of the road. Theres a lot of misunderstanding about what the laws allow cyclists to do, and Im not surprised. The laws are confusing and cyclists have their own set of rules.
If you take away anything from todays column, lets start here. To a cyclist, a red light is like a stop sign; cyclists can proceed after stopping and yielding right of way. A stop sign is akin to a yield sign; cyclists can proceed after slowing down and yielding right of way. If motorists and cyclists could just get on the same page about the rules, that would be a good start.
Dont be stupid. This goes for cyclists and motorists alike. Ive seen plenty of dumb decisions on both sides. Not just a disregard for the law, but a disregard of common sense.
Considering that the odds dont favor cyclists who crash with cars, it baffles me when riders treat the commute like their own personal time trial (thats Kristin Armstrongs forte, not yours).
Dont be rude. Most cyclists and motorists just want to get along. For every motorist who honks, yells or otherwise hassles a cyclist, countless others ease over to provide space or wave a cyclist in at an intersection. But its the rude motorists and the jerks on two wheels who leave a lasting impression.
Confusion over the laws and reckless decisions lead to bad feelings. That doesnt excuse bad behavior.
On Fairview, cyclists and motorists are in for a long hard ride. Lots of morning commutes in tight quarters. Wed best get used to each other.
Another committee took a look at Idahos health insurance exchange predicament Thursday, and the prognosis wasnt good.
If Idaho is going to create an exchange an online marketplace where individuals and small businesses can shop for insurance the state must submit its framework to the feds by November. Will it happen? From Emilie Ritter Saunders of StateImpact Idaho, heres the grim assessment delivered by Penny Schweibert, project manager for the state Department of Insurance: It would almost have to be a miracle.
There is a flurry of discussion about this issue and I can attest that its tough to keep the players straight. A legislative panel discussed the issue Monday. On Thursday, Gov. Butch Otters task force took its first look at the situation. I mixed up the two groups in a Wednesday editorial.
The lineup is confusing, but the Insurance Departments message is clear. On Monday, department head Bill Deal told lawmakers that the state may not have enough time to set up an exchange.
If the state doesnt do this, the feds will as prescribed by the federal health care law. That gives the state little control over the framework.
The matter falls to Otters task force, which appears determined to move quickly and make its recommendations. A do-nothing 2012 Legislature has left no alternative.
Kevin Richert: 377-6437, Twitter: @KevinRichert