WestViews: Bicycle safety about changing, not new laws

July 15, 2013 

Times-News (Twin Falls)

The state has tried. The cities in the Magic Valley have tried. But in the end, Idaho does not have the political will to pass laws that will protect cyclists on the road.

Idaho bicycle law requires a cyclist moving slower than traffic to ride as closely as "practicable" to the right curb or edge. That puts the responsibility and the blame on cyclists without adjusting for driver behavior.

In 2009 and 2010, legislators tried unsuccessfully to pass a buffer-zone law requiring passing motorists to stay 3 feet from a cyclist or anyone on a road.

After the bill failed, Minidoka County officials tried to pass a county ordinance. Twin Falls City Council has been proactive, passing a 3-foot passing ordinance and requiring that cyclists have rear lights on their bikes. They stopped short of making bicycle helmets mandatory.

We could spend this space asking cities to follow Twin Falls' lead and pass a 3-foot passing ordinance. We could ask the state Legislature take another swing at a state bicycle safety law. And we do want to see those things. But it's also time to accept that updating the law is only part of the solution.

Bicycle safety starts with changing attitudes. It requires that cyclists ride responsibly and with full awareness of their surroundings. And it requires that drivers accept that cyclists are taxpayers who have a right to use the road.

Laws need to be updated, but for now it's a personal decision. We've made room in our minds and on our roads for slow-moving farm equipment. It's time that rural Idaho also made room for cyclists on the road.

CLUB FOR GROWTH TARGETS SIMPSON

Lewiston Tribune

JEERS ... to the Club for Growth. The last time this group came to Idaho, it spent $1.1 million electing Bill Sali to the 1st Congressional District in 2006.

Sali was the last thing Idaho needed - a polarizing blowhard - but the Club for Growth didn't care. Sali went on to fame for such things as proposing to repeal gravity. One thing he would not do, however, is vote against a farm bill. So in 2008, Club for Growth deserted Sali, and Democrat Walt Minnick defeated him.

Two years later, Republican Raul Labrador beat Minnick. Now the Club for Growth is back with plans to elect Idaho Falls lawyer Bryan Smith to the 2nd Congressional District. That would mean ditching eight-term Republican Mike Simpson with someone tied to the GOP's lunatic fringe.

Club for Growth President Chris Chocola labels Simpson a "crazy liberal" and a Republican in Name Only. Mike Simpson, who famously pulled strings to yank wolves off the endangered species list? Simpson, who never met an Environmental Protection Agency budget he liked?

Simpson, who has a lifetime American Conservative Union ranking of 84.5 percent?

Simpson, who ranked just behind Labrador on the National Journal's recent exhaustive index of conservative voting? Simpson, who ties with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and comes out ahead of 88 other Republican House members on the Club for Growth's own stilted Scorecard?

That Mike Simpson?

What could explain Chocola's animus for Simpson?

Could it be Simpson's willingness to put the nation's good ahead of a narrow political agenda? Simpson admits what everyone knows: If the country is going to regain fiscal sanity, it's going to take both spending cuts and tax increases.

Could it be Simpson's efforts to forge an Idaho consensus on the future of the Boulder-White Cloud range? If Simpson's package of wilderness and economic development doesn't pass, it's likely President Barack Obama will swoop in and declare the place a national monument.

Or it could be that conservative renegades such as Chocola have it in for House Speaker John Boehner? To get to Boehner, they have to go through Simpson.

For Idaho, Chocola's agenda carries a huge price. Simpson is the state's sole voice on the Appropriations Committee, a real asset when you consider how vital federal money is to keeping the state's economy afloat.

But Chocola doesn't care about that. Odds are, he doesn't give much of a hang about Idaho either.

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