Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson stopped to fill his tank on the way to work recently when a bicyclist wearing dark clothing rode past on West Ustick Road.
It was still dark, and legally the bike rider needed to project a light visible at least 500 feet ahead. Instead of a bicycle light, the man pointed the screen from his cellphone toward the road.
He was lighting his own path, Masterson said. He was providing his own needs but he wasnt identifying himself as a bicyclist.
Masterson said it worries him when he sees people riding without a light at night and disobeying other safety rules. It just increases the chance a bicyclist could be in an accident, he said.
In the past two weeks, two bicyclists have been struck and killed in Boise one overnight and one during daylight hours. Since early June, three Ada County pedestrians have lost their lives, and another was seriously injured.
The bicycle fatalities are the first in Boise since 2009, when three cyclists were killed.
People have gotten complacent and just arent paying attention, said John Yarnell, a board member for Look! Save a Life, a group that promotes bicycle safety.
Yarnell organized the group after his friend Kevin Pavlis was killed in one of those 2009 crashes. Pavlis, who sold bicycles and helped manage Idaho Mountain Touring, was struck by a Jeep driven by a 16-year-old boy who swerved into a bike lane on Hill Road.
I see cyclists making bad decisions, just as I see motorists making bad decisions, Yarnell said.
Police arrested and charged the driver in one of this years two Boise bicycle fatalities.
Early on Sept. 26, 53-year-old Victor Haskell was likely pedaling his way home from work at Angells Bar and Grill Renato when he was struck and left to die on westbound State Street near North 30th Street.
Driver Gavin B. Haley, 31, turned himself in the next day. He was charged with leaving the scene of an injury accident, a felony.
Last Monday, James Kelly, 56, was struck by an SUV turning east onto Federal Way from a Broadway Avenue offramp. He died later that day at a local hospital.
That incident is still under investigation, Boise police spokesman Charles McClure said. Officers havent determined whether the SUV driver will be cited; the driver has not been publicly identified.
A ghost ride in Kellys memory will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Bicyclists will gather at the Shangri-La Tea Room and Cafe at West Overland Road and Federal Way.
It doesnt appear that there is a common denominator, other than a bicyclist got hit by a vehicle, Deputy Police Chief Pete Ritter said. Obviously, whenever there is a death, it raises awareness.
Neither cyclist was wearing a helmet, Ritter said. While not required, a helmet protects a rider and could lessen the severity of injuries suffered in a crash if not save a riders life, he said.
I think its crazy if you ride on the road without a helmet, said Ritter, an avid cyclist who said his son was spared serious injuries when he was struck by a car because he was wearing a helmet.
Two of the three pedestrians killed since early June were at fault, police said.
William Prince, 61, of Garden City, was killed late at night on June 7 when he ran across Veterans Memorial Parkway at Adams Street. And Joseph D. Montross Jr., 60, of Boise, died July 27 after he was struck crossing on a red light at Eighth and Front streets at 1:13 a.m.
The third case resulted in charges for the driver of a pickup truck. Wiley Padden, 28, of Boise, died after he was struck by a pickup as he crossed State Street east of Collister Drive at about 1:15 a.m. on Oct. 4. The Army artillery veteran was just blocks from his home.
Adam D. Weinert turned himself in two days later and was charged with leaving the scene of an injury accident.
Alan Beavers, 24, was left in a coma after he was struck in a Garden City crosswalk at Chinden Boulevard and Maple Grove Road at 10:10 p.m. Aug. 24. Police said an SUV traveling west at high speed ran a red light, struck Beavers and left the scene.
John T. French, 20, was arrested days later and pleaded guilty two weeks ago to leaving the scene of an injury accident, reckless driving and destruction of evidence. He faces up to 11 years in prison when hes sentenced Dec. 13.
There are a number of things cyclists and pedestrians can do to make themselves more visible, Ritter said. They should always wear light or reflective clothing, especially at night. Bicyclists should use a light and ensure they have a back bike reflector, also required by law for riding after dark.
He said they should also ride on the right side of a street. Cyclists riding against traffic are particularly vulnerable because motorists waiting to make a turn do not expect anyone to come at them from the wrong direction, he said.
Knight suggests that motorists treat bicycles as if they are another car. When coming up to an intersection to make a right turn, for example, avoid passing a bicycle just to slow down and make the turn in front of the bike, he said.
The Idaho Transportation Department recommends that pedestrians walk on sidewalks when provided, and walk facing traffic when on a road that lacks sidewalks.
When crossing a street, the agency suggests using marked crosswalks when available and making eye contact with drivers to ensure you are seen.
So far, the number of accidents involving motor vehicles and bicycles or pedestrians this year is down.
In the past four years, there has been an average of 159 accidents in which a bicyclist has been killed or injured. This year, there have been 86 injury accidents.
Most of those wrecks occur during the summer, when the weather is nice, Ritter said. He expects the overall 2013 total will be down.
The number of pedestrians killed or injured has averaged 50 per year over the past four years. There have been 39 deaths or injuries this year.
The number of bicyclists on Ada County roads has exploded in the past seven years, according to counts conducted by the county, the Ada Bike Alliance and the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance.
The number of bicycles grew from 1,073 in 2006 to 7,285 in spring 2012. The most recent count was taken last month, but the totals have not yet been released publicly.
Bicycle traffic was recorded at 120 locations over several days, said Margaret Havey, vice president of the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance.
If it seems like theres more bicyclists on the road, it is because its true, said George Knight, an adjunct professor of philosophy at Boise State University and co-chairman of the Ada County Bicycle Advisory Committee.
The county maintains 246 miles of bicycle lanes, recreational paths and wide road lanes for use by bicyclists. The total has more than quadrupled since the mid-1990s, when 57 miles were available.
Thats a priority for us, said Christine Myron, spokeswoman for the Ada County Highway District, who noted Boise has been recognized three times by the League of American Bicyclists as a Bicycle Friendly Community.
The recently completed Meridian Split Corridor along Meridian Road added 7-foot-wide sidewalks between Franklin and Cherry roads to accommodate both pedestrians and bicyclists.
Meanwhile, construction of the new Whitewater Park Boulevard in Boises North End, which is expected to be finished by the end of the month, features sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides of the street to provide access to the Greenbelt and waterways.
Thats going to be a heavily used road not only for motorists but for bicyclists and pedestrians, Myron said.
Masterson said hed rather see bicyclists pay $30 for a light than to have his officers hand out $61.50 tickets. He said he pulls over riders when he sees a violation but seeks compliance by issuing a warning. Still, he wonders whether it does any good.
The problem is that I dont think they get it, Masterson said. Im not sure whether they go out and get a light or they figure they wont run into an officer the next time theyre riding at night.
Ritter said Boise police are considering buying some inexpensive flashing red lights that officers could carry in their cars and hand out to riders they encounter without a light so they get home safely. The department is also working with Mayor Dave Bieters office to promote added safety in light of the recent deaths and injuries.
Knock on wood that we dont have any more fatalities this year, he said.
View Recent car vs. bike accidents in Boise in a larger map
John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell