Deaths, injuries and crashes are up
The number of crashes that have hurt or killed cyclists and walkers in Ada County in the past decade has increased.
Transportation analysts don’t know for sure why it’s happening, but Ada County’s population has grown by about 28 percent since 2004 — and that means a lot more people are sharing the roads. The number of people who bike to work, for example, has more than doubled since about 2000.
4,300 Ada County residents who biked to work, on average, between 2008 and 2012
3,603 Those who walked to work in that time
Despite the rise, Ada County now has fewer crashes per capita than it did in the 1990s, according to the Ada County Highway District. Also, in 2013 and 2014, the raw number of crashes in Ada County declined.
More bikes and pedestrians on the streets doesn’t necessarily lead to more deaths. Fatalities are less common in cities with a lot of non-car traffic, former Seattle bicycle/ pedestrian program coordinator Peter Lagerwey said. That’s because drivers are used to watching out for bikes and pedestrians, he said a during presentation this month in Meridian.
The number of people on bikes or on foot whose lives ended, or forever were changed, has risen over the years.
There were 50 deaths and incapacitating injury crashes in 2014 — the highest since 2002, when there were 52 deaths.
What is an “incapacitating injury?” It is defined as an injury that keeps a person from walking, driving or doing normal daily activities, according to Idaho Transportation Department officials.
Boisean Rachel Corey, 34, suffered this type of injury on her bicycle in September 2014 while training for the Ironman World Championship triathlon.
“While I did survive, my life has changed dramatically,” she said in a victim impact statement, which she read at the October 2015 sentencing of the driver who struck her from behind at 60-70 mph. “While the various broken bones have healed, I suffered a spinal cord injury that has cost me my livelihood. I went from always being on the go, enjoying a multitude of outdoor activities and being someone who was unable to sit still, to being confined to a wheelchair.”
Marc Law, the driver who hit Corey, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless driving. He was ordered to do 119 hours of community service and pay more than $19,000 in restitution. Corey is continuing rigorous physical therapy and daily exercise in the hopes of regaining the ability to walk and compete again.
Alleys More than 50 crashes in or near an alley
Driveways Nearly 400 crashes in or near a driveway
Garages About 250 crashes in a parking lot or garage Source: Idaho Transportation data, 1997-2014
Pedestrians in fewer crashes, die more often
Cyclists and pedestrians have seen an increase in serious crashes in the past decade. But a person who is struck while walking across a street, for example, is more likely to die than someone who’s hit while riding a bike.
The difference is stark.
Crashes involving pedestrians are half as common as those involving bikes — in 2014, there were 67 involving pedestrians and 149 involving bicyclists — but more pedestrians die each year. Two Boise pedestrians died less than a week apart in separate incidents in April.
One happened in broad daylight near the Boise Airport.
On April 8, Joel Eggers was walking along South Development Avenue when he was struck by a car. Police said Tyler Martinez’s car veered across the oncoming traffic lane on Development and struck Eggers before crashing into a fence.
Martinez has been charged with vehicular manslaughter. He was high on meth and texting at the time of the crash, prosecutors said at his arraignment.
The other fatal collision occurred in the dark morning hours on State Street.
Dwayne Alan Poulton II, 31, was walking to a Boise Stinker Station to get cigarettes just before 7 a.m. April 13. He wasn’t in a crosswalk when he was hit near 35th Street, just east of Veterans Memorial Parkway, investigators said. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Boise police are still investigating; the driver has not been cited.
What caused the crashes?
Are these tragedies because people are texting at the wheel or driving drunk? Are they because cyclists aren’t following the rules, or because pedestrians are jaywalking?
It’s a little of both.
The Statesman analyzed almost two decades of Idaho Transportation Department data that is based on crash reports filed by police.
Those records don’t tell us everything about what caused a wreck. But they give us a pretty good sample.
We know from the records that when a circumstance is reported as contributing to the crash, it’s often that someone was distracted and/or did not yield. It isn’t always driver error, either. In many cases, cyclists or pedestrians were ignoring traffic signals.
Drivers often are distracted, speeding, disregarding signs or signals, turning or backing up improperly, or are drunk, according to John Tomlinson, highway safety manager for Idaho Transportation Department.
Sometimes, drivers simply don’t know why they didn’t see the bicyclists or pedestrians in front of them.
Last September, Scholastique Twagirayesu stopped at a four-way stop at Owyhee and Kootenai streets before continuing through the intersection. She struck 5-year-old Maximo “Max” Wyatt as he rode his bicycle in a crosswalk — his father right behind him. The Boise police report said Max was wearing a bright orange T-shirt.
Max was hospitalized for months but he’s back home and doing well now. Twagirayesu pleaded guilty to inattentive driving. She was ordered to do 150 hours of community service and complete eight hours of traffic school. A Boise-based bicycle / pedestrian safety educator is bringing Max’s mangled bike with her to presentations.
When cyclists are to blame for collisions, it’s most often because they are riding the wrong way on the road, not following signs or signals, not yielding right-of-way or riding without lights, Tomlinson said.
Pedestrians disregard signs or signals, dart into the road from a curb, or they stand/walk in the road, he said.
In his talk earlier this month, the bike / pedestrian expert from Seattle said there’s an underlying cause to many crashes: infrastructure.
Without the right infrastructure changes, “no amount of education and enforcement will help,” Lagerwey said. Creating a streetscape and road layout that forces users to be cautious can prevent deaths and injuries, he said.
Curbs and sidewalks slow traffic more than speed signs do, he said.
New infrastructure in Ada County
In the mid-1990s, the county had 57 miles of road with bicycle lanes. Today that number is about 275 total miles.
Here is what was added in 2015:
▪ Bike lanes on Hill Road from Idaho 55 to State Street.
▪ Bike lanes from intersection of Eagle Road and McMillan Road to Locust Grove Road.
▪ Shamrock Bikeway project added signalized crossings at the intersection of Shamrock Avenue and Ustick Road and 10-foot bicycle path on Shamrock Avenue between Gunsmoke Road and Ustick Road, and between Arch Street and Montana Street.
▪ Green bike boxes on Capitol Boulevard at Myrtle and River streets. Bike safety ladder at southern approach to Capitol and Main streets.
▪ Bike lane on 15th Street, from Bannock to Fort streets (parking removed on one side to add lane).