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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Our View: Bicycle Safety about Changing, Not Law

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

Current 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. It’s also ambiguous.

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 roadway.

After the bill failed, Minidoka County officials tried to pass a county ordinance. It never passed due to disagreements on wording.

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 passing an ordinance that made bicycle helmets mandatory.

We could spend this space asking that every city and county in the Magic Valley follow Twin Falls’ lead and pass a 3-foot passing ordinance. We could ask that the state legislature take another swing as a state bicycle safety law in the next session. And we do want to see those things.

But it’s also time to accept that updating and clarifying 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.

After we published a story titled “Space on the Road: Do Idaho Drives and Cyclists Share?”, a lively debate started online at Magicvalley.com in response. The tone of the debate seemed to mirror the attitude out on the road — drivers saying cyclists think they own the road or don’t belong there at all and cyclists arguing that drivers are aggressive and put lives in danger by driving too close.

It’s time for both sides to give a little. Cyclists aren’t going to give up the sport and its popularity is only going to grow as our population grows. The way bicycle lanes are slowly being incorporated into the city planning processes around the Magic Valley shows that there’s a slow but steady shift in cultural attitudes about cycling.

Laws need to be updated and clarified, but for now it’s a personal decision.
We’ve made room in our minds and on our roads for slow-moving farm equipment, for cattle and sheep.

It’s time that rural Idaho also made room for cyclists on the road.

For the original article click here

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