BOISE -- An urban planning expert told Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and other city stakeholders that while Boise is a walkable and bikeable city, it could do much better.
Urban planner Jeff Speck spent some of the summer in the City of Trees, studying how people get around, and figuring out how people might get around better.
His recommendations, to the delight of many, cost very little, but promise big results for commuters, residents, and businesses.
Speck is a well-respected city planner and architectural engineer who spent the past few months examining Boise.
Specifically, he researched how Boise might increase the number of people who bike and walk, instead of drive, downtown. Speck recommends more two-way streets, and getting more housing downtown by involving parking garages in the loan process for developers. Also, he says many of the downtown lanes are too wide and there are too many of them.
"In right-sizing these streets around proper width lanes and the proper number of lanes, we find all this extra pavement, which can be used for amongst other things a robust cycling network," said Speck.
Speck says if you simply narrow downtown street lanes, you'll drive down traffic speeds, and leave room for a buffered bike lane. He recommends those bike lanes on Capital, 9th, Idaho, and Main. A buffered lane has the bikeway against the curb, then parallel parking next to traffic lanes.
"Thirty years ago Portland biked no more than the rest of the country, and now they bike 15 times more than the rest of the country because of the infrastructure that was put in," said Speck.
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter liked what he heard from Speck.
"It was a very detailed report, one that's very practical for us, and one that I'm going to work awfully hard to make happen," said Bieter.
Especially attractive to the mayor is the cost for these ideas, like the buffered bike lanes.
"You don't have to take curbs out, you really just have to paint and eventually put some protection for that bike rider," said Bieter.
But, why do city leaders want more people walking and biking in downtown? The mayor says it helps business and grows Boise in a smart way.
“It does cost some funding, but mostly it's taking what we have and building on it so that it's more walkable, more rideable, for even more people. Which attracts more people downtown, which makes people want to live downtown, which makes everything just work better," said Bieter.
The Ada County Highway District liked what they heard too, praise for the fact that they were already planning on converting more streets to two-ways, including 3rd, 4th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, and Jefferson.
As far as the buffered bike lanes, that was new to them. But they might consider it.