GARDEN CITY -- Despite public opinion tipping towards dissatisfaction with the Ada County Highway District's downtown bicycle lane project, officials cautioned Wednesday against making a rash decision.
The five-member ACHD Commission agreed to extend the bike lane pilot program throughout the end of May, rather than abruptly halt it. A final decision is planned for June 4.
ACHD Director Bruce Wong asked the commissioners to wait and gather information before choosing whether to gut the project, make it permanent or extend the pilot longer. That's in spite of 55 percent of people who took a survey and 70 percent of people who sent emails saying they wanted the bike lanes gone.
Wong said although many responders brought up issues that need to be fixed or examined in more depth, he had yet to see a reason to yank the lanes now.
I think everybody should keep their powder dry, because we continue to learn something new each day, he said. Change is always tough, but I'm confident we'll get to the right answer.
ACHD data revealed a spike in cyclists riding in the street since the program began. Wong said there was not an accompanying major increase in rush-hour vehicle congestion. Most motorists weren't happy with the change, while a majority of cyclists said they liked the lanes or were ambivalent. The comments ACHD has received often pit one side against the other, Wong said.
If you are for the program, or you are against the program, you believe the other side is arrogant and wrong, he said.
Responders accused cyclists and drivers alike of breaking the rules of the road, and raised issues of parking, safety, congestion and whether the bike lanes would fall into disuse during the winter months.
A crowd filled the meeting room Wednesday to weigh in on the change. Several people tucked helmets, water bottles and other gear beneath their seats as they waited to hear the commission's design.
Pamela Chamberlain of Boise said removing more than 90 street parking spots to create the lanes would deal a blow to downtown shops.
I do not go to downtown Boise anymore, she said. I made that choice because it's such a mess to drive.
She added that was not an option for her husband, who works for a utility company and now struggles to find on-street parking. With a truck too tall to fit into parking garages, he often has to park far away and carry an extension ladder and other tools for blocks, Chamberlain said.
Cathy Daly of Boise agreed, saying the lack of parking was discouraging people from visiting her 6th Street business. ACHD found that of the 20 businesses surveyed, 12 believed they were losing customers.
Daly said it wasn't fair for Boise to make a decision that went against the wishes of its residents.
Why does the city council count more than its citizens? she asked.
But City Council President Maryanne Jordan argued the most popular choice isn't always the right solution.
Frankly, if you choose not to build a road project every time the majority were opposed to a road project, we'd all be walking on dirt paths right now, she said.
The city council and mayor voted unanimously to support the lane project Tuesday. Jordan said although adjusting to change is difficult, it would be worth it.
What it's really about, I think, is building a comprehensive transportation system that's going to get us to the next level, she said. We're going to grow, with growing pains. None of this stuff is ever easy.
Dana Zuckerman said the buffered lanes made her more likely to ride downtown to visit local restaurants and businesses. She's also more confident about taking her three children on bicycle excursions.
Normally we don't feel very safe, she said. This past two weeks were the first time I've rode with my kids downtown.