Friday, August 14, 2015

Boise Bicycling (plus other things)

This week, it got hot. I know, I know, don't complain--you could be sweating through a muggy, buggy Southern summer for the umpteenth year in a row. However, the heat paired with our air conditioner going out is not too awesome.

However, in the end, it's still not that bad, and we've been really enjoying our first month here. In fact, as of yesterday, it was a month. We have now been residents of Idaho for one whole month. We have a cute house not a ten-minute-bike-ride away from work (which I know Mr. Money Mustache would certainly approve of!.

In fact, I've been biking up to campus everyday to get into a good routine before the semester begins. My office is mostly set up now, with just a few things left to be done, But the bike ride is such a nice part of my morning; I'm able to ride down the hill, catch the trail, and bike along the river right to my building. No fuss. No wrangling parking. Better yet--and in true MMM form--no paying for parking. And if I can't bike because of the odd day of nasty weather, I can walk in about 25 minutes. Not bad at all!

The Greenbelt (the bike path through town) is just one segment of the extensive bike system throughout Boise. Many of the streets (at least downtown area) have bike lanes, which is fantastic. In fact, now that we're done moving in, I'm going to make it a goal to bike as much as I physically can to places to save on money, get a bit more movement out of what will likely be a sedentary (for the most part) day at work, and to preserve our little car for longer. I'm pretty excited that we live in a place where we can do that.

However, the one thing I have noticed is that despite all of this biking infrastructure, Boise bicyclists are--how do I put it delicately?--they be cray, y'all. I'm firmly in the minority of helmet users* here (as is L). They don't observe traffic signals. They ride on sidewalks even when there's a perfectly good bike line on the road. If they use the bike lane, they ride the wrong direction on it, even if it's marked as one way or the other. It's baffling to me--it's like, did you even learn a little about appropriate bike behavior and bike safety?

Now, there are a few roads that I have conceded that I just can't be on the main road and thus must use the sidewalk. Otherwise, however, I choose routes that are non-sidewalk based. And if there's a bike lane, you know I'm in it and on the right side. And I ride with traffic in the street where it's safe and I won't impede traffic.

I think a huge part of it is that people are simply uneducated about bike safety and bike behavior or the rules aren't really enforced by other cyclists or the community at large. And by riding on the sidewalks, they think they are being safer when in reality they're causing a huge conflict between cyclists and pedestrians, which actually leads to more accidents. I understand about being scared of riding on the street--it can be a little nerve-wracking to share the road with motorists--but the motorists also need to get used to seeing bicycles not as annoyances but as rightful road users as well. Plus, maybe it'll encourage more bike lanes.

Overall, however, the biking culture here is friendly, lots of people use the Greenbelt, and bike racks abound. I love living in a town that is so bike-friendly, and a place that is flat enough to bike easily. We will own this place on bikes by the time some of you come visit us!

*HELMET RANT TIME: why people don't wear helmets is generally unfathomable to me. The excuses I hear are "oh I just don't like them" and "It messes up my hair." What if people said that about seatbelts? "Oh, I just don't like putting that strap across my chest" or "they wrinkle my clothes"--most people would think you were insane. And then you'd get a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt. Basically, helmets are one of the few forms of protection a bicyclist has, and the chances of getting hit on the head or incurring major neurological/physical trauma are increased without proper use. So to people who don't wear helmets, I say--I prefer to keep my brain in my brain-box, thank you. Wear a damn helmet and get over yourself.

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