More than 100 people showed up Monday evening for a “bike-in” along South Boulevard.
It started to rain almost exactly as the bikers set out a little after 7 p.m., but that didn’t seem to dampen the crowd’s spirits. Most of the bicyclists made a loop along South Boulevard from 17th Street to Sunnyside Road, although a smaller number went a bit further to the roundabout at Elm Street. A couple of children had signs on their bikes with slogans such as “Help keep us safe” and “Don’t widen the road.”
The city of Idaho Falls re-striped the stretch of South Boulevard between 17th and Sunnyside last year, adding a center turn lane and bike lanes. Many residents have called on the city to get rid of the center lane, saying the driving lanes and the bike lanes are too narrow. There has also been talk of widening the stretch of Boulevard between roughly 18th and 21st in about five years, which would mean removing the trees that line that stretch now.
“This is just really a visual demonstration of the fact that the bike lanes are too narrow,” Rebecca Long Pyper, who has been helping to organize residents’ opposition to the changes, said of Monday’s demonstration.
Long Pyper recently stopped gathering signatures on a petition calling on the city to get rid of the center lane, not widen the road and reduce the speed limit from 30 to 25 mph; she got 5,162 signatures, a mix of in-person and online ones. She said she had a goal of a little more than 5,000 signatures to demonstrate widespread support for her cause, noting that the number of signatures is just a little less than the 5,304 votes by which Mayor Rebecca Casper was re-elected in the December 2017 runoff.
“There are a lot of people who really care about this issue,” Long Pyper said.
Long Pyper said the bike lanes at their current width might be suitable for more skilled or experienced cyclists but are too narrow for the majority of riders. The petition didn’t specify what they would like done with the bike lanes; Long Pyper said she is open to different options there.
“We feel like it’s a hazard for most people to ride in the bike lanes,” she said.
City officials held a public meeting in June to talk to residents about last year’s changes and gather input. Department of Public Works staffers are studying traffic patterns on the road now and whether to make any changes to last year’s striping, and the department plans to present its recommendations at another public meeting at 6 p.m. on Aug. 15 at the Maeck Education Center at the Idaho Falls Zoo.
City Councilman John Radford, who showed up at Monday’s bike-in, signed Long Pyper’s petition and advocated last year in favor of holding a public meeting before restriping the road. Radford said he would like to see a smaller center lane, with turning bays at Tautphaus Park, and more space for bicyclists. Radford said he was pleased so many people showed up.
“It’s good to see people care,” he said.