With five Bicycle Friendly Communities, one Bicycle Friendly University, and fifty two Bicycle Friendly Businesses, Idaho comes in twenty eighth in the USA for bike-ability, according to the League of American Bicyclists. Let's dig deeper. Idaho boasts outstanding trails that take you from cities up to the foothills and on rail-to-trail paths including the famous all-downhill fifteen-mile Route of the Hiawatha with ten train tunnels and seven sky-high trestles. In addition to many women-centric road cycling and mountain biking groups, there is a fun women's ride named Spinderella which boasts some of the most supportive verbiage I've seen on a ride website, such as not referring to different types of riders on a "continuum" from beginner to advanced, for instance, but rather respecting each woman's comfort zone as a valid end point in its own right. There is also a terrific-sounding multiple-trail tour offered by the excellent women-focused bike touring group WomenTours.

But what's really happening where the rubber hits the road in the cities when women are actually trying to go places to get things done? Most Idaho cities have very low Walkscores and Bikescores, which mean they are car-dependent. However, Downtown Boise boasts a Bikescore of 100 (which is considered a Biker's Paradise) and a high Walkscore as well, plus there is bikeshare! Additionally, the Boise Comprehensive Land Use Plan includes "provisions for complementary accessory uses, including but not limited to restrooms, drinking water, and emergency telephones along major bicycle and pedestrian routes, as well as safe, secure, appropriately designed, and conveniently located bicycle parking and shower/locker/storage facilities." Good stuff. For women, this not only means that the chances of being able to conduct activities of daily living via bike are high but also that our children will be able to do so as well, freeing us from having to take them everywhere in minivans and providing them with critical life skills and mobility independence. Plus, the proliferation of Bike to School and Safe Routes to Schools activity across the state means folks are definitely trying.  

Bike laws specific to Idaho include the famous "Idaho stop," which means a bike rider can slow at a stop sign and stop-and-go at a red light if the way is clear. For women (who tend to ride slower than men), this means we don't lose momentum at intersections and we have a quick, legal getaway in case of street harassment. Additionally, some cities allow bike riders to ride on sidewalks and do not require dismount in crosswalks. This does provide a legal alternative to road-riding for women (who, in general and for many reasons, prefer protected spaces for bike riding — see my book for more on this and many other topics relating to women on bikes) but it also puts us in compromised riding conditions (bushes, blind spots, driveways, etc.) and impedes on pedestrians and those in wheelchairs. Plus, it could serve as an excuse for cities to not invest in appropriate access-for-all.

Research about bike riding in Idaho both on trails and in cities keeps bringing up the dreaded "goatheads," which are the spiky, dried seeds of the aptly-named puncturevine. This invasive species is the cause of thousands of bicycle flats a year, and efforts to eradicate the plants are ongoing. In particular, the Boise Bicycle Project, which donates bikes to people in need and serves as a community bike repair facility, is committed to providing people with the skills they need to change their frequent flats. For women, frequent flats threaten not just our independence but also our safety so being able to attain these basic technical skills is critical to our involvement with bike riding. 

Also, it is important that girls see women in hands-on technical capacities so they have positive role models, and I did find stories about women such as Kelly Valyou who are bike mechanics (which, by the way, is only one out of every ten bike mechanics nationwide) as well as a woman named Jeri Rutherford who invented a more comfortable, innovative bike seat. We need more stories like that. 

See here and here for backgrounders to this series. Become a patron and get continued access to these posts as we go state-by-state to see what's great for women on bikes across the USA.