I once heard the Greenbelt described as "Boise's Crown Jewel."
(For readers who might not be familiar with Boise's "Greenbelt," it's a series of mostly-paved pathways that run parallel to the Boise River. It stretches almost 20 miles, from Lucky Peak Dam at the east end, to Garden City on the west end. For the most part, the pavement is probably 8-12 feet wide - adequate for single-file, 2-way, non-motorized traffic. That traffic is close to non-existent in winter, and extremely heavy on a perfect summer day.)
And indeed, it is a fabulous resource for recreation and communing with nature.
Less so as a transportation corridor, unfortunately.
Although many non-riders can't seem to understand why.
I was once riding on Cole Road, and was asked by a motorist, "Why don't you people stick to the Greenbelt?"
Well, mister, the Greenbelt is nice, but it just won't take me to the orthodontist's office. (All three of my daughters were wearing braces at the time... I was giving the doctor some serious help with his boat payments that year.) A transportation cyclist, like his counterparts in their cars and trucks, has to pick a route that will take him to his destination.
The Greenbelt has other drawbacks. My colleague Danielo has waxed eloquent on the mix of humanity that floods the Greenbelt on a nice day. They make it tough for transportation cyclists.
Here's a typical recipe:
- Put 2 people on the Greenbelt.
- Add 2 more people, on bicycles, who happen to know the first 2 people.
- They cross paths. So the cyclists park their bikes (on the pavement), and the 4 of 'em engage in jovial conversation (on the pavement).
Are you getting the idea? If you're driving down I-84 and see some people you know, do you stop your car in the middle of the road, and then all of you stand in the middle of the road to chit-chat? I'd guess not.
- Add a guy with an unleashed dog. (Sure, the sign says "All dogs must be on leash," but his dog is apparently "special.")
- Add a gal with a leashed dog - one of those 30-foot spring-loaded retractable leashes, so her dog can run from side to side or make 30-foot circles around her.
- Add 3 or 4 wankers on their BMX bikes, chattering and riding like squirrels, only less predictably.
- Add a "roller blader," whose back-and-forth gliding motion occupies 7.5 feet of the 8-foot-wide pathway.
Is there any thing that compares, on a public roadway? Would motorists, and the law-enforcement community, tolerate such a situation?
- Add a few cell-phone yakkers. (Both on foot and on bike. If I have to talk on my cell phone, I stand still, out of traffic. Maybe it's because I see cell-phone-yammering people do such stupid-looking things when they're on the move. Totally unpredictable.)
- Add some gal whose head is obviously in the clouds, as she stares up at them. (Not a bad pastime... but NOT while you're strolling on a public, mixed-mode path!) She starts... she stops... she wanders from side to side.
- Now add some bonehead Lance Armstrong wanna-be, decked out in his lycra team colors, dodging the other users at 25mph on his road bike. (A poser. REAL road-cyclists use the... you guessed it - ROAD!!)
- Now add 3 sweet little blue-hair ladies, who like to chat as they walk. So they walk 3 abreast, mostly oblivious to other pathway users. (I'm always afraid to approach or say something, for fear one of 'em will get startled and have a heart attack.)
- Now add the MOTORIZED traffic.
"But Bike Nazi!" you exclaim. "There are 'no motor vehicle' signs everywhere! Surely motor vehicles would create hazards!"
One would think.
But apparently "official government" motor vehicles are somehow exempt. (Ain't that ALWAYS the case!) I see park maintenance vehicles, "greenbelt patrol" vehicles, police vehicles. NONE look like they belong. (I've actually seen Garden City cops driving a regular squad car on their stretch of Greenbelt. If that isn't an accident-waiting-to-happen, I don't know what is.)
Like Danielo says, it's totally frustrating for somebody who's just trying to get from Point A to Point B. (Unlike during winter, when all those incompetents stay indoors.)