[Background: A short stretch of the "greenbelt" has been left unpaved in the Riverside Village subdivision of Garden City. The city recently passed a new ordinance which makes it a misdemeanor to ride your bike along that particular stretch. It's probably just a coincidence, but Mayor Evans lives in that neighborhood. Previous commentary on the topic can be read HERE and HERE.]
Today, the daily newspaper features a letter from Riverside Village resident Sue Paul, who takes bike advocate Gary Segers to task.
Ms. Paul: I live on the Greenbelt walking trail ... It is a narrow, gravel and dirt nature trail designed for pedestrian use. There is a wide-paved bike path on the south side of the river, which leaves plenty of room for both pedestrians and bikers to merge comfortably. The Greenbelt throughout the Valley has many areas that are designated "walking only, no bikes" because they are nature trails designed to protect wildlife and preserve the beauty of our natural river banks. Is it so difficult for Mr. Segers and his family to walk their bikes down this lovely, peaceful trail for 1 mile?
I really don't understand his complaint. He is not being denied access to any part of the Greenbelt. He is simply being asked to respect designated walking areas, which harbor bird, duck and geese nesting grounds. Instead of berating Garden City and Mayor John Evans for taking something away from him and his family, perhaps he should step back and thank them for giving him and his family the opportunity to "take the time to smell the roses" — the walking trail winding through Riverside Village allows just that opportunity. (Statesman online website HERE.)
I've got a couple responses that come immediately to mind. (Let me try to help her understand Mr. Segers' complaint.)
1. There are far fewer "walking only, no bikes" corridors than Ms. Paul envisions. In fact, the only other one I'm aware of is behind another hoity-toity exclusive neighborhood, upstream in the River Run area.
2. Is there something about bicycles that's particularly irritating to birds, ducks and geese? What is her rationale for assuming bicyclists will disrupt the reverie of the little forest creatures, but pedestrians won't? (Or big houses, golden retrievers, lawnmowers, backyard barbecue parties, etc.)
3. She's concerned that a slightly-wider paved path will destroy "the beauty of our natural river banks." This from a lady who lives in a big ol' house a few feet from that natural river bank? Yeah, right! (Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.)
4. She implies that bicyclists can't "take time to smell the roses." Boy howdy, how little she knows! She probably drives everywhere in her SUV, and doesn't realize that one of the main attractions to bicycle transportation is the opportunity it affords to commune with nature. Of course, if you're in a hurry to get to work, you might not have the time to stop to smell the roses, no matter your means of transport.
5. She directs Mr. Segers to the south shore of the river, with its paved path. Well, that might be fine if he's on a recreational jaunt, but what if he's headed for work or some other destination? Evidently Ms. Paul joins the vast majority of citizens (including the vast majority of bicycle riders) who see bikes as toys, not transportation. She may not be aware, but the south-side paved path dead-ends (westbound), and from there you get on Highway 20 (Chinden) to Eagle Road... the next river crossing downstream. Would that be her chosen route, when she's with her family on a lovely bike ride?
I say bring the Riverside Village stretch into compliance with the rest of the Greenbelt, and be done with it. Ms. Paul's resultant suffering will be less than the people on Ustick who are losing their yards to another (motor) traffic lane... and I'm confident the little birdies and bunnies will be impacted even less.
(Sorry... I've got kind of an "attitude" today. Maybe it's all that riding in hot sun and yellow air!)