There's trouble - right here in River City.
Actually Garden City.
Since last summer, there's been an ongoing turf war, pitting river-front homeowners against bike riders, for access to a stretch of bike path running along the river bank.
If you're not up to speed, here's a brief history.
Around 1980, a development called "Riverside Village" went in, just north of the Boise River. Based on what I've seen, it was developed by Idaho Forest Industries and Evans Brothers Construction. A fella named John Evans was the project manager.
The homeowners along the riverfront lots have tried to maintain limited access to the trail that runs along the river, behind their houses. Limited meaning "no bikes." Any objective observer would agree that the trail is part of the Boise River Greenbelt - a bike/pedestrian path that's envisioned to stretch from Lucky Peak Dam, east of Boise, to Eagle, west of Boise.
However, unlike most of the Greenbelt, that short stretch of trail has never been paved. The homeowners even went so far as to put up some "No Bicycles" signs, which weren't always observed to their liking. So last summer, Garden City (headed by a fella named Mayor John Evans) made it a misdemeanor to ride a bike where it's posted "No Bicycles."
It should also be noted that the detour for that section is Highway 44 - a 55-mph, 5-lane highway. Kinda makes the whole path inaccessible for casual cyclists and kids on bikes... no?
I'm happy to report - the bike riders aren't giving up without a fight.
A fella named Gary Segers and a group called Idaho Citizens for an Open Greenbelt - COG (website HERE) have done their homework, and discovered some interesting things.
When Riverside Village was developed in 1980, the Idaho Department of Lands had control of the land along the river bank. In exchange for the parcel of land, "the DEVELOPER agrees that in connection with the construction of the project known as Riverside Village... they shall construct certain improvements on the state land consisting generally of a bike path, lakes, pedestrian bridges..." (That's from the official recorded document, which can be seen on the COG's website.)
What's so hard to understand? A bike path is a path that bikes can be ridden on, no? Can't we ALL agree on that?
Garden City will revisit the issue in a meeting TONIGHT (Monday, 2/25, 7pm) at City Hall.
Are they going to right the wrong?
I'm speculating they won't do it willingly.
Consider... in a quasi-official "Garden City News" emailing, Riverside Village resdent Donna Brown (of 4780 River Cove) writes this, in announcing the 2/25 meeting:
"... the bikers are back simply demanding the use of the Nature Trail, ignoring wildlife and the safety and rights of the pedestrians who are asking for only one mile of safe haven from bicyclists. This is not even taking into account the obvious structural and financial impossibilities of Garden City to prepare and maintain the path for the unwanted bikes."
I can't help but wonder when I read that:
- Why are bicyclists viewed as so much more destructive to the "nature trail's" Waldenesque serenity, than hoardes of walkers, joggers, family pets, backyard parties, lawn mowers, etc.?
- Aren't the "structural and financial impossibilities" a problem faced by Riverside Village, and not Garden City?
If bicyclists are compromising the "safety and rights" of pedestrians, shame on them! That is wrong, and should be corrected. However, banning them from a state-mandated bike path doesn't seem the answer. They don't punish speeders or DUI offenders by closing the road.
So - do I have a dog in the fight?
My interest is... it bothers me to see a "no bikes" sign ANYWHERE, if other traffic is allowed. It's almost always a sign of misunderstanding. It's bothersome to think that a 20-mile stretch of path can be disrupted for a one-mile stretch, at the whim of a neighborhood. (There are plenty of neighborhoods with greenbelt in the back yard. And from my casual observation, the cyclists are no more disruptive than any other traffic. Bike riders are generally also homeowners, taxpayers, citizens, pedestrians.) I've never ridden or walked on that stretch of Greenbelt. But if it's reopened to bicyclists, I will, just because I can. (I pledge not to endanger other pathway users, or bother our little furry and feathery friends.)
I hope to attend the meeting tonight. Mostly I'm curious for an explanation of what "bike path" means to the officials of Garden City... and to find out if Mayor Evans sees himself as mayor of the entire town, or just Riverside Village.
(Previous commentary HERE, HERE and HERE.)