... at the Garden City Council Meeting, where "Open Greenbelt" was on the docket.
(This is about an ongoing controversy surrounding a shared bike/pedestrian path. A very "local" issue. If you're not interested... sorry. But it's my duty as a tireless advocate for downtrodden cyclists EVERYWHERE. Especially in my back yard.)
As far as I know, it's the first time I've been in the same room with Gary (Segers), who did a presentation on behalf of the citizens who want continued bicycle access to the Riverside Village BIKE PATH. (I'm using terminology from the 1980 agreement between the State of Idaho and the developers.)
The first thing I learned is - Gary is awesome! I'm happy to be in his corner. He was amazingly well-prepared. His delivery was calm and rational and on-point. (And I totally disagree with an older gentleman who testified against bicycles, and suggested that Gary expressed poor judgment. Not one thing he said sounded unreasonable or lacking in judgment, at least to this observer.)
I learned that cyclists are perceived as disruptive, at least on bike-pedestrian -type paths.
One fella said it was unfair to characterize all cyclists in that manner. And he's right - but so are the other people.
We cyclists tend to be our own worst enemies - at least some of us. Some of us don't seem to realize that we are "ambassadors" for cycling, whether we like it or not. We can make either a good impression or a bad impression. (We all tend to stereotype; for example, I tend to stereotype all pickup-truck drivers in a certain way, based on the behavior of a few of them.)
The "shirts" (cyclists who wear colorful lycra "team" shirts, ride road bikes, and go "30mph" on the Greenbelt) are few in number, but make a big impression. One person after another - mostly residents of Riverside Village - stood to testify about the poor behavior of that type of cyclist.
I say - SHAME ON THE SHIRTS!
If it weren't for them (you), riding up behind pedestrians and zipping by without any advance warning, swerving around people, hammering around corners with poor sight distance, and all that other stuff you do that irritates other pathway users, there would likely not even be an effort to keep ALL bike riders off that stretch of bike path!
(REAL competitive cyclists are out on the roads, anyway. The Greenbelt - at least in the congested areas - is NOT a suitable environment for "training rides." The "shirts" who are causing the problems on the Greenbelt are a bunch of weenies, posers, wankers, etc.)
But on the other hand... one person testified about how her communing-with-nature is totally ruined by cyclists coming up behind her and saying, "On your left."
"Jiminy!" (As Senator Larry Craig would say.) What do you want?
And there are plenty of zombies (read Danielo's enlightened essay about Zombies HERE) who aren't paying enough attention to their surroundings. There are also a LOT of people on the Greenbelt - perhaps a majority these days - who walk along with their earplugs jammed in. Is it any wonder that these folks get startled by a bicyclist who comes up from behind? GET A CLUE, PEOPLE!
A non-motorized mixed-use path is problematic. You'll have pedestrians going 2 (or zero) MPH. You'll have cyclists going 10 or 15 MPH. (30 is inappropriate... and impossible for 99% of bike riders, by the way.) You'll have roller bladers going somewhere in between. It takes a bit of cooperation, and a lot of paying-attention, but they can all mesh nicely - almost like ballet - if everybody is paying attention and respecting other pathway users. (Your "communing with nature" is wonderful. But it must not cause you to become an obstacle to other pathway users, in Riverside Village or ANY PLACE along the Greenbelt! Step off the path, and life will be much easier for everybody!)
I learned that the Riverside Village people tend to think of the bike path as their "nature trail."
Most of them described the serenity they enjoy in their back yards, and on the trail. (In stark contrast with the sense of terror and anarchy they feel, when you put bikers in the mix.)
Several told of how they informally polled other pathway users, and were pleasantly surprised to discover that many people travel long distances to enjoy the unique beauty and serenity of the Riverside Village path. But I got the distinct impression that they see themselves as benevolent land barons, willingly sharing THEIR treasure with outsiders who pass the inspection.
One lady - the one who serves "afternoon wine" to anonymous passers-by - even called it "our nature trail."
I'm confident if you polled people along ANY stretch of the Greenbelt, you'd discover that they come from far and wide.
I learned that Garden City is widely viewed as the obstacle to a continuous, uninterrupted Greenbelt.
Gary Segers pointed out that on the BSU website (click HERE to link), it states, "The political history of Garden City's Plantation and Riverside Village developments have for over a decade prevented the completion of the Greenbelt and the public's access to the river."
Residents, and Garden City officials, seem to take a certain "pride" in being the wrench-in-the-cogs. They like their path "just the way it is." The seem to not share the vision of the rest of the community, of the Greenbelt as extending on both sides of the river, continuous from Lucky Peak Dam past Eagle Island. (It would be easily feasible to bike-ride from one end to the other; only serious athletes - like Councilman Souza - could do it on foot. Grin)
(To be fair... there are a couple other stretches, outside of Garden City, that will likely never be open to bicycle traffic for much the same reason. Bikes and adorable woodland creatures don't mix. Our furry friends thrive among pedestrians, dogs, houses, back yards, lawnmowers, barbecue parties... but cannot tolerate bicycles.)
I learned that some people see the Greenbelt as a RECREATIONAL facility, but dismiss it as a TRANSPORTATION facility.
And, I s'pose if you only use it for recreational purposes, such a viewpoint is understandable. (Especially if the only way you ever get to work, or anyplace else, is in your single-occupant vehicle.)
I know better.
I love recreating on the Greenbelt. But almost every workday, I ride a short stretch of it on my commute. And I know I'm not alone. Go out there on a day when snow has fallen the night before. The Greenbelt will be covered with bike tracks in the snow; you can't convince me that those folks (who passed sometime between the 10pm snowstorm and 7:30 the next morning) are out enjoying a lovely recreational pastime.
A guy testified who said he rides in from Eagle to Boise every day, on his bicycle. And the Riverside Village closure puts him out on State Street. I'm a hard-core transportation cyclist (or so I believe), and am comfortable in almost any traffic situation. But I'd choose to avoid State Street at 7:30am, if another choice were available.
I learned that there have never been very many bicyclists along the Riverside Village path.
Several people stood and testified that since there aren't many bike riders along their path, not many people would be impacted by it being closed to bikes.
An alternative viewpoint is - since there aren't very many bike riders along the path, why is it so critical that the path be blocked to them?
I didn't learn - but I had it reinforced - that the Greenbelt is a regional resource, not a local resource.
A man - a Garden City resident - stood up with his young daughter and explained that they like to ride their bikes along the Greenbelt to get to Boise's parks. (Since Garden City is pretty short on parks.) His daughter testified that she doesn't like to ride where she'll have to deal with cars.
Just as Boise's parks are open and free to people from all around the region, and even beyond, the Greenbelt is intended to benefit everybody.
While the Greenbelt passes through multiple jurisdictions, in concept it is a "continuous mixed-use path on both sides of the river." (I don't have the official "mission statement" at hand, but that's the jist.) If those jurisdictions start restricting what the Greenbelt is, we lose. What if Ada County decided that ONLY bicycles should be allowed from Diversion Dam to Discovery State Park? What if the City of Boise decided to make the stretch behind Boise State University "Roller Blade Only"?
What I didn't learn - how Garden City and Riverside Village can in good conscience ignore the agreement they made - and signed - with the State of Idaho, in no uncertain terms, that they would develop and maintain a BICYCLE PATH, right where the "no bicycles" signs are currently posted.
(One person stood up and said that the word "bicycle" was deliberately excluded from the final deed, transferring the property to Garden City. I'm anxiously trying to find out if that's the case - if, at the last minute, somebody from the State of Idaho ultimately agreed with the other parties that bikes weren't such a good idea after all.)
To be continued...