Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Are Boise parks getting bike-UNfriendly?

This is a letter I sent to Boise's Mayor, City Council, and Parks Department.

Dear City Administrators:


Below are two photos I recently snapped, along bike/pedestrian paths in our area.  One was taken in Boise – a city desiring to be known for being "bike friendly," and succeeding at that effort in many ways.  (What with our ACHD "Bronze Level" recognition by the Bike League, etc.)  The other was taken in Garden City – a community that has a reputation for being somewhat stand-offish and "unfriendly" when it comes to bicycles on public pathways.  See if you can guess which sign is in which city:

If you guessed that "bikes yield" in Boise and "no bicycles" in Garden City, you'd be WRONG!  There aren't many "no bicycles" signs in Boise, but I've seen them in two recent development projects – a disturbing trend?  The photo was taken in the new Williams Park, at the east end of town, and there are also "no bicycles" signs at the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve at the west end of town.  In fact, the Hyatt "rules" state, "Dogs, bicycles and all water activities are prohibited in the preserve."

Why the antipathy towards bicycles?  Is there something inherently destructive or undesirable about bicycles and their riders?  I can understand a rule prohibiting dogs – at least unleashed dogs.  And a prohibition on water "activities" in wetland habitat areas certainly makes sense.  But why a blanket prohibition on bicycles??

As a lifelong Boise resident and cycling advocate, I'm unhappy that cyclists are "presumed guilty with no opportunity to demonstrate innocence."

Are there some irresponsible cyclists that crowd our paths?  Absolutely!  But you don't prohibit all motorists from using the roads because a few of them drive drunk!  (And I might add, there are plenty of irresponsible pedestrians, roller-bladers, dog-walkers, etc. crowding the paths as well.)

On many days I ride through Williams Park, or ride past the Hyatt Reserve, without seeing another soul.  Why do you arbitrarily prohibit me from trying a different path?  I've never run over a duck or goose in my life!  (I ran over a cat once, with my bicycle on a city street, but it was clearly the cat's fault!)  If my granddaughter and I are riding the Greenbelt in Williams Park, and want to use the restroom or fill water bottles, we have to get off and walk our bikes down an often-empty sidewalk.  Makes NO sense!

Why not use the new facilities as an educational opportunity?  Frankly, I quite like those Garden City "Shared Path / Bikes Yield" signs – you should post them all up and down the Greenbelt!  Maybe with a "Speed Limit 15mph" in addition.

I do most of my riding on city streets.  On those occasions when I take to the Greenbelt, I sincerely try to follow the rules, and resent cyclists who either are unaware of the rules or have no intention of following them.  But don't penalize all of us on account of the scofflaws!

Steve Hulme
Lifelong Boise Citizen, Taxpayer, Voter


I got a very informative email response from an employee of the Parks & Recreation department, who was involved in the development of both facilities mentioned.

I was informed that both of those facilities had pre-existing conditions on them, that excluded bicycles and certain other user categories.   The city had no choice in the matter.  In the case of the Hyatt Reserve, "One of the main focuses was to minimize the disturbance to the water fowl and wildlife."  I take minor issue with that... I replied, "I have ongoing confusion about how a bicycle rolling along a path (at a reasonable speed) could possibly create any more "disturbance" to wildlife than an equivalent number of pedestrians crunching along the path."

But the response is encouraging - the City hasn't adopted a policy of excluding bicyclists from newly-developed facilities, overall.


Clancy Anderson said...

Interesting about the no bikes. They should welcome all users as long as they are being respectful of others.

Even with this heat, I have seen more riders on my commute.

fortboise said...

Definitely don't want to see exclusions become a regular thing, but it seems reasonable in the case of Hyatt. I did ride around in there once or twice when it was just a funky abandoned quarry, but it's not on the way to anywhere, and it's not large.

Hyatt Park Bikers said...

You might be interested to know that neither the City of Boise or the State of Idaho have one scrap of evidence to support the assertion of biking having an adverse affect on ANY wildlife in ANY park. The papers/articles that I received from the state all confess that that there is no research regarding this topic... none.

I have also been in contact with the city about the use of bikes in Hyatt and have been told that if there is neighborhood support for a change, the city could vote to allow bikes in Hyatt. So as part of my effort to do that I have created a survey on Survey Monkey. Please pass this along to your biking friends and family.