Monday, December 13, 2010

The COG in the Legal Machine

Posted By on Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 5:57 PM

On the north side of the Boise River sits a 1.5 mile stretch of greenbelt, buttressed by the Riverside Village subdivision. A sign at the entrance reads "Bicycle dismount zone: Garden City code.” What gives?

In the other direction, the greenbelt sports two bike-friendly lanes to Boise’s downtown, all the way to Lucky Peak and beyond. But the city has called the section unsafe for bike use, citing that as the need for the dismount zone.

After a years-long battle with Garden City, the State of Idaho and residents of the Riverside Village development, the Citizens for an Open Greenbelt are looking to open up the section for cyclists. After a relatively quiet 2009, COG started a grassroots movement to raise enough cash—roughly $4,000—for a suit against Garden City and the state.

“I think a lot of our supporters are convinced that it’s simply because of the homeowners there,” said COG founder Gary Segers.

Originally slated to become part of a continuous riverside pathway for the public, the section that runs through Garden City on the North side has been a dismount zone for cyclists since 1980. In 1994, the state sued to get the greenbelt path linked to Eagle. In 2008—at COG’s prodding—the Land Board weighed in on the lack of progress. Unfortunately for cyclists, they deferred to the city.

According to COG, the section is perfectly suited for bike travel, and based on documents they’ve found, they claim that the section was always meant for bike travel.

“The difference is, most of the greenbelt in Boise is paved. The thing is, if you look at the Eagle greenbelt, it’s the same pathway,” said Segers. “Same kind of width, same kind of design to it. Eagle’s perfectly fine with letting bikers use that pathway.”

Speaking of Boise's greenbelt, there's a section also deemed a dismount zone for ecological protection. The difference between the two dismount zones: Boise's Southside no-bike section is offset by a paved path north side of the river, and it runs all the way to Lucky Peak Reservoir. Not so for the disputed Garden City section, which is a gap between a continuous bike path to Eagle—it ends abruptly south side.

With newly enlisted pro bono legal counsel, COG is moving forward with their lawsuit to remove the bike-free section. With the help of attorneys Greg Adams, J. Kahle Becker, and David Hammerquist, they contend that the agreements through which the land was gifted stipulate a bike ban is illegal.

“By looking at those documents, we are confident, we are convinced this area, this public trust land, was intended by the state of Idaho; designed, created and intended to be a bike path,” said Segers.

Garden City states that the section’s pedestrian focus is legal, and suggests cyclists take a sanctioned detour that runs Northwest through neighborhood streets. They also note that there’s a south side of the greenbelt, (though it ends abruptly at a sand and gravel pit).

Gary Segers and COG expressed frustration when 11 cyclists came forward on tickets they'd received in the dismount zone. The ticket, according to Assistant Mayor Elizabeth Connor, is $74 plus court fees, about $100 per infraction—a total of $1,200 between the cyclists. According to Segers and confirmed by Conner, the tickets are issued by ATV patrol.

"I just think it’s kind of funny" said Segers. "The way to solve this problem is to use ATVs on this 'unsafe greenbelt' for what’s supposed to be a bike path? They ought to use that $1,200 to make the path safe."

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