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A COG in the Machine

Proponents of opening a contested section of Greenbelt turn to the legal system.

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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."

In the other direction, the Greenbelt sports 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, hence the dismount zone.

After a years-long battle with Garden City, the State of Idaho and residents of Riverside Village, Citizens for an Open Greenbelt is looking to open the section for cyclists. COG started a grass-roots 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 pathway, the section 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 suited for bike travel, and based on documents, COG claims it was always meant for bikes.

"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: same kind of width, same kind of design to it," Segers said. "Eagle's perfectly fine with letting bikers use that pathway."

With newly enlisted pro bono legal counsel, COG is moving forward with its lawsuit to remove the limitations.

"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 closure is legal and suggests cyclists take a detour that runs through neighborhood streets.

Segers and COG were frustrated when 11 cyclists were issued tickets in the dismount zone. The ticket, according to Assistant Mayor Elizabeth Connor, is $74 plus court fees--about $100 per infraction--which adds up to $1,200 in total for the cyclists. According to Segers and confirmed by Conner, the tickets were 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?"

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