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Arts & Culture

Boise's Greenbelt Doesn't Make The Cut Of "Best Urban Bike Paths"

Frankie Barnhill
Boise State Public Radio

Boise has made a lot of national top 10 lists lately, but one the city is conspicuously absent from is a list of best urban bike paths. The well-known Boise River Greenbelt does not appear on a list from TheActiveTimes.com, despite stretching from east Boise west toward Nampa.

So what gives? Why isn't Boise on this list, next to smaller communities like Boulder and Eugene? After all, Boiseans are relatively boastful of their Greenbelt and close access to biking trails.

Here's a little bit on how the list-makers figured out which bike paths made the cut:

"For starters, many on our list are important commuting arteries that give cyclists direct access to business districts while avoiding city traffic and making few street crossings...Almost all are paved, and those that aren't are well surfaced with finely crushed rock and graded for ease of riding. Most importantly, though, a great bike path is separate from traffic for all or most of its length. Our selections, for the most part, are rail trails, which are former railway lines that have been paved over and converted for non-motorized use...They also happen to be exceptionally beautiful. All but three of these bike paths run alongside a body of water, and almost all are bounded by parkland, giving cyclists a decidedly non-urban respite from the stress of city riding. We also looked at other factors: Does the path offer exceptional views of, and access to, the city? Is it good for recreational riders and tourists? Does the city take pride in it?" -- The Active Times

Under this checklist, Boise's Greenbelt could arguably be competitive. Amy Stahl is with Boise's Department of Parks and Recreation, the agency that manages the popular bike path. She points out that the Greenbelt stretches along the scenic Boise River for most of it's 25 miles and is mostly paved. Stahl says much of the path connects conveniently to the downtown core and newer business centers like Bown Crossing.

Stahl isn't sure why the Greenbelt wasn't on this list. But she's not worried about the path's reputation outside of Boise.

"When we are contacted  by major magazines, and that includes Outside, Sunset, [and] AAA," continues Stahl, "nine times out of 10 the first questions they inquire about pertain to the Greenbelt. It's known of as an amenity that Boise can be proud of and we invest in it to make sure it continues to be so. And we believe it stands up well against any other pathway in any city in the country."

Stahl says the Parks Department receives $250,000 annually for Greenbelt maintenance. She says this fund shows the commitment the department and the city have made to improving the cycling experience.

But there has been some critique of the management and maintenance of the path. The Ada County Highway District is in charge of maintaining and building existing bike lanes, but it's the city's Parks and Recreation Department that's in charge of the Greenbelt.

Stahl says the department is working with ACHD on a system that will make it easier for pedestrians and bicyclists to access the river and find safe routes on streets. She says the collaboration between agencies is an ongoing effort.

Here are the top 12 urban bike paths according to TheActiveTimes.com:

  1. Midtown Greenway—Minneapolis
  2. Boulder Creek Path—Boulder, Colo.
  3. Burke-Gilman Trail—Seattle
  4. Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade & Springwater Trail Corridor—Portland, Ore.
  5. Cherry Creek Bike Path—Denver
  6. Minuteman Commuter Bikeway—Greater Boston
  7. Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail—Austin, Texas
  8. Lakefront Trail—Chicago
  9. Manhattan Waterfront Greenway—New York City
  10. Willamette River Trail—Eugene, Ore.
  11. American River Bike Trail—Sacramento
  12. Schuylkill River Trail—Philadelphia

What do you think Boise bikers, is the Greenbelt worthy of this list?

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