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Growth's strain on the Treasure Valley's infrastructure, and the frustrations and headaches that has caused, has spurred everyday residents to step up to help solve the problem.

Several citizen-led groups and public-private alliances are dedicated to improving alternatives to traditional transportation in the valley. A major aim of these groups is to make it easier and safer for cyclists and pedestrians to get around, in turn reducing the number of cars on the road.

Here is a look at three such groups:

NAMPA BICYCLE PROJECT

LaRita Schandorff has been working on improving pedestrian and bicycle safety in Nampa since 2004. She has served on Nampa's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. She helped start Bike Walk Nampa, which advocates for improved conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists. And most recently, she is the director for the Nampa Bicycle Project. The nonprofit refurbishes used bicycles and makes them available to persons in need, free of charge.

"It is a simple application (to request a bike), and through that we have learned the stories of people," Schandorff said. "The stories are all over the place. It is not just adults, but people from ages 14 and up. They are sometimes unsupported youth, homeless teens in the school districts. We have been giving bikes to those kids."

Schandorff in February said she gets at least two requests a week for bicycles, and when the weather improves she expects even more.

"Every time we give a bike, we talk to (the person) about how far they can get, how to use public transit, how to use the Lyft program that works with Treasure Valley Transit," Schandorff said.

With the Lyft program, Treasure Valley Transit users can get a code to use to get $2 Lyft rides to the nearest bus stop from their homes or from the bus stop to their homes.

Schandorff said through the Nampa Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, the city has expanded bike and pedestrian pathways and installed signage recommending safe routes for pedestrians and cyclists.

In addition to working on getting people bikes, Schandorff said she has also been trying, for years, to get people to speak up during Nampa City Council meetings about their public transportation needs. She said she has come across a lot of people who complain about the public transportation in Nampa, but don't know how to speak up for changes, and don't realize how important their voices are.

"If leadership hears people coming up with solutions to make the road different and public transportation better, they'll hear the message," she said.

Schandorff said she believes transportation leads to the success or demise of a city.

"If you can't have a good transportation system, you have people who are invisible and undeserved."

"You have to give a population choices," she said. By having walking and biking and alternative forms, it is another way to get around."

The Nampa Bicycle Project runs out of a small shop downtown at 1510 First Street South. They typically give a bike away every day they are open. Their hours are 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.

Schandorff said sometimes people will offer money for a bike, but she said the nonprofit never accepts it. Sometimes people will work to help restore bikes for others to give back to the organization.

"Transportation is the barrier between someone being stuck and getting on with their lives," she said. "I hope bikes can help people move on with their lives."

IDAHO WALK BIKE ALLIANCE

With several bike advocacy groups present in the Treasure Valley, the Idaho Walk Bike Alliance focuses more on improving the valley for people who walk, said Cynthia Gibson, its executive director. 

The alliance is a statewide nonprofit that focuses on improving the safety on the state's roads for people who travel without using a motor vehicle.

The group's main goal, Gibson said, is to advocate in the Legislature for more state funding for more sidewalks, crosswalks, pathways and infrastructure so children can move safely to and from school.

"We have worked on this for five years and will continue until we are successful because it is so important," Gibson said in an email. "We believe in a balanced transportation system to support everyone, including the 31.5% of the population that does not drive a car due to age, ability, affordability or desire."

Gibson said sometimes pedestrian advocates are less visible than bike alliances in the advocacy community, which is why the alliance is heavily focused on walkers. 

"Walkers tend to not have the organization that bicycle groups have, they have a higher rate of fatalities and their visibility is not as elevated," she said. "And we are all walkers. We work closely with our partners at the bicycle organizations because we all need to be saying the same thing, which is that people who walk and bicycle matter."

Gibson said the group started the Pedestrian Advisory Group at Ada County Highway District that advises the commissioners on how to improve road projects so they are designed better for all the people walking or bicycling.

The group is working with the American Heart Association and AARP to work on improving safe routes to schools for students to walk and bike.

"We did one along 8th and 9th Streets last fall to improve safety for children walking to and from school," Gibson said. "It was a huge success and we are looking at three other demo locations this spring. We want to continue doing these demos and hope people call us with ideas in their neighborhoods. The philosophy behind putting these up is it allows people to try out a feature as a walker or a biker while motorists understand that while they may need to slow down it is not going to make much more than a few seconds difference in their commute times."

PATHWAYS AND BIKE ROUTES

With the increase in growth in Caldwell and to address the increase of non-motorized forms of travel, Caldwell established a Pathways and Bike Routes master plan in 2010.

The master plan was a collaboration between city planners and members of the Pathways and Bike Routes committee. 

Jerome Mapp, director of the Caldwell Planning and Zoning Department said in 2017, the committee creates a report that identifies the bicycle routes throughout the city of Caldwell. 

"We have identified bike routes that we want to develop throughout the city and we have some bike routes already finished," Mapp said. 

He said that the committee is working to update the master plan. 

The committee meets the third Thursday of the month at the Caldwell airport.

"We want to be able to provide routes for the community and families to be able to ride their bikes safely," Mapp said.

Rachel Spacek is the Latino Affairs and Canyon County reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at rspacek@idahopress.com. Follow her on twitter @RachelSpacek.

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