COEUR d'ALENE - A group of cyclists christened the new bike lanes on 15th Street on Saturday afternoon, enjoying a cool ride down a road that's now much safer.
The Coeur d'Alene Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee organized the ride as a way to say "thank you" to the city council for a job well done. Construction crews finished the bike lanes a few weeks ago; they stretch from just north of Cherry Hill Park all the way to Mullan Avenue.
"It's been unsafe (in the past)," said cyclist Warren Fisher. "Now you can go up and down (15th). It allows access to the Centennial Trail from the northeast side of town."
With schools and parks in the area, 15th Street is a major thoroughfare for students and commuters.
"Now kids have bike lanes to ride to get to school," Fisher added.
About 10 riders left the Coeur d'Alene Library at noon on Saturday, rode north on 15th and stopped at Cherry Hill Park, where they rendezvoused with members of the North Idaho BMX Association - another group thankful for the bike lanes, which provide easy access to the BMX course atop Cherry Hill.
Then the cyclists turned around and pedaled back to the library, completing the circuit and finishing the ride.
Monte McCully, the city's trail coordinator, led the thank-you ride. Thirty years ago, he said, when the city was first making plans for a trail system, 15th Street - as the only major north-south roadway on the east end of town - was recognized as a route that needed a bike path. Now, three decades later, the lanes are at last installed, and cyclists can ride without fear of vehicle traffic.
"It's a huge safety improvement," Gene O'Meara, one of the thank-you riders, said. "I've lived up there for 25 years. There's so many children there too. There's churches, there's schools. It's a big deal to me."