Updated bikeways plan provides more options

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COEUR d'ALENE — A plan has been developed that could provide the city of Coeur d'Alene with a blueprint for pedestrian and bicycle trails over the next five years.

The Trails and Bikeways Master Plan, originally adopted in 2010, was recently updated by members of the city's Pedestrian and Bike Committee, along with the Parks Department. According to Monte McCully, Coeur d'Alene trails coordinator, the update to the plan was needed because of the many changes to the city since it was originally implemented.

Adoption of the plan, according to McCully, does not require the city to allocate funds for recommended additions of bike lanes and trails in the city. McCully said when a potential project is pursued, it is funded by applying for grants, or requesting funding approval from the city council.

"It's a culmination of the work a number of citizens and committee members have put in," said Councilwoman Kiki Miller. "It gives the department a reference point and focus for project priorities in the city."

City Engineer Chris Bosley, who was previously the chair of the city's Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee, told The Press that two major additions to the master plan were the inclusion of mountain biking trails and "water trails," or pathways in the lake commonly used by kayakers and stand up paddleboarders.

In the seven years since the original master plan was created, Bosley said traffic patterns have changed, new streets have popped up, and some roads have become more popular for use by cyclists and pedestrians. The updated plan, Bosley said, speaks to those developments in Coeur d'Alene and gives recommendations for further connectivity — the concept of pathways used by pedestrians and cyclists being better connected to encourage use.

Bike lane improvements, such as installing bike lanes from Best Avenue south across Interstate 90 to Hattie Avenue, are included in the updated plan. There are also recommendations to extend bike lanes in certain areas of the city, including on 15th Street.

Bike boulevards, which Bosley described as a non-thoroughfare road with low traffic volume and speeds that can be shared equally by motorists and cyclists, are also mentioned. The city, he added, has already created a bike boulevard on Young Avenue from Eighth Street to 19th Street by adding signage showing popular bike paths in the city and additional striping on the road itself that speaks to the road being used by cyclists and motorists.

Additional bike boulevards are recommended for Seventh Street from Harrison Avenue to Best Avenue, and on 19th Street from Nettleton Gulch to Shadduck Lane.

John Kelly, one of the founders of Bike CDA, told The Press Wednesday he has thoroughly reviewed the document and does not believe it goes far enough with regards to the safety of on-street cyclists. Instead, Kelly said the document is weighed heavily toward trails, rather than what he called common crash scenarios between cyclists and motor vehicles.

"There are no countermeasures discussed to aid in the prevention of these crashes," Kelly said. "I've started a laundry list of what this document is lacking. I'm really not sure why the city is trying to do this document in-house instead of seeking out professional help from a firm that has experience designing these plans for top bicycling cities in the nation."

Kelly added he believes the city made the same mistake in 2010 when it chose to create the document in-house.

"I really hope that we do not make this same mistake again," Kelly said. "The safety of our walking and biking community are at stake."

Bosley said hiring an outside firm to prepare the updated master plan would have cost between $30,000 and $100,000. Instead, the city was able to complete the project using primarily volunteer efforts, and limited staff time.

"We came up with a plan that is solid still and that speaks volumes," Bosley said.

The update to the Trails and Bikeways Master Plan is scheduled to be voted on by the city council during its regular meeting on Jan. 17. The vote will be lumped into the council's "consent calendar," meaning no additional discussion is planned on the issue.

A complete copy of the updated plan can be found at http://bit.ly/2j8B6NJ.

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