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Bike path opens from Genesee to El Rancho

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Segment completes I-70 trail

By Corinne Westeman

While CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt was in the midst of his speech, a cyclist zipped up the trail behind him to join his fellow bikers in the crowd. It was hard to blame the eager cyclist; after all, the trail he’d just biked had been almost 11 years in the making.

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The Colorado Department of Transportation and other organizations commemorated the official opening of the Interstate 70 bike path from the Genesee buffalo overlook to El Rancho on Sept. 28.

The 2.4-mile trail is the “final link” in the Denver-to-Glenwood Springs path, which no longer requires bicyclists to travel along the I-70 shoulder.

CDOT representatives said the trail also is open to pedestrians, especially those wishing to visit the buffalo overlook. Visitors previously walked along the ramp and shoulder to view the bison.

In his speech, Bhatt said the path was the result of collaboration between CDOT, Bike Jeffco, Denver Mountain Parks and other organizations. He said the path is part of CDOT’s mission “to save lives and make them better, by getting (cyclists) off the highway.”

Almost 50 people attended the ceremony, with most standing beside their bikes bedecked in helmets and riding gear.

Cyclist Diane Culpepper of Centennial said it was her first time biking in the area, but that she is “always excited for new trails in Colorado.”

Larry French of Evergreen, a member of the Team Evergreen bicycle club, said he had biked along the interstate shoulder several times during his almost 30 years of cycling.

“Anything we can do to improve interaction between cars and bikes is a good thing,” he said. “Plus, it’s a safer thing by getting us (cyclists) away from traffic.”

Dave Evans of Bike Jeffco said the organization rode the I-70 shoulder in 2004 and wrote a report about the experience, in the hopes of motivating the creation of a safer alternative.

“Everybody said (the path) was a great idea, but there was no money,” Evans told the attendees in his speech. “So this is truly a dream come true. I honestly think it’s one of the most scenic bikeways.”

Bob Bettinger of Lakewood, a Bike Jeffco member, said he had been part of the shoulder ride in 2004.

“It was dangerous,” he said. “There were things falling off trucks, and rocks and gravel flying up.”

Bettinger said he could envision “families coming up from the city to use this trail.”

He and Evans were geared up for their first ride down the newly opened bike path.

“As advocates, we plant a lot of seeds,” Evans said. “Sometimes they don’t always grow, but we’re glad to see this one come to fruition.”