Advocacy Roundup 10/07/22

Pushing for Protected Bike Lanes

After outcry from local cycling advocates and officials, Petaluma will take a closer look at plans to improve bicycle safety on North McDowell Boulevard. The discussion comes as the city begins a $12 million project to repave nearly two miles of road between Southpoint Boulevard and Old Redwood Highway.

While the current construction plan includes the creation of dedicated bike lanes, the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition and other cycling advocates insist that protected bike lanes are necessary given the speeds and numbers of cars and trucks on the road. Without protected lanes, not only would McDowell remain unsafe for confident cyclists, but newer and less confident cyclists would be unlikely to ride there.

City staff say there is not enough room on the road to install protected bike lanes, and that there is too much vehicle traffic to warrant a “road diet” – a reduction in travel lanes that would calm traffic and create additional space for bicycles. But in voting to move the repaving project ahead, the Petaluma City Council directed staff to revisit ways to improve bicycle safety on North McDowell and to return to the board in four months with recommendations.

Meanwhile, in Santa Rosa, SCBC along with numerous local cycling advocates called for protected bike lanes on Mendocino Avenue, which is in line for a reconfiguration between College Avenue and Courthouse Square.  

Based on community input and surveys, the city’s current plan for the corridor involves installing dedicated bike lanes and maintaining existing vehicle parking, in part for the potential build-out of parklets for outdoor dining. City engineers say that there is not enough room to accommodate protected bike lanes.

But given a recent study indicating that much of the downtown’s parking spaces remain unused, cyclists at a recent city meeting argued that parking shouldn’t be prioritized over bike safety in the redesign of  Mendocino Avenue. Many urged the city to revisit the possibility of a two-way bike lane or “cycle track” on one side of the street, or installing bike lanes between the curb and parking spaces.

The Mendocino Avenue project will next be presented to the Downtown Action Organization, an arm of the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber, later this month.

SMART Path Updates

Construction is slated to begin on a quarter-mile stretch of the SMART path between Payran and Lakeville Streets in Petaluma, after the SMART Board awarded a $1.2 million contract to Ghilotti Bros. Additionally, the stretch of pathway between Payran and Southpoint Boulevard, which has been closed due to construction on Highway 101, is expected to reopen before the end of October.

Earlier this year, the SMART Board awarded a contract for design on several segments of the path in Sonoma County. Construction on the stretch connecting Southpoint with Main Street in Penngrove is expected to begin next year.

More Bike Capacity on SMART Trains

SMART has removed rows of fold-down seats on train cars in order to allow more room for bicycles. General Manager Eddy Cumins said staff is testing the arrangement for two weeks, and will likely make it permanent if no problems arise.