Cotati City Council Candidates 2020

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition cannot endorse candidates for public office, but we are able to share information so that you can arrive at your own conclusion. Below are Cotati City Council candidates’ responses to our questionnaire on bicycling in Sonoma County. We have made no content changes. Thanks to the candidates for their time and thoughtful answers!


BEN FORD

Ford is a current member – and past volunteer – of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.

Do you ride a bicycle in Sonoma County for transportation or recreation? How would you characterize the experience of cycling in your city?

When I am able to go to the office (e.g. pre-Covid), I regularly commute by bicycle (short ride, 2.5 mi each way), on my road bike in the summer and an Xtracycle in the winter. My wife and I have for many years had only one car (an electric one, now), which keeps me honest and riding my bike even on bad-weather winter days. This year, I have taken up road biking more seriously and have maintained a 100 mi/week rate through the summer.

Our cycling infrastructure in Cotati is slowly getting better. We have small disconnections that make some travel hard. It is unpleasant (and unsafe-feeling for many) to get from one side of 101 to the other on Hwy 116. Heading North on Old Redwood Highway from downtown, the bike lane diverts onto a sidewalk for 1/2 block because of utility restrictions in a recent repaving project. On the other hand, we worked with Rohnert Park and early on completed the Smart path through Rohnert Park and Cotati very early.

As a member of our Planning Commission 2011-19, which acted as our Bike/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, we pushed for prioritization of bike traffic in all street planning. I served on our Wayfinding task force that used grant money to design a signage program for the city (signs installed within the last few months), with an emphasis on signage for bikes and pedestrians.

What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development?

Poor public transit is probably the biggest challenge. We are poorly served by SCT routes. SSU students can’t even reasonably get back and forth between campus and downtown Cotati.

The Santa Rosa plain is so easily bikeable for so much of the year that we should really see a much larger proportion of our trips be by bicycle. Connectivity is a key. The SMART trail will make a big difference and is clearly a big priority. Cotati has done a good job on some recent projects—e.g. Cotati’s portion of East Cotati Avenue, with continuous 7-foot bike lanes, is well done. Old Redwood Highway has not worked so well, as I mentioned above; the original plan for that work would have put that stretch of Old Redwood Highway on a lane diet and had good bike facilities. Redwood Drive on the West side of 101 recently connected the northbound bike lane through a previous bottleneck (but it still hits another bottleneck just north of the city line).

So my vision of bicycling as a part of transportation in the city is that everyone can easily find their way to most spots in the city (and to connections to other towns) on safe, well-signed bike routes.

If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety?

I coordinated Cotati’s Bike To Work Day station for several years in the past, and hope to rejoin that effort now that it is well reestablished near the SMART station. I worked with the Cotati Police Department and Transition Cotati to organize smart cycling classes at the police department. I believe that an active bicyclist (both commuter and recreation/exercise) on the council will raise the profile of bicycling as a viable transportation alternative and ensure that bicycle and pedestrian needs aren’t forgotten when new projects come through the city.

Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities?

I don’t actually believe that most of what I support costs lots of money. Complete streets approaches should just be folded into normal street repaving projects; transportation planning (e.g. project prioritization) should refocuse on bicycling needs (filling gaps in the bicycling network) and and away from increasing car throughput. Our planning department needs to be certain to apply for every bicycle infrastructure grant program that comes along. In concert with pedestrian-friendly land use planning and public transit improvements, better bicycle infrastructure can help us become a healthier, more-connected, and less planet-destructive city.


SUSAN HARVEY
Has not submitted a statement


BRITTANY MURPHY

Do you ride a bicycle in Sonoma County for transportation or recreation? How would you characterize the experience of cycling in your city?

I ride a bike for recreation. When I moved to Sonoma County in 2012, I chose my location for the trails. At the time I lived in Santa Rosa with easy access to Annadel State Park. I spent much of my time riding tandem mountain bike rather than on the road. While there are beautiful road rides in Sonoma County, my concerns for safety deterred me from the road. While I don’t have a daily commute that allows me to travel by bike, I do have an appreciation for riding and walking whenever possible. My family and I have a love for travel and we find that seeing a new city or country by bike is the best way to explore.

 What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development?

Cotati is a walkable city – it’s one of the attributes I love best about our community. The downtown and surrounding areas of Cotati allow for convenient walking and biking access, however, we have an opportunity to improve bike paths connecting the east and west side of Cotati. I would like to help further our plans to safely connect both sides of town. I would also like to see Cotati find additional ways to connect our city to neighboring communities. I’m concerned about the impacts COVID-19 may have on our public transportation system and I believe we need to find creative solutions to help our county prioritize future public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian plans.

If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety?

We need to continue to prioritize bike and pedestrian safety in our planning process. As Vice Chair of the Cotati Planning Commission, I am pleased that we regularly discuss these opportunities as we review city planning and local development proposals. Long-term planning is an important step to ensuring we build a bike-friendly community. We live in a small city, which means we have the unique opportunity to interact and communicate with many of our residents. I would like to hear from community members their ideas and concerns around bicycle safety and work with local organizations to gather valuable insight into our future planning opportunities.

Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities?

Bike and pedestrian safety is a priority for me. I understand that we have competing issues to consider and my responsibility, should I be elected, is to listen to residents and educate myself as I make decisions on behalf of Cotati. One of my top priorities as I run for city council is to focus on public safety and building a strong bicycle infrastructure is an important part of that goal.


LAURA SPARKS

Do you ride a bicycle in Sonoma County for transportation or recreation? How would you characterize the experience of cycling in your city?

I occasionally ride a bicycle for recreation.  I very much enjoy riding in residential areas. I have known several people personally who were killed or seriously injured while cycling, and this has caused me to be perhaps irrationally fearful of cycling adjacent to fast-moving automobiles. I am very interested in improving bicycle safety and perceptions about safety to encourage more people to ride.

What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development?

I would like to explore the idea of implementing an app-based bicycle or electric bicycle rental system, with stations at SSU, SMART, and downtown Cotati. If folks could easily disembark from SMART and find their way to any location in Cotati with a bicycle, it would make SMART a much more attractive prospect and help us greatly in cutting down on our Vehicle Miles Traveled. I know that there is a long term desire to connect Cotati with Sebastopol via bicycle trails, and this is another important step for reducing our reliance on automobiles.

If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety?

I would like the city to conduct a survey of Cotati residents about obstacles to cycling and perceptions of bicycle safety. We need to know why people aren’t riding their bikes more in order to address those issues.   I would also like to look at road design and how we can make our major streets safer and less intimidating to ride on. I would partner with community organizations to offer bicycle safety training and group rides for Cotati residents.

Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities?

Bicycle infrastructure and safety is a high priority.  One of the major pillars of my campaign is taking bold steps to combat climate change. At the city government level, the best way to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions is to work on reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled. Improving bicycle safety and infrastructure will directly help with this goal, and will also improve equity and quality of life for residents who cannot afford to own an automobile.