Petaluma 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 Petaluma  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!

BikePetaluma sent a more Petaluma-specific questionnaire to the candidates; answers are posted on their Facebook page.

Note: None of the candidates below are current members of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.


BRIAN BARNACLE

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 my bicycle for recreation and local transportation. I feel very unsafe riding my bicycle in Petaluma, with poor road quality, poor signage, bike lanes that end abruptly, and a general lack of awareness for bicycle.

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

The greatest challenge to increasing bicycle usage in town is that our roads are extremely unsafe. About 70% of the trips that start in Petaluma end in Petaluma and are less than five miles (SCTA, 2019). This is a huge opportunity to shift these trips from vehicles to bicycles. I think a logical first step is to ramp up our safe routes to school program, and I have been in contact with the School Board and the safe routes program administrator about this.

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

I am the only candidate that lists safe routes to school as a priority for my platform. I will also push for soft street closures to create bike boulevards. Through my work with 350 Petaluma, I identified about eight miles of roads that could be closed to create a bicycle network throughout West Petaluma. Finally, I would prioritize bicycle safety on every street that is undergoing road repairs and maintenance.

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

SB 743 requires Cities to use Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) instead of Level of Service (LOS) when assessing transportation impacts. This means that to mitigate impacts from new development, fees collected must be used to reduce VMT (versus reduce traffic delays). This means that money could be used for measures that shift vehicle trips to bicycle trips (like safe routes to school). This is something I have already started championing with the City of Petaluma and other stakeholders. If elected, I would continue pushing for this type of funding mechanism to fund bicycle safety and advocacy initiatives.


ROBERT CONKLIN
Has not submitted a statement


MIKE HEALY

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

I don’t bike myself frequently.  I do take lengthy power walks most mornings, often using bike / pedestrian paths.

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

Petaluma’s challenge is that the east & east sides are divided by a highway, a river and railroad tracks, and there are few places to get across all three.  The Lynch Creek trail and the (briefly open) SMART trail provide additional ways to cross town.

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

The City needs to work with the schools to get schools to be more supportive of kids biking to school; right now, they seem to actively discourage that.  We should emulate a popular City of Davis program in which students were given rewards for biking or walking to school & thereby saving the polar bears.  Kids get it.

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

The City does receive funds earmarked for bike / ped. programs, and will get a lot more if Measure DD passes.  I would look to our Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee for recommendations on which new segments to add next.


GABE KEARNEY
Has not submitted a statement


SUSAN KIRKS

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

I bike for practical purposes.  To the market, for errands,  exercise for daily tasks.  This fits my lifestyle.  I bike in off hours to high traffic for safety. We need more connected bike and pedestrian connecting paths and routes in Petaluma. Every planning decision needs to consider the bike and pedestrian master plan and go even beyond.  Biking and pedestrian  transportation connect us to our environment and help us be more aware of our health.

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

The bike and pedestrian advisory committee is one of the most active and conscientious groups – focused on serving the Problems community.  I would like to see the Bay Area Ridge Trail coming into Petaluma  from Novato and D Street extension connect to the Kelly Creek property,  Windsor Drive north to Paula Lane.  This is part of the Ring Trail envisioned by Bruce Hagen. And instead of going to downtown Petaluma or at least as a more natural and rustic alternative going north from Paula Lane over to Corona and east toward Sonoma Mountain and Sonoma.  I installed the bike rack as part of the Paula Lane open space stopover.  This BART route would be more congruent with biking and hiking through open and natural areas.  I support  compact small bike rentals in the urban area of the city,  including electric bikes and tours.  I’d also like to see innovatively designed and offered larger tricycles for senior citizen riding and outdoor enjoyment.

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

Part of my response is in #2 above.  I would support wide and safe bike and pedestrian paths and trails as standards.  In the General Plan update this can be addressed and supported.

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

Bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure need to be priorities in the needed to be connected parks and recreation,  climate action planning,  bike and pedestrian  advising,  public works,  and residential and commercial development planning  functions. We should make available the safe and inviting infrastructure so citizens and visitors have the opportunity  to access it – help reduce GHG with less vehicle emissions  and help us take care of our health and well being.  Looking to innovative bike designs and offerings, too.  Bike business. Rentals,  trikes for safe senior riding,  and support  for safe bike routes to schools.  Where new trails may be implemented, environmental review to assure nearby habitat, bird and wildlife protection needs to be part of a balanced planning and implementation process.


KATHY MILLER

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

I do ride a bicycle for both transportation and recreation.  I frequently ride my bike to work and the store and also ride my bike for exercise.

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

Petaluma’s biggest transportation challenges are the condition of our roads and cross-town connectivity.  I want people to feel safe biking for transportation and recreation.  Petaluma is an old city and potholes are a huge problem for cyclists.  Additionally, it is difficult to travel from east to west across Petaluma.  There are only a few ways to cross town via roads and these roads are heavily trafficked.  I do not feel particularly safe riding my bike on our cross-town connectors.  We do have the Lynch Creek Trail, which allows bicyclists and pedestrians to cross town safely and as a member of the Petaluma City Council, as well as in my position as Council liaison to our Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and our Parks and Recreation Commission, I have voted for and supported repairs to the Lynch Creek Trail to make it safer and easier for people to use.  We are looking at adding two other cross-town connectors in Petaluma – one at Rainier and the other at Caufield.  I am working with our City Staff to make sure those cross-town connectors, when built, have dedicated and separated bike lanes.  As a member of the SCTA, I also worked towards including more funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the proposed extension of the county transportation tax.  We have to make it easier for people to ride their bikes – getting people out of their cars is the single most-impactful thing we can do to address our climate emergency and I support and will continue to support everything we can do to make bike transportation a priority.

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

I will continue to support improving our roads, improving our multi-use paths and adding dedicated bike lanes with new construction.  I will also continue to support building infill transit oriented housing.  Finally, we need to better educate our drivers so they watch for bicyclists and share the road with them.

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

In Petaluma, the state of our budget is dire.  We are hoping the voters will support a sales tax increase so we can continue to fund basic services in our city.  One of my top priorities has always been road repair because it benefits bikes, transit, businesses, individuals and cars.  It has been one of my top priorities the entire time I have been on the City Council and will continue to be.  I also have long supported multi-use path improvements and will continue to do so.  Examples include repairs to the Lynch Creek Trail and repairs to the multi-use path that runs along the eastern Urban Growth Boundary in Petaluma.  I am cautiously optimistic the renewal of the transportation tax will pass and if it does, we will see an increase in funding available to dedicate towards bicycle infrastructure and safety, which would be very welcome in Petaluma.


DENNIS POCEKAY

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

I bike at least once a week, mostly for exercise, and mostly in the southwest quadrant of Petaluma.  I have experienced most of our bike routes, including the Lynch Creek Trail, but I find it very difficult to do longer trips without traveling on streets that I consider less than safe.

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

Our biggest transportation challenge is getting cars off the road and providing alternative means of getting around town.  I would like to build affordable housing near transit and give preference to families that agree to give up their cars.  How about 12 parking spaces for 50 families, each occupied by a community shared electric car (or similar)?  Our bus system should be improved and ultimately free.  I also think we need to incentivize employers to flex schedules, allow telecommuting, and otherwise encourage transit use and biking.

In my vision for Petaluma, bicycling and walking are extremely important. Bicycling infrastructure costs less than automobile infrastructure, and improving it will increase ridership AND rider safety.  We will then reap the twin health benefits of increased physical activity and cleaner air. We can institute bike-share programs, and incentivize employer actions such as workplace showers and increasing income in place of parking.  I would consider the small city of Davis, CA as a model, and study what has worked there.  The local biking community is a critical resource in fitting best practices to the realities of biking in Petaluma.  I would insure that they have a seat at the table.  And we will still need to improve our public transit system for walkers and bikers.

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

My best example of the difficulty here comes from trying to help refugee families through the local Rapid Response Network.  It’s difficult to quickly get auto donations and driver’s licenses, but when we put the word out for bikes, we get more than we need in a day!  My takeaway is that there are a lot of bikes out there looking for a home.  I would experiment with setting up bike “transfer” days, where folks would be asked to donate extra bikes, bike mechanics asked to check them for safety, and people in need asked to claim them.  We could also make a bike safety class part of the deal.  We are ALL in this together.  We should try to incentivize anyone who can to ride a bike or an electric bike.

Bicycling is also critical in addressing the climate crisis, both in terms of replacing automobile trips and improving the fitness of users such that they bike or walk even MORE next year. And though Petaluma’s walk and bike scores are middling at best, I think they can be markedly improved by relatively modest improvements in our public transit system (so fewer errands require a car, while we continue to improve the safety of our major bike routes).  We must do these things to get to carbon neutrality YESTERDAY.

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

We are presently in the midst of several crises, which can be briefly listed as climate change and resulting wildfires, the pandemic, affordable housing, and institutional racism.  Improving bicycle infrastructure and safety is critical to our responses to climate change, and in the shorter term also offers another way to improve health and fitness during this pandemic.  My initial high-ranking policy goals for Petaluma would definitely include the 5th Street Bicycle Boulevard, and safety at the dangerous spots we all avoid when possible.


LIZZIE WALLACK

did not answer our questions, but forwarded her answers to BikePetaluma‘s questionnaire.