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 Mayor and 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!
NOTE: Kevin McDonnell is the only Petaluma candidate that is a current member of SCBC.
D’LYNDA FISCHER, At-Large Mayor
Do you ride a bicycle in Sonoma County for transportation or recreation? How would you characterize the experience of cycling in your city? My primary mode of travel is by bicycle for trips under 15 miles and I am a recreational cyclist as well.
Because of my experience as a cyclist, I feel comfortable taking a lane and
sharing the road with vehicles. Cycling on our residential streets is generally a
positive experience but for the quality of the pavement and speed of cars on
some. Our main cross-town connectors (Corona and Washington) and other
arterials (McDowell and Lakeville) have inadequate infrastructure and traffic
moves too quickly to feel safe.
We do have many multi-use pathways that can be used to traverse the city.
These need to be better connected (curbs inhibiting access) as a network and a
robust wayfinding and education program will unearth these gems.
What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development? Our biggest transportation challenges include peak hour congestion, arterials designed for speeding, and a lack of affordable and convenient public transit options.
We need a 70% mode shift away from our reliance on vehicles to meet our
ambitious carbon reduction goals. To solve our biggest transportation challenges
will meet these goals.
If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety? I will continue to host my First Fridays at Five community bike ride to bring the community together and traverse our streets and pathways together as a group.
I will continue to advocate, at every level, for the following:
An update of our street design manual.
For reimaging and redesigning our streets as places for everyone, not just
For alternative, fun, innovative public and private transportation options.
Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities? It ranks as my number one priority.
KEVIN MCDONNELL, At-Large Mayor
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 bike for both recreation and for transportation. I am a long time family member of the SCBC because I have been involved in advancing bicycling in Petaluma for a long time. For recreation, I cycle longer distances, doing multiple Centuries each year and to any bakery that I can find, like Tomales, Wildflower and Duncans Mill. For transportation, I ride home from my job in Santa Rosa several days a week (I take my bike on SMART to work). I can easily bike anywhere around Petaluma. It is a beautiful bicycling city mostly flat and many alternate routes to busy streets. I can get to meetings and appointments across town faster than most cars and it is so much easier to park a bike. Cycling comes with a level of risk. Cars and bad paving are dangerous. I am always concerned and recognize that I’m nearly always vulnerable.
What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development? Petaluma’s biggest transportation challenge is embracing mode shift – getting out of the car and either walking or biking. The traffic problems people most complain about have no viable paving solution. Roads cannot expand to alleviate traffic congestion. More significantly, it is not sustainable to do the driving we do now. We have a Climate Crisis and need to drastically reduce our gasoline consumption. Biking is part of that solution. All future development has to be connected to core services (schools, groceries, parks) with a strong layout of bike routes
If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety? If elected, I will lead by example and be known as the bicycling mayor. However, I realize that most people do not have my level of comfort riding in the streets. That’s why I’m part of the Safe Streets Coalition in Petaluma. I made safe streets a top ten Council goal. People need to feel safe to embrace biking. I have been the leading advocate for the Fifth Street Bicycle Blvd because it will direct cyclists to the safer alternative to Petaluma Blvd. Similarly, I have been the leading advocate for the SMART route through town. Currently, SMART shows its listed route as along Payran and Lakeville. Those are terrible bike routes. I have pushed SMART to finish their path along the railroad easement between Payan and Lakeville and then through to Water Street (Brewsters). Imagine a flat trail across town with almost no street riding – awesome. I will continue to make biking the better choice.
Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities? Biking improvements are not expensive. That’s why so much good can come from “Quick Build”- projects that are do-able quickly with little more than paint and dots. Further, biking safety is funded differently than Affordable Housing and Homelessness solutions – my other top priorities. Lastly, we are in such a time of state and federal grant funding that the amount of funding to get significant biking improvement is readily available. The real limiting factor is city staffing.
PATRICK FLOWER, At-Large Mayor
SUSAN KIRKS, At-Large Mayor
Do you ride a bicycle in Sonoma County for transportation or recreation? How would you characterize the experience of cycling in your city? I’m currently visiting Mike’s Bikes in Petaluma, shopping for a new refurbished bike in my price range. When I bike in Petaluma, I usually am biking for a task such as grocery shopping. I have two bikes and one is an older electric bike someone gave to me that needs repairs. I think I’m going to donate this to Mike’s Bikes and keep shopping for a good new non-motorized “fit” for me. I very much want an electric bike for in-city trips. I would support electric bike rentals in Petaluma for visitors and residents in at least two locations. This can introduce us to the experience and also encourage familiarity with this emission free mode of moving throughout the City. I support everything we can provide as a City government to connect residents with non-motorized and electric bike use, to become a norm. Adult tricycles for those who prefer trikes need to be in this mix.
Of course, most people riding non-motorized bikes in Petaluma aren’t feeling very safe and below I share thoughts on leadership from the City Council to continue to increase safety first and opportunities for cycling in that context. I support the Safe Streets initiative and we need elected leaders who will prioritize safety and continued attention to safety. For transportation improvements in Petaluma, implementing the Caulfield Connector and expanding the Corona overcrossing with pedestrian and bicycle accommodations will add safe and accessible travel routes. Honestly, when I am driving in Petaluma and see an adult riding a bicycle, pulling a little covered cart containing a child, in a bike lane on a busy street, my heart drops. Our streets with bike lanes are not safe – this needs to be an ongoing priority for improvement in Petaluma. Improving infrastructure to support non-motorized and electric bikes must be a priority for the City and continue to be a priority.
Also, connecting Petaluma to the Bay Area and rethinking how we do that is important. The Bay Area Ridge Trail entry into Petaluma from Marin along the D Street Extension needs to be revamped. I’m uncertain why the trail is mapped to go into downtown Petaluma. That misses the intended BART experience. The trail really should intersect with the Ring Trail envisioned by Bruce Hagen years ago and traverse from the D Street Extension north on Windsor Drive over to Western Ave, to Cleveland Ave and to Bodega Ave. From there, cyclists could either head west toward the Sonoma County coast on Bodega Highway or continue north onto Paula Lane. I personally installed a bike rack for cycling stopovers at PLAN’s project, the Paula Lane Nature Preserve. From there after a stopover and rest, cyclists could continue north to the north River area and east over to Adobe Road, then south toward Shollenberger Park. This expanded route from D Street extension, north, East and south, takes cyclists on a rural experience rather than straight into downtown Petaluma, with the ability to stop and rest along the route. The choice is given from D Street Extension to enter Helen Putnam Regional Park from Chileno Valley Road or Windsor Drive. I do not support the Extend Putnam Park Project – it is way too impactful, with the proposed 28 luxury homes, for the Kelly Creek property, and we need to provide much better local input to the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council about ACTUAL routes for BART cyclists that will help protect sensitive areas and offer the best experiences in and around Petaluma.
What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development? Petaluma’s streets and many trails were created for cars and trucks, in segments, and disconnected in general. Creative thinking and vision continue to be needed to re-create both safe streets for cyclists and connecting trails in a network in the City. Public outreach by Public Works staff needs to improve. In our City, environmental awareness also needs substantial improvement among Public Works, Parks and Rec staff, and our Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee members. Some off-street trails are already in sensitive environmental areas and we truly need to become more aware about these areas, avoid and protect them, or if a trail already exists because of past poor planning and repeated existing encroachment, we need to continue to support awareness and how to travel through such areas with quiet respect. When new connecting trail segments are planned, we must educate Public Works staff in their planning that trails cannot be placed in sensitive habitat and nesting areas near the river, the wetlands, or sensitive upland areas. Recently, Public Works staff re-routed a trail from Lakeville Highway to under the Petaluma River Bridge and requested a letter of support for a State grant application to support funding. Staff requested this letter from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee members and the Committee approved the letter without dissent. When I questioned this, with strong concern, as there is no human encroachment under the bridge and it is a longstanding migratory nesting site April through August for Cliff Swallows, in other words that trail route is a big NO, my comments received NO questions at all from committee members or staff and were ignored. I fully support safe and connected pedestrian and bicycle experiences in our City and community, but we MUST in Petaluma become more aware as people and make decisions that protect and respect birds, wildlife and habitat, and this also includes understanding federal and state regulations that assure protection. My response about fitting into future development is below. Bike racks for storage, including covered racks and locked enclosed storage near transit and charging stations for vehicles and bikes in residential areas will be part of any new infrastructure. Federal and state incentives and funding should support our local plans and funding.
If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety? City government Public Works & Music, Parks & Recreation Departmental staffing and experience need to be broadened. An equal emphasis on bicycling for main transportation and for recreation is needed in our City. With this emphasis in mind, creating a safe bicycling network of trails and street lanes must be a long-term priority. I would like to see diversity in our Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee appointees with Spanish translation in Committee meetings. We need increased diversity in our City staffing. Petaluma has a longstanding advocacy group for bicyclists in particular. But the PBAC membership, City staffing and experience in Public Works and Music, Parks and Recreation coordination, budgeting, funding, and coordinating street and pedestrian and bicycling safety and improvements – these intersections and plans and actions – need leadership and the long-term commitment of the Petaluma City Council. Please keep in mind there are many quiet residents who may rely on bicycling to and from WORK. These residents are often unseen by recreational bicyclists. For me, as the Mayor, this is a priority. I see these individuals early mornings, riding and balancing a box on handlebars or a bag and riding intently, clearly heading home from a late night work shift or another location. Respecting the dignity of all individuals and the ability to ride bicycles safely throughout Petaluma as a life necessity, as an alternate transportation mode, and/or for the enjoyment of recreation are equal priorities for me and I hope for the new City Council.
Safety is a #1 priority. Connecting the bicycle and pedestrian trail network and safer bike lanes on streets with transit will support biking visitors from other cities and communities. I’m already seeing many cyclists taking bikes on SMART. The reconstructed SR 37 is planned for added bike lanes and transit.
In Petaluma, as we increase safety and access features for bicyclists, providing electric bikes for rent in East and West Petaluma will boost the opportunity to experience electric biking and help move this to a norm. For visitors to Petaluma, collaborating with the Visitors Center and local businesses and nonprofits for suggested day trips in Petaluma for non-motorIzed and electric bikes will be a community service and introduce Petaluma as a biking center. The recent Ciclovia was a success and at the same time wasn’t a Citywide experience. Still, those who participated seemed to enjoy the experience.
Lynch Creek Trail is a main trail in Petaluma. I suggested in the General Plan Update process that Petaluma needs to rename this trail. Even though the trail is named for a family in Petaluma, the word “lynch” carries negative connotations and trauma and is repeated frequently because of the trail name. To support equity, we really need to rename this trail, possibly in honor of a woman or women who have contributed to increased awareness and service from communities of color in Petaluma or in honor of a universal concept such as Peace. An interpretive memorial sign and area can be installed at the trail entrance to honor the Frank Lynch family. So we need to plan and manage intersections of equity, safety, environmental sensitivity, and opportunities for work-related and recreational cycling – non-motorized and electric – as we plan our future in Petaluma.
Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities? Any residential or commercial development will need to include trail connections and street safety improvements to expand the bike and pedestrian network and street bike lane safety in the City. This needs to be required for any proposed new residential and/or commercial development, to implement the overall bike and pedestrian access plan. Again, the City needs to expand staffing with both environmental and bike/pedestrian experience in our Public Works and Music, Parks and Recreation functions. Supplemental Measure U and Measure M (Parks for All) revenue can be considered for bicycle and pedestrian improvements and safety enhancements. For trail extensions and improvements, permeable, environmentally sensitive materials must be a norm. Electric bicycle rentals if planned and adequately managed will also provide job opportunities.
From a policy perspective with funding considerations, the climate emergency mandates our commitment to move about and travel in less environmentally impactful ways to reduce GHG emissions and help the planet survive and heal.
Let’s embrace what we need to achieve and connect the City government role with our local School Districts, the Petaluma Health Care District, Blue Zones and plans for enhanced neighborhoods with nearby amenities. As we focus on creating affordable housing with green and open spaces (including infill), becoming more mindful of sensitive environmental areas to help our wild species survive in balance with us humans, improving transportation infrastructure and connecting Petaluma’s trails and safe lanes on streets will be a norm of our overall community building and experience. There is much work to do and coordinate. As your Mayor, I will lead the City Council’s commitment to these priorities. Our City Council needs to give consistent clear guidance to City Management and we need to attract and appoint creative thinkers and doers to our committees and commissions. We also need to listen to and respect members of the public. It will be helpful to keep in mind that, for many, bicycle transportation is a life necessity rather than an enjoyable recreational experience and safe, accessible infrastructure for both is the City’s responsibility – and opportunity. Way-finding signage in multiple languages will also help all of us find our way in Petaluma.
JANICE CADER THOMPSON, District 1
Do you ride a bicycle in Sonoma County for transportation or recreation? Yes! I recently purchased an e-bike. I am 67 and decided to get out of my car and bike to exercise classes and meetings.
How would you characterize the experience of cycling in your city? East-Petaluma feels safer while riding a bike than West Petaluma. East Petaluma has too many four lane roads that were designed for cars and trucks. I know Petaluma roadways well. I choose my route depending on the time of day.
What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development? Slowing down traffic in neighborhood, too many neighborhoods have wide four lane roads. As per existing roads: Road Diets, to include safe pedestrian crossings, and dedicated bike lanes. In my east-side neighborhood a wide four lane road currently has a demonstration road diet. There is a lot of chatter on Next-door, some positive and a lot negative. The beauty of a demonstration project is people can see the benefits over time.
If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety? As a member of the General Plan Committee, I am on the Transportation subcommittee. We are focusing on alternative ways to get around town safety for cyclists and pedestrian; and improved public transportation.
Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities? I have been focused on bike and pedestrian safety for years. ADA improvements are a priority. I live in a district with six mobile home parks. A majority of the parks are close to the SMART pedestrian trail and the Lynch Creek trail. I can see seniors who don’t feel comfortable riding a two-wheeler; they can be introduced to an e-trike.
DYLAN LLOYD, District 1
BOBB KOSOFF, District 2
DAVID ADAMS, District 2
JOHN SHRIBBS, District 2
Do you ride a bicycle in Sonoma County for transportation or recreation? Yes. Both. I road with Petaluma Wheelmen several times and also with Bernie Album’s slower paced group many times. I tried a recumbent bike for a few years but went to a chainless city bike for commuting and my 21-speed carbon road bike for recreation until I got into ebikes. I bought a used Magnum mountain ebike over a year ago and built custom trailers, one for cargo and one for my kayak, as well as having a small box trailer for many years. I still have the road bike but now prefer riding my ebike for both work and pleasure. Today I took the cargo trailer to school to use as a water tank transport for recycled water. I use the box trailer to do a lot of landscape work at CGHS where I am now the Outdoor Education Specialist working with two garden classes. I also have a regular route into Penngrove for recreation and exercise. I ride regularly from the eastside to downtown area using the Lynch Creek Trail.
How would you characterize the experience of cycling in your city? I plan my routes and times to minimize hazardous situations and can get around fairly well. I avoid Washington St. at all costs and use Lynch Creek Trail frequently now. I have had several near hits and seen near misses and talked to parents who will not let their children ride to school over safety concerns. I try not to ride arteries after 5 pm since many DUIs are creating unsafe conditions and increasing in police reports. Car speeds in town, many times 50+mph, is very uncomfortable. I stopped riding Freitas road toward Sonoma since cars go 70 mph on that strip. I live on an artery, Sonoma Mountain Parkway, which has a bike lane and feel comfortable except if car doors suddenly open – so I watch for occupied vehicles. My wife will not ride Sonoma Mountain Parkway since she is very uncomfortable with cars going by at 50+ mph.
What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development? Car emissions reduction is the number one priority for climate actions and prioritized now by the city. Getting people out of cars onto alternative transport will be the biggest challenge. I produced a slide show presentation on micro-mobility and presented it to various city committees, with soon to be scheduled appearance at the Bike and Ped Committee. An older version is on my YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/bBw9tgwO7TU. I see a huge future for ebikes and other alternative e-transport. I foresee Ride Sharing becoming more popular than buses. I am on the General Plan Advisory Committee and have spoken up about the need for better bike paths and cross-town connection for bikes and peds. Cars have increased in VMT and also number of trips so people are complaining loudly about congestion they themselves are causing. The solution is more bikes and alternative transport and fewer, smaller cars going slower. I have suggested pushing all speed limits on arteries down to 30 mph. Differential speed kills. Vison Zero initiative adopted by the city supports this concept. I have promoted more open space and see the north river area as a great opportunity for bike and ped paths to intersect to help get us connected across town. We are moving in the right direction.
If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety? Push the road department to refocus money and effort on bike and pedestrian paths. Create wider paths that can accommodate micro-emobility, esp. for handicap carrying vehicles. Road diets work and need promotion. We need to educate general public on benefits of new road redesigns. The Vision Zero Initiative is a great start. This will take time and perseverance. I also suggested stop lights use cameras instead of metal detectors since many vehicles, including the road rated electric scooter I had, do not get detected. I want an ebike safety program mandated for all new ebike owners since there are several nuances that can create unsafe situations. This could save several trips to the hospital. Drivers of cars also need to become more aware of fast moving ebikes. Short videos listed on city website would help. Our city recently had a Ciclovia event which was quite popular, and we can continue to do this type of event. Right before that event I traveled the Lynch Creek trail and found several low branches that would be hazardous, so I called the Parks Manager, and she was able to get a crew to trim off these hazards before the event. I will be proactive in supporting bike culture. I say hello to people I pass with vocal warning to model good behavior to encourage others to do the same.
Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities? I am currently President of Petaluma Wetlands Alliance, on lead team of ReLeaf Petaluma and Chair of Tree Committee and on the General Plan Advisory, Groundwater Advisory, and Watershed Coalition Committees. My first priority is water management and second is open space. Changing our transport paradigm is a community effort led by Climate Change actions that are at the top of the new General Plan being created. Cool Petaluma, Blue Zone, and 15-Minute Community initiatives also support walking and biking. A movement s afoot. I will be a part of this movement. Money will come from moving some road money to bike paths and also from 30×30 state initiative since bike paths are part of the open space acquisition. Grant proposals will need to be written. The first step will be improving our safe routes to school program.
JOHN HANANIA, District 3
KAREN NAU, District 3
Do you ride a bicycle in Sonoma County for transportation or recreation? How would you characterize the experience of cycling in your city? Yes, I ride for recreation with friends & family (I live close to my teaching job, but I take way too much to school with me on a daily basis to ride). I am a little nervous riding on the side of the road, where there is gravel, broken glass etc. Speeding vehicles alongside me, also make me nervous riding. I love the exercise. Always ride with gloves and helmet and so does my family. As a child, I rode bikes all over Petaluma. I love that we now have bike lanes. I feel safer for myself and my grandchildren.
What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development? Traffic and providing a safety bike lane for our City.
If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety? As a teacher, I love when my students travel to school via bicycle or walking. Listen to the concerns of our Bicycle community. Make needed improvements and work with our Traffic Engineers.
Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a City budget that matched the needs of our bicycle community? If we think outside the box, look at examples of other communities and improve bike/ped paths along with other City traffic improvements.
ROBERT CONKLIN, District 3