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 Santa Rosa 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: None of the candidates below are members of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.
MARK STAPP, District 2 has not submitted a statement.
MASON ROSSITER, District 2
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 not normally ride a bike. I did try to ride a bike once in the Proctor Terrace/Brush Creek area and the steep hills were not a good time. From what I’ve seen it certainly seems like bicycle accommodations in this city are spotty at best.
What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development? I think Santa Rosa’s biggest transportation challenge is its car-centered infrastructure, making it difficult for people to walk or bike. My vision for future development involves less of a reliance on single-family unit suburbs and more of a focus on apartments and condominiums as well as more thoughtful city planning to promote closer communities. I believe a plan like this is perfect for bicyclists who will be able to more viably maneuver the town and get where they need to go (or if they’re just cruisin’).
If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety? I would ensure the safety of cyclists by working to improve our decaying infrastructure with bike lanes in mind. As I said before, more competent city planning will also encourage bicycling.
Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities? While my top priorities are homelessness, housing and law enforcement accountability, I believe improving bicycling safety and infrastructure ties into my focus on housing and, by extension, city planning.
DIANNA MACDONALD, District 3 has not submitted a statement.
SCHEHERAZADE SHAMSAVARI, District 4 has not submitted a statement.
VICTORIA FLEMING, District 4
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 a bike as transportation and for recreation. As a household we are primarily a one-vehicle family relying on transit for longer trips and bikes for errands in the neighborhood. I really enjoy cycling in Santa Rosa, and my daughter absolutely prefers it to any other form of transportation. That said, I feel unsafe on large arterial roads and do everything I can to use side streets and stay away from fast-moving cars.
What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development? Quite simply, we have more cars on the streets than we should and public transit is not perceived by enough people as the most attractive mode of transportation. We need two things to happen and it is a “chicken and egg” type of situation. We need people to want to take transit or use active transportation and we need improved transit and safer active transportation.
The city’s greatest challenge in regard to bike infrastructure and safety is our over-reliance on automobiles; our roads are designed to prioritize cars. Redesigning streets to safely accommodate all road users is the huge challenge before us.
If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety? As Sonoma County’s representative on the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission, I secured $3.4 million to help fund the pedestrian bike overpass on Highway 101, and am eager to see that project built. I supported Santa Rosa’s adoption of Vision Zero, setting a goal of zero fatalities and serious injuries on our roadways, and have requested annual implementation progress updates from city staff. I have repaved and redesigned roads to make them safer for bicycles. I advocate for Complete Streets that are designed for safe travel by people walking, biking and driving, and participate publicly in Safe Routes to School to promote biking and active transportation.
I would like to continue to shift our priorities toward bike and pedestrian safety by supporting road diets, protected bike lanes wherever possible and traffic calming measures. I am interested in using a new state law that allows cities to lower speed limits to reduce crashes and injuries. Further, I would advocate for additional speed enforcement resources like speed monitors that electronically remind drivers of how fast they are going and gain awareness of more vulnerable road users.
Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities? Bike safety is pretty high-ranking in my mind because it simultaneously achieves multiple goals. It reduces carbon emissions, it improves health and well-being, it reduces the city’s cost of maintaining road infrastructure and it is less expensive for users. That said, most Santa Rosa residents rely on their cars to get around town, so the most feasible path to improving bicycle infrastructure is to focus on street designs that safely accommodate all modes of travel.
HENRY HUANG, District 4 has not submitted a statement.
TERRY SANDERS, District 4
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 most often ride a bicycle in Sonoma County for recreation, but occasionally use it for transportation for shorter rides adjacent to my home in the SRJC neighborhood. I’ve participated in “Taco Tuesdays”; a bike ride from the JC area south to Courthouse Square, and then west to a Roseland taqueria and ice cream shop. It’s incredibly fun, builds community, and shows we can get out of our cars and on our bikes to travel around town. This is one piece of my cycling experience in Santa Rosa, which has mostly been a positive one; I use the bike boulevard on Humboldt Street near my home, but also see and recognize there are numerous streets in the city (i.e. College Avenue) that lack bicycle infrastructure entirely, and others (i.e. Mendocino Avenue) that have Class III bicycle lanes, though they’re not the safest given the number of vehicles speeding, coming to/from the SRHS and SRJC campuses, etc. on a heavily-travelled, straight street (which leads to cars speeding, subsequently endangering cyclists).
What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development? Improving road conditions is the City of Santa Rosa’s biggest transportation challenge. Modernizing our existing transportation infrastructure has been a slow process, all while PCI scores have dropped, affecting road safety for all road users. Whether you’re a car or bicycle, poor road conditions affect all of us—though disproportionately cyclists, as a pothole could cause serious injury to a cyclist vs. a vehicle. As the city prioritizes road improvements, I want to see not just smoother streets, but ADA accessibility (on sidewalks and sidewalk corners) and bicycle infrastructure (at a minimum, a Class III bike lane) packaged or incorporated into road repair plans. While some older, narrower roads may make bike lanes on every city street impractical, there are many streets lacking bicycle infrastructure that could benefit through other simultaneous (i.e. repaving and restriping) projects.
If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety? With gas prices at nearly all-time highs and prices likely to remain at high levels for the foreseeable future (even though they’ve declined a bit as of late), the opportunity is ripe to inform and educate residents about the benefits of cycling not just as a healthy lifestyle choice, but for travel within the city. But to the second part of the question, one thing the city must prioritize to see positive change and movement in this direction is improving bike safety, along the lines of what I discussed in the answer to Question 1 (need for bicycle infrastructure, etc.). Another low-cost, common-sense solution I’ve seen in neighboring cities (i.e. Windsor, Rohnert Park, Cotati) that we can do more of now at a low cost is adding more painted bicycle lanes, most commonly green. Even though the physical barriers are unchanged and there’s no literal safety improvements, on something like a Class III bike lane, the ability for drivers to clearly see the distinction between the roadway and the bikeway is improved with painted bike lanes. Where space allows, I would also like to see the City consider Class II or even Class I bike lanes on certain streets that handle the highest volumes of traffic. Santa Rosa Avenue is a great example…there’s a lot of roadway between each sidewalk to sidewalk, and given the significant number of cars travelling on that roadway, greater distinction from bike lanes becomes all the more important. In terms of funding all of this (described in greater detail below), the best opportunity to do so should likely be coupled with other planned roadway improvements, unless grant or supplemental funding becomes available that are specific to bicycles.
Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities? I view the opportunity to improve city streets and create or enhance bicycle infrastructure as two things that go hand-in-hand. While there’s no question housing and homelessness rank at the top as we address sheltering our residents, transporting them safely and efficiently is a strong secondary priority. I would view any opportunity to improve bicycle lanes/bike safety as part of any transportation infrastructure improvement project. Separately, I am also excited about the SMART multi-use pathway project funding to extend north to Airport Blvd. – reminding me that it’s not just General Fund appropriations from the City that can make a positive impact, but other funding opportunities through Measure M/Go Sonoma and other regional, state, and federal grants that can help secure the resources needed to improve bicycle infrastructure and safety.
JEFF OKREPKIE, District 6
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 not have a bike. My wife and I lost ours in the Tubbs fire and have yet to replace them as there were other expenses that took priority in rebuilding and replacing belongings. However, our children do and it has become a priority for my wife and I to get one soon as our son doesn’t want to take the training wheels off his and we think if we lead by example, he will feel more confident. As for the experience, while SR is very bike friendly, it needs to be more accommodating to the less experienced and more recreational riders. There is a lot of fear for many people in cycling in Santa Rosa because of heavy traffic. More bike paths, buffered lanes (Class 2B) and protected lanes (Class 4) could help ease those fears and encourage more people to bike.
What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development? Fundamentally, we have too many vehicles for the infrastructure we have. We need more alternative ways to travel, including cycling. I am a big proponent of the bike/ped master plan and its continuing evolution. We don’t have the resources, space or time (with climate change) to accommodate all the vehicles we expect to have with the growth of our city.
If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety? Specifically, my district is not very bike friendly once you leave neighborhoods. A priority for me is the Segment C extension of the SMART trail. Currently, there is no trail in my district and that could change travel patterns and uses. I, myself, could get to railroad square or my job, very easily by bike/scooter/walking if that were extended. Additionally, Piner Rd needs to become a priority for bike lanes.
Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities? Bicycling is, to me, considered a top tier priority as it falls into the Climate Action Plan as well as the livability/life expectancy of our residents. Adapting existing infrastructure to bike/ped use is expensive, but that’s because it wasn’t planned for it. Going forward we can save money and accomplish goals by incorporating bike/ped philosophies into new development and public projects. Then with existing infrastructure we need to target areas that would get the most use in and equitable and inclusive manner.
Veronica “Roni” Jacobi, District 6
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 mainly for transportation, though I thoroughly enjoy riding 99% of the time so it makes transportation fun and recreational for me. It is awesome riding in Santa Rosa and surrounding areas, but it could be much more wonderful with greater safety for cyclists.
What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development? Our city and most cities are challenged by how to get people to choose to make much less overall single occupancy vehicle miles traveled per year etc. I would love to accelerate efforts for creating more abundant safe cycling routes so more people are not deterred by safety concerns.
Also expanding bike plus bus/train opportunities especially on the two last bus routes of the day. It is very frustrating when bike racks are full and there is plenty of room on the bus but being denied access with one’s bicycle.
If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety? The Taco Tuesday bike rides are AWESOME, really great. I would love participating as a councilmember and I have even biked while baton twirling for a parade and would love to do it regularly! I would love to expand an alternative transportation task force that focuses on intersectionality of bike/bus/train etc., AND safe bicycle parking. I have had many bicycles stolen and we can and should do much better at providing safe bike parking. The task force would also focus on learning from other areas in the world that are doing great things already for cycling, buses and trains and intersectionality. Like there is ultra safe bike parking near DC that even has a repair person on site. YAY. There are a number of places globally that put distance between cyclist and cars in a variety of ways. There are amazing videos demonstrating the how to’s.
Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities? Bicycling infrastructure and safety are a very high priority for me.
Unfortunately, I have experienced being hit by a car and attacked on a bike on a trail. Bicycling is a wonderful part of climate solutions and to get many more folks choosing cycling more often required planning and implementing strategies for greater safety and greater perceived safety.
A few years ago, I learned that traffic lights are timed based on the speed of the car traffic. I once entered a yellow light on a bicycle and was very fortunate to make it safely to the other side of numerous lanes in front of oncoming cars and behind an oncoming car in the last lane I crossed. It was a one-way street coming off a freeway exit, and it was NOT TIMED NOR LABELED for bicycle safety. I questioned a traffic engineer and learned something important for cyclists. I believe there should be warning signs for cyclists for areas with very quick yellow light timing and brief green light timing too.