Sebastopol 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 Sebastopol 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: Neysa Hinton is the only Sebastopol candidate who is a current member of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.


MICHAEL CARNACCHI
Has not submitted a statement


EVARISTO “EVERT” FERNANDEZ

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 do ride a bike multiple days a week, mostly for recreation/exercise but also occasionally for transportation.  Sebastopol has very good bike lanes through town, going North and South. There is also the Joe Rodota trail to travel east and north. And the Santa Rosa Creek Trail, not too far away. I think some area for improvement would be along Bodega Avenue traveling West.

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

Our biggest transportation challenge is that there is a significant amount of traffic passing through Sebastopol, on their way to other destinations. The main highways are 116 and 12. Since these highways are controlled by Caltrans, Sebastopol has no authority to make any changes without their approval. There doesn’t seem to be much of a positive connection with the Caltrans decision makers.  As a council member, it would be one of my goals to establish a positive rapport with Caltrans, finding some common ground with decision makers, starting by identifying those into biking. I recognize biking as one option to lesson car trips and keep people healthier.

If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety?
Having served on the Planning Commission for the last 10 years, I am currently Chairman, one of the things I look for and encourage on building projects, is bicycle support, such as parking, storage, etc. Having biking events such as riding to work day, encourage more bicycle use, but usually by more experienced riders. I would like to see more people biking that are not in the habit of riding. Those individuals may not ride due to not feeling safe, and/or it could be they have no bike or a bike somewhere in their garage, in need of service.  When I am elected to the city Council, I would like to have a bike week event in Sebastopol to encourage and make it easy for the beginner and those who haven’t ridden in a while to ride. I would partner with the bicycle coalition, bicycle shops in town and other appropriate organizations. The idea would be to have free bikes available for use for those that don’t have one and subsidize the cost and have volunteers to service bikes of those that have them. We would also need to have some bicycle helmets. For example, I have a couple of bikes and helmets I could lend out. I’m sure others do as well. There would be planned easy fun rides. The ride would include bike safety rules and information on options where individuals can safely ride. Its about making it easy and fun and starting a biking habit.

Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities?
These days, there are a lot of pressing issues that would seem to be a priority ahead of bicycling infrastructure and safety. However, bicycle riding significantly increased during the pandemic, due to it being considered a safe activity, for those wanting a break from home sheltering. It provides fresh air, exercise and a positive mental boost. Bicycling also is good for the environment and reduces carbon footprints. So, it’s an important priority. As a city council member, I would make sure it is on our priority list. I would create a bike committee and I would also reach out for help from others to come up with ideas and do some of the “leg work” and I will do my part to move those ideas forward.


VAUGHN RICHARD HIGGINBOTHAM
Has not submitted a statement


NEYSA HINTON

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

I enjoy riding my Santa Cruz mountain bike for recreation. Sebastopol excellent bike paths, many of which are painted in bright green and connect with trails that take cyclists to other areas in West County and throughout Sonoma County. The experience of cycling in Sebastopol is safe and a good experience for both serious cyclists as well as families. The investment Sebastopol has made in the new bike lanes within the last few years are not just for today, but for the future. The bike lanes not only provide safe bike passage through the city, they help keep our children safe who are using bicycles to get back and forth to school. Especially now, during the time of Covid-19, our Sebastopol residents are using our bike paths for fun, recreation and transportation.

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

The biggest challenge of course is that Sebastopol downtown is at the intersection of two state highways, Highway 12 and Highway 116. There is no bypass or other way to get through Sebastopol except on our main streets which creates a large traffic issue. Bicycling is one of the prime alternatives for residents to get around town. Our future Hotel Sebastopol project that is planned includes both hostel rooms, lockers and areas for riders to safely secure their bicycles. Our City Council had much input to encourage this vision for smart and futuristic growth. The hotel once built, could be a major boost for our city as a bicycle friendly destination and pit stop for cyclist enthusiasts.  

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

Sebastopol is committed to encouraging cycling in our community. I have supported and voted yes on all initiatives related to cycling. Most importantly, I steadfastly defended the Sebastopol bike lanes after substantial push back from the public following their installation. Sebastopol council has sponsored the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition with local city pitstops for previous “Bike to Work” events, and now in 2020 “Bike to Wherever Days”. We held a clinic with the Coalition to promote biking in Sebastopol on our own green lanes. Lastly, I support the organization with my own annual membership and have participated with the “Biker Chicks”.

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

Bicycling infrastructure ranks high on our list of priorities. Sebastopol has made a very large investment in our new bike lanes within the last few years. The next investment must be to continue educational clinics and activities that promote the use of the bicycle lanes in our city. Cycling as an alternative mode of transportation to reduce greenhouse gases and discourage single person automobile trips is important for our future.

 


DIANA RICH

 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 do ride a bicycle, although my husband Daniel is the dedicated bicycle rider. He’s the one who rides 20-30 miles, about twice per week. He’s switched to a recumbent lately, and goes all over the County. My limitation is physical – I cannot ride a bicycle without major discomfort. But I do join my husband on the tandem we own – we stick to the trails around the County, for purely recreational rides.

I’d describe the experience of riding a bicycle in Sebastopol as a very pleasant experience. We have good bicycle lanes through town, and our links to the walking/bicycle trails are good. I was the coordinator for the Tour d’Organics Bicycle Ride for years, until I retired from my position as Executive Director at the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center in 2017, and so I’m fully aware that 700-800 bicycle riders can happily navigate through town. I think we’ve done a good job at making our town a bicycle-friendly town (although there’s ALWAYS room for improvement, right?).

Question #2:  What are your city’s biggest transportation challenges, and how does bicycling fit into your vision of future development?

There are two big transportation challenges, I think. One is that we don’t have good public transportation that connects Sebastopol to other towns. There is bus service to Santa Rosa and other areas, but the service isn’t regular enough to serve as a reliable means of transportation. That means that for most people bus transportation is not a complete alternative to a car. The second transportation challenge is the traffic congestion through downtown, as all the traffic goes through the intersection of Highway 116 and Highway 12. The congestion affects bicycles, making riding through town unpleasant, to say the least.

Bicycling is a key element for us here in Sebastopol. Increasing bicycle use is an excellent way to reduce our reliance on cars, and address the lack of reliable bus transportation between Sebastopol and other towns. My vision would be to identify the barriers to bicycle use and address them in order to increase bicycle use. A key barrier, I think, is concern about the safety of riding bicycles between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa. Currently many people feel concern about the presence of homeless on the trails. There’s no magic way to address that and other issues, but if I’m elected to the Sebastopol City Council I would hope to have a conversation with the Coalition to explore that issue and any others that you feel are important.

Question #3:  If elected, what will you do to encourage more people in your city to bicycle and to improve cycling safety?

Sonoma County is a perfect environment for outside activities. We need to figure out a way to celebrate our bicycle-friendly town and turn that into a point of pride. I think there’s already some of that, but it needs to be emphasized. I don’t have any magic answers as to how we do that, but I do see some key themes that would revolve around the concept of resilient cities. I also see a clear intersect between bicycling and environmental concerns (global warming, etc). The current pandemic, which favors outdoor activities, seems like an invitation to highlight bicycling as an excellent, healthy, and safe activity. For specifics on how to implement a plan, or for other ideas, I’d want to turn to members of the cycling community.

Question #4:  Our dreams and goals generally exceed our budgets. How does improving bicycling infrastructure and safety rank against your other policy priorities?

Sebastopol has a good foundation of bicycling infrastructure and safety (in my opinion).  As we move into the future, I’d want to try to build some private/public partnerships that would encourage additional expansion in these areas. Bicycling is definitely a priority for me. I’d be open to ideas, but realistic about the limited funds we’re likely to have available to us in this era of Covid-19.