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Santa Rosa’s bicycle boulevard at a crossroads

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The bicycle boulevard has reached a fork in the road.

The year-long experiment to turn Santa Rosa’s Humboldt Street into a bicycle-friendly roadway returns Tuesday to the City Council for a vote that could decide its features and future.

Public works officials plan to ask the council whether the 1.5-mile-long pilot project should be made permanent, with modified roundabouts and added speed bumps, or whether it should be abandoned.

Public opinion on the subject appears divided as ever.

“Neighborhood sentiment on this is absolutely split,” said Councilman John Sawyer.

Humboldt Street resident Barbara Gude, who describes herself as a single mom with three children and two dogs, wrote a letter to the council saying that after the roundabout was installed at the intersection of Silva Avenue near her home, “our neighborhood is much safer and quieter.”

Instead of cars slamming on the brakes as they come to a stop and “peeling out” as they accelerate again, traffic flows around the circle more smoothly, she said.

Plenty of others, however, dislike the temporary roundabouts, saying they are confusing and dangerous for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

“I am not sure than anyone really understands what is supposed to happen when traffic approaching in all directions encounters a yield sign,” commented resident Clarke Lancina.

The test began in August 2009 as a way to create a street that cyclists and motorists share equally. Four-way stops at four intersections between Lewis Road and Fifth Street were replaced with temporary roundabouts designed to help drivers and cyclists keep their momentum.

Cars were encouraged to travel single file behind bicycles until it was safe to pass. Signs and road striping were installed to help educate drivers about the circles and warn of the road’s dual emphasis.

The city originally envisioned a six-month trial but extended that in hopes of working out the kinks. Now the time to make a decision has arrived, said Vice Mayor Gary Wysocky.

“It can’t be a pilot program forever,” he said.

He and the council’s other vocal bike advocate, Councilwoman Veronica Jacobi, support making Bicycle Boulevard a permanent fixture of the Junior College neighborhood.

Wysocky, the former head of the Bicycle Coalition and a resident of the neighborhood, thinks most people want the city to find ways to shift from the current auto-centric culture to one more welcoming of alternative transportation options.

“At what point do we want to change our national policies? Where do we start?” he asked. “I think the citizens in this county want to be part of the solution.”

Jacobi, who once road her bicycle 2,000 miles from Banff, Canada, to Alaska, said the experiment has been worthwhile and educational.

“I think things have been learned, and I think creative solutions have emerged,” she said.

One of the proposed alternatives is to not build a traffic circle at McConnell Avenue in front of Bill’s Friendly Market. The high volume of pedestrian traffic at that intersection convinced city staff that it should be returned to a four-way stop.

Other alternatives to cut vehicle traffic include installing speed tables, which are a type of a gradual speed bump, and a traffic diverter, which would force vehicle traffic to turn off Humboldt Street at Pacific Avenue.

Prices for the various options range from $809,000 for three circles, a diverter and one speed table to $275,000 for six speed tables and one traffic circle. The fourth option listed in the report is to do nothing.

Sawyer seems to be learning toward the fourth option.

“In my estimation, the experiment, such as it is, is a failure,” he said.

The project has had “too many masters” and too many people coming up with various fixes for the problems created for the neighborhood by the project, Sawyer said.

“It has truly become a mess and I’m concerned,” he said.

Jacobi said she hasn’t made up her mind about the various options but will listen closely to the numerous members of the public expected to turn out Tuesday.

“I’m hopeful that five years from now we’ll have something that people are really glad happened,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.





22 Responses to “Santa Rosa’s bicycle boulevard at a crossroads”

  1. Maggie Livingood says:

    Those of us who live on Humboldt have received another carefully controlled “survey” by Nancy Adams, via the BPAB, and those on the City Council who are pushing for this One Million Dollar insanity. The pseudo survey asks Humboldt residents to choose 1 of the following: I’m in favor or I’m opposed to installing speed tables WITHIN MY BLOCK. (You can’t vote for or against if you don’t LIVE within that block.)

    This doesn’t say whether this is an either/or vote which, the 1st one was -Either speed tables OR roundabouts. Problem was they didn’t say that and they’re still not. That’s what Nancy Adams et al do. They omit. They change data and figures to SUPPORT the already failed bike debacle on Humboldt Street.

    Here is what a Real Survey for Humboldt looks like that provides complete, accurate, and truthful data by telling the Mayor and City Council what IS the Will of the People:

    1. Isolators (that’s what diverters do!)
    2. Speed Humps
    3. None of the Above
    4. Removal of the project

    Removal was the 4th Alternative at the 9/28 CC Meeting and will cost $20,000 while continuing with this ill-conceived project will cost nearly $1,000,000. Are they serious? What’s to think about?

    THEN this True Survey should be sent to every resident on the immediately intersecting streets because they have the RIGHT to vote on an issue that, if pursued, will send ALL the detoured traffic down their streets. But guess what? They are NEVER included.

    EVERY choice needs to be on this pretend survey and it needs to go to EVERY resident. REMEMBER! REMOVAL IS A CHOICE but it has not been included. ALL the Residents of the even more narrow side streets have not been included.

    This is NO survey; it’s a manipulation! The People HAVE spoken-over 700 of them and TOLD the Mayor and City Council: We don’t want this. The concrete clutter is actually causing MORE carbon emissions, it is NOT greener, and is a supply for a phantom group that doesn’t even have a need for it – maybe some day in the future, but not now, not yet, not for One Million Dollars, and not HERE!

    It’s asinine to pimp our street out on the City website and encourage people to come to this one small narrow old street that goes nowhere. What should be done is provide Bike Avenues in all the other sectors – NW, SW, and SE and connect THEM with longer, more scenic routes such as Pet.Hill Rd, Stony Pt, Guerneville, Fulton, etc., instead of trying to funnel these populations to one street in the NE.

    And let us not lose sight of Franklin that becomes North that becomes Brookwood and can bring bicyclists allll the way downtown. North & Brookwood are already divided and the bike lanes already in place.

    Learners, children, and family? Helooo! The Joe Rodota Trail goes all the way from Santa Rosa to Fulton and it’s paved and no cars, no STOP signs. You don’t even have to pretend to stop or slow down, neither of which were ever part of bicycle mentality or COURTESY! Ditto Spring Lake.

    So, riders, how many alternatives does it take to make you happy? How many do you really need, ’cause ya know, you can’t have them all! You were aware of that weren’t you?

    You’re gonna have to SHARE THE ROAD!

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  2. Richard Canini says:

    Regarding accidents and near accidents along the recently installed bike boulevard: There is a general tendency for accidents to temporally increase after roadway conditions are changed. People are creatures of habit, and it takes a while for them to adjust to changed conditions. Even when safety improvement are made [ lane width, striping, signage, speed limits ] accidents tend to temporary increase. This temporary increase should not preclude improvements, in my opinion.

    We are dying because of automobile pollution. \… findings from … studies … automotive pollution … linked to:

    * death from respiratory and cardiovascular causes, including strokes.
    * increased mortality in infants and young children
    * increased numbers of heart attacks, especially among the elderly and in people with heart conditions
    * inflammation of lung tissue in young, healthy adults
    * increased hospitalization for cardiovascular disease, including strokes and congestive heart failure
    * increased emergency room visits for patients suffering from acute respiratory ailments
    * increased hospitalization for asthma among children
    * increased severity of asthma attacks in children
    * Chronic exposure to particle pollution can shorten life by one to three years.
    * Other impacts range from premature births to serious respiratory disorders, even when the particle levels are very low.\

    Auto Emission Dangers

    (all information adapted and condensed from information provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – for more general information go to: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/consumer/05-autos.pdf)

    * HYDROCARBONS (also known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs) are a principal ingredient responsible for ground-level ozone smog. Ozone smog results when hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides interact with sunlight. Ozone irritates the eyes, damages the lungs, causes asthma attacks and aggravates other respiratory problems too. It is our most widespread air pollution problem. Like other air toxics, hydrocarbons also have the potential to cause cancer.
    * NITROGEN OXIDES (NOx), like hydrocarbons, are precursors to the formation of ozone. They also contribute to the formation of acid rain.
    * CARBON MONOXIDE. reduces the flow of oxygen in the bloodstream and is particularly dangerous to people with heart disease.
    * CARBON DIOXIDE is a \greenhouse gas\ that forms a blanket that traps the earth’s heat and contributes to global warming.
    * PARTICULATES, such as soot, are a serious health problems particularly for people with respiratory and heart disease. Particle pollution is the major source of haze, which reduces visibility. When particulates are deposited on soil and water, they can harm the environment by changing nutrient and chemical balances.\

    We should do all we can to reduce auto emission dangers.

    Yours for a healthy and safe city
    Richard Canini Civil Engineer

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  3. sick and tired says:

    I will not weigh in on the BB because I truly can not speak to its success or issues. I don’t drive or bike or walk on Humboldt much. I’m curious, however, how many people writing here understand that EVERYONE pays taxes to support road maintenance for autos–even those that don’t even own one. But kudos to the Press Demo again, for inflaming the situation and reporting INCORRECTLY what the agenda item was before the City Council!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 13

  4. Rosario Gonzalez says:

    Susan Gorin and Veronica Jacobi are running for council relection saying they got the bike boulevard in. But they were too afraid to vote for it on Tuesday because NO ONE WANTS IT. Even the bike nuts didn’t like it.

    Phony global stuff when it would INCREASE EMISSIONS, saying its good for our health. Why not force everyone to go to a health club? It’s that bad. We do exercise, we don’t need Wysocky, Gorin, Jacobi, Vas Dupre and others telling us exactly how to do it and trying to screw up a whole neighborhood so the bike shops can make a buck.

    I went to get my bike repaired the other day: they wanted over 200 bucks! I just bought a new one…from China! That’s ridiculous.

    I wish we could just sweep them all out of office now. No way I would vote for Gorin Jacobi or Haenel, and can’t wait to get Wysocky out of there. Arrogant, cocky and stupid.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 5

  5. sue says:

    I bicycle often & the running joke in the neighborhood is to bike anywhere but Humboldt….it’s too dangerous. After over a year of this experiment & almost being hit & almost hitting someone after dark in the rain last winter, I can’t believe that the city council who we’ve elected to represent us & make decisions in a timely fashion could not resolve this matter last Tuesday. Incumbents can count on losing may votes & a big no on raising taxes.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  6. hpnumber says:

    The Mayor said she feels for the people that puts up with the round about, does she realy? or is she just blowing smoke? she also said that she rides her bike all the time, does that mean she rides from her fountaingrove home to work?

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  7. Kay Tokerud says:

    At last night’s City Council meeting we learned that the city has spent 150K so far on just the temporary bike boulevard apparatus and related expenses. The entire project was supposed to only cost 200K but now they say they need another 800K that they don’t have to finish it. Dozens spoke out in opposition to the plan waiting for up to 5 hours for a chance to speak for 2 minutes. Almost no one liked the traffic circles, including some that liked other aspects of the bike boulevard generally.

    The Santa Rosa Neighborhood Coalition collected and turned in a petition with 684 signatures to RESTORE HUMBOLDT STREET to its former condition. Most of the signators live on or near Humboldt Street. Another petition put together by the bike advocates had 545 signatures on it but many of them were from different towns in the Bay Area, had addresses simply as ‘S.R.’ and many were from different parts of Santa Rosa. As we have found, most people in the neighborhood want the experiment removed.

    There’s an election coming up, and Santa Rosa wants us to pay more sales tax. Since this is how they prioritize their spending then I will be voting against the tax increase.

    The residents have already had to live with the Bicycle Boondoggle for 13 months and now they are extending the test longer. What has to happen for them to decide it’s a failure? We can start by voting our the incumbants who are responsible for this aggravating and dangerous test project.

    Thumb up 30 Thumb down 6

  8. Joe says:

    Get rid of this BB and don’t let City council have anymore money, they don’t spend it wisely, just look around the city. Lets keep our money out of their hands, add a spending freeze and save all of our money for things this city really needs.

    Thumb up 26 Thumb down 6

  9. Kathleen says:

    I live on Carr Avenue, not far from the intersection of Carr and Humboldt. Since I don’t live on Humboldt, I wasn’t ‘polled’ about my opinions, yeah or nay, for the bike boulevard. Had I been polled, I would have voted ‘nay.’

    Why? One reason is that I opt for safety! I would much rather have the stop signs and crosswalks back that existed at Carr and Humboldt prior to this ‘six month’ pilot project (that has now lasted WAY longer than six months).

    Without the stop signs, cars routinely make right turns off of Humboldt onto Carr WITHOUT slowing or stopping. Plus, I routinely see cars that turn left without even going around the traffic circle first. Not to mention the drivers that don’t know how to yield in this situation and just barrel on through.

    Why can’t we have a four-way stop AND marked cross walks at this intersection? (I’m sure that there are a number of other intersections where residents would wish the same.) Apparently, the belief of bicycle boulevard proponents is that stop signs halt the flow and progress of bicyclists! What about the safety of pedestrians?

    I am fine with keeping the ‘intent’ of the bicycle boulevard – slowing traffic, providing a safe place for bicyclists to ride. I believe that the addition of speed bumps or ‘tables’ would be an excellent way to increase safe speed limits on Humboldt and/or cross streets and provide more safety for bicyclists and pedestrians alike.

    (Plus, the addition of speed tables alone might cost less than the proposed $800,000+ project – LOL.)

    Another reason that I would have voted ‘nay’ on the current iteration of the bicycle boulevard is that I am EXTREMELY opposed to changing the through way progress at Humboldt and Pacific, as well as the ‘no left turn’ options from College onto Humboldt. The traffic is already very congested at Pacific and Mendocino (which can back up from Pacific to Humboldt already ) and the prohibition of left turns from Humboldt onto Pacific (by means of the ‘diverters’) will only make this worse.

    Any prohibition of left turns from College onto Humboldt and from Humboldt onto College will cause traffic problems for the entire neighborhood (i.e., people will select different side streets) as well as difficulties for parents driving their children to the charter/magnet school, Santa Rosa Charter School for the Arts (students by definition, do not necessarily live within walking or biking distance to the school).

    Another reason for my displeasure with the current recommendations is that while I have attended at least two public hearings but have found it very difficult to learn when committee meetings were being held, how to attend, or when/where the minutes of the meeting were posted. At the last public meeting I attended I thought that the recommendations were to take out the traffic circles, put in speed bumps, and forget about the ‘diverters’ (now called ‘pilot diverters’- how much longer is this PILOT supposed to last?!) at Humboldt and Pacific. Plus, the sentiment at these meetings seemed to be to allow left turns from College onto Humboldt, and Humboldt onto College.

    What happened to these recommendations? They don’t seem to be incorporated into the current report.

    It particularly irritates me that the proposed bicycle boulevard changes will be so expensive. Why are we considering this in the midst of massive city cutbacks?!!!

    Thumb up 32 Thumb down 2

  10. Geoff Johnson says:

    “I’m hopeful that five years from now we’ll have something that people are really glad happened,” she [Councilwoman Veronica Jacobi] said.”

    I often drive Humboldt from above Lewis, to go to the Downtown Post Office; and I don’t see many bicycles.

    Most of us will be really glad on Wednesday–much less in five years–if the Council votes on Tuesday to end this ill-conceived experiment.

    Keep the “Bicycle Boulevard” signs, if you want, but tear out those ugly, dangerous roundabouts!

    Thumb up 41 Thumb down 5

  11. Mechazawa says:

    I’m sure the BB is great if you are a homeowner living on Humboldt St., but unfortunately, it’s not so great if you live on one of the parallel streets, like King, Beaver, and Slater.

    The BB diverts traffic, but does not decrease it, causing your neighbors in the surrounding areas to shoulder the burden. If you live on Humboldt St., I’m sure your street is now safer, but it comes at a cost that I’m sure your neighbors love.

    The BB is divisive. It pits neighbor against neighbor which is not something we, as a community, should to be encouraging. We should all share in the burden equally and it’s unfair that one particular street ought to be given preferential treatment.

    Thumb up 39 Thumb down 6

  12. wildoak says:

    What a waste of money! Look at the bikes lanes already in place; Hoen ave, fountaingrove, etc. Hardly anyone uses them! Waste. Vote the bike coalition out of city hall!

    Thumb up 42 Thumb down 7

  13. VoteOutWoolsey says:

    I lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for 3 years. This is their policy: ”All bicycles with 20″ or larger wheels are required to be registered in the City and County of Honolulu. There is a one-time fee of $15 and a fee of $5 when transferring ownership of a bicycle. After payment of the fee, the owner will be provided with a decal to be attached to the bicycle frame’s seat tube facing the forward direction. All taxes collected from the registration fees are deposited in a special bikeway fund which can only be used for bicycle-related City projects and programs.” (http://www.honolulu.gov/dts/bikereg.htm)

    So why can’t we do something like that here? Not only does it cut down on bike thefts, but it forces bicyclists to contribute toward their own bike lanes and trails.

    Thumb up 33 Thumb down 2

  14. Kyla says:

    Through this trial period, we have learned that the intersections in question are not large enough for proper traffic circles. Many bikes and cars do not yield, leading to daily near misses. Pedestrians can’t cross the street safely.

    The bicyclists always say share the road, and we should. However, sharing the road does not mean installing traffic diverters to keep the cars from using it.

    I am glad that we had a trial period, and I hope that what has been learned is not ignored.

    I would suggest that we leave the new signage denoting it as a bike blvd. That we re-install the 4 way stop signs at Silva, McConnell and Spencer. That we have 2 way stops that only stop the cross traffic at the other cross streets. That we leave the yellow line out so that bikes and cars can travel together and pass on the left when safe to do so. That we lower the speed limit, and enforce it, rather than install speed bumps and diverters.

    I want everyone who uses Humboldt to feel safe. Pedestrians, bikes and cars. And I honestly believe, after using this trial system daily for the past months, that the best way to insure everyones safety is to restore the 4 way stop signs.

    Thumb up 33 Thumb down 0

  15. Steve says:

    Roundabouts, used right, could be great way to keep traffic moving. Doesn’t make much sense in a neighborhood which already has low speed limits. Put them on a busier road. My candidate would be Arnold Drive and Agua Caliente RD in Sonoma Valley. Cars back up at that stop sign for a 1/4 of mile with little cross traffic.

    Thumb up 30 Thumb down 2

  16. john says:

    The question that no one even think of asking themself.
    Would I rather breathe in fumes or accept a little inconvenient? There are hardly any car traffic on Humboltd now and it would seems the air is much cleaner on that street.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 39

  17. Juan says:

    The council is acting like the Roman senate, arrogant and ignorant of the wishes of the people.

    There is a MINORITY interest, which I dare say do not own property on Humboldt St nor pay property taxes anywhere, that has hijacked the council’s attention at a time when it is sorely needed on more pressing issues. This minority will not be satisfied until we are all riding bicycles and calling each other “comrade”.

    To the “Roman Senators”, be they local officials or the jokers running the Fed, I submit that the PEOPLE ARE OUTRAGED, and your days in office are numbered! This pet project is the most direct example of misused funds and public trust in my life… I live on Humboldt and can assure you that there will be hell to pay by the MAJORITY – citizenry that is screaming ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and being ignored.

    Thumb up 40 Thumb down 9

  18. Kay Tokerud says:

    This slanted PD story isn’t telling the whole story. About 3/4 of polled residents are AGAINST the bike boulevard. Why didn’t the city poll the residents before they spent money on this project? Now, over $800K left to go and you know they always grossly underestimate costs. The whole bike boulevard was originally supposed to cost 200K! How many more years could we keep the senior center open and the pools open if the council cancels this project?

    Then there’s the liability issue. That alone could cost the city millions if someone is killed which is only a matter of time. Thirteen accidents that I know of have already occurred, two of them requiring hospitalization. This is the wrong project at the wrong time and needs to be scrapped before any more money is wasted. Save a million bucks or use the money for something necessary, not something to satisfy a special interest group that lobbied for this without first checking with area residents.

    If this gets voted through, expect a voter backlash from the many registered voters in the Junior College area. Or, be a hero and do the right thing on Tuesday.

    Thumb up 44 Thumb down 16

  19. Alex says:

    First of all, I live and own in the JC. This experiment has gone on way too long, and I am extremely frustrated at the arrogance of the council for allowing this to happen. I am sick and tired of the politicians not listening to the residents who say “HELL NO” to Bike Boulevard! We are a bike neighborhood; however, the council in the infamous Politics as usual of big brother knows what is best for you attitude is saying otherwise. They are cowering down to special interest groups much like Bush and the oil companies….excluding the people and responding to the special interests. I swear I will do everything in my power to make sure whoever votes for this will get booted out of office. This boulevard not only adds speeding traffic on other roads, it makes it more difficult to navigate on all the streets. Before, we could share the road with bicycles and cars…but no, they take one of the most narrow streets with parked cars and traffic and then add bicycles as a main route…they are spending over $800,000 while cutting basic city services! Instead of using this money to create more bicycle lanes on college and Steele, etc, they decided, let’s take what is not broken and break it. This will increase traffic on side streets and I will bet someone will get seriously injured from this. I can only hope they sue the hell out of the city and bring them to their knees in debt. This study is so skewed it is sickening…they did not measure all the streets with traffic but one. They have no idea how this will effect the other streets except guess. They know this will cause speeding and confusion, yet they are hell-bent on moving forward. If they do, then we will vote their ass out. We have over 500 signatures from residents who say NO to bike boulevard. We have North Street, which use to be a dead-end, until the city lied and said they were going to pave it only open it up some. My parents live and can attest to this lie! They are using it as a “collector” street which really is a lie because North is a street which separates two distinct neighborhoods (they will lose federal funding on this…and this will be challenged soon). Anyway, North and Mendocino have designated bicycle lanes and all they have to do is lower the speed limit to make it safe. However, they claim they cannot because of federal law. I checked this with an attorney who laughed and said, if anyone is killed or injured and the city knowingly knew this would cause such an injury by not protecting the safety of the residents, give him a call. So I assure you, this city will be paying dearly for this…especially since the study is seriously flawed. The bottom line is the people love our neighborhood because we are all able to walk and ride our bikes on any street. However, with the Bike Boulevard, it will divert the traffic to other streets and will have others speeding on Humboldt trying to get through it. The residents are saying NO loud and clear and ANY politician who cannot hear that will hear it come the election!

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  20. Dave Madigan says:

    I thought the City didn’t have any extra money for projects like this? If we can’t afford to keep fire stations open and we can’t afford to maintain parks and fix pot holes, how can we consider money for a pet project like this?

    Thumb up 61 Thumb down 8

  21. Horatio says:

    The issue is not the bicyle it is motoring safety. These roundabouts are not safe for drivers. They don’t really slow traffic, they just cause drivers to swerve around them. Too often these roundabouts are not maintained and trash and weeds accumulate in them. Sawyer is right. In too many cases traffic dirverts from the traffic controlled streets to parallel streets causing more traffic on these streets.

    The spandex crowd are unsafe because in my experience, most of them egnore stop signs, ride too close to the middle of the street in car lanes and have big attitudes like they own the streets.

    The Council should just say no to these so called traffic control devices.

    Thumb up 57 Thumb down 12

  22. hannon sutro says:

    I think they should do whatever the bicycle coalition wants to do, as long as they pay for it.
    Why are bicycles discriminated against? No license fees? No registration fees? No public road use fees? No excise Tax? If they want to share the road then share the expense.
    End of story.

    Thumb up 56 Thumb down 13

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