By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A proposed bicycle boulevard in Petaluma similar to Santa Rosa’s Humboldt Street drew mostly negative responses during a public hearing Wednesday.
About 60 people attended the meeting, and most were passionate about their feelings for the pilot project.
Worries included pedestrian safety and whether replacing stop signs with yield signs would help or hinder the flow as cars and bicycles try to share a quarter-mile section of East D Street between Payran and Wilson streets.
“Three blocks? It looks like somebody needs a way to spend 50 grand,” said Dave Libchitz, who lives on Wilson. “I vote for the no-build option.”
Others said anything that helps bicyclists cross town safely is welcome.
Petaluma received a $50,000 air-quality grant to make bike-friendly changes on East D Street from Payran Street to Lakeville Street.
The plan includes replacing two four-way stop intersections with all-way yields and traffic circles. The theory is that cars would stop less, creating fewer emissions.
Many speakers compared the Petaluma plan to Santa Rosa’s, some lauding it as a success and others deriding it as a hazard for bikers and walkers.
What was billed as a six-month test on Humboldt has stretched to three times that, at times becoming a ferocious battle between drivers and bicyclists. The City Council last month voted to continue studying it until after the Nov. 2 election.
Santa Rosa planners said the pricetag would be $800,000 to complete the 1.5-mile project. Traffic on Humboldt has decreased by 29 percent and speeds have decreased by 7 percent since the changes. Three non-injury collisions have occurred, none involving bikes.
Petaluman Bruce Hagen, a self-described “hard-core” bicyclist, suggested several alternatives to traffic circles. If the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he said, the money should be spent to get people out of their cars completely.
“I just don’t have a good feeling about it,” he said.
Annie and Dennis Van Maaren, who own EverMay Garden Center on East D and Wilson streets, were happy to see plans with only two traffic circles – at Edith and Vallejo streets – instead of a third at Wilson. All three business owners at that corner said a traffic circle there would make truck deliveries impossible.
As planned, large trucks won’t be able to turn at the circles, city traffic consultant Allan Tilton said. Fire trucks would have to drive on the wrong side of the road and over corner “traffic chokers” to turn through the circles.
The nine-member Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee will forward its recommendations to the City Council, which will have the final say on what kind of project is approved. The council is expected to review the project in December.