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Petaluma ‘bike boulevard’ to get public airing

East D Street in Petaluma

By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Neighbors in the East D Street area were surprised to see a final-sounding item for the next Petaluma City Council agenda: a resolution to “approve of the final project design and authorizing construction” of a pilot bicycle boulevard project.

In the only public meeting on the matter, in October, the vast majority of 60 people in attendance raised objections to the plan to replace stop signs with yield signs and traffic circles at three intersections on a quarter-mile section of East D Street between Payran and Wilson streets.

“The neighborhood has never had public notice to come in and have their opinions carry any weight,” resident Dale Axelrod told council members Monday night. “This process is not transparent.”

Wilson Street resident Dave Libchitz noted that no one outside of staff, not even the council, has apparently seen a final design.

“Who came up with the final design? It couldn’t have been the City Council,” he said. “The public certainly has not had the opportunity to weigh in on the final project.”

He urged the council to step back and seek public input.

The Petaluma proposal, which is similar to Santa Rosa’s interim bicycle boulevard project, would make bike-friendly changes that include removing stop signs, narrowing intersections and installing yield signs and traffic circles.

And like Santa Rosa’s Humboldt Street, the East D Street proposal has been a lightning rod for controversy since its inception.

Santa Rosa’s 1.5-mile pilot project, which is estimated to cost $800,000 at completion, is in jeopardy given the makeup of the incoming, less bike-friendly Santa Rosa City Council.

Petaluma received a $50,000 air-quality grant to make bike-friendly changes to East D Street and has so far spent about $10,000 on the planning.

Concerns about Petaluma’s project include pedestrian safety and whether replacing stop signs with yields would help or hinder traffic flow as cars and bicycles try to share the road.

Some residents have said another street would be more appropriate, given the mix of homes and businesses on East D Street.

After hearing the concerns of Axelrod and Libchitz, Mayor Pam Torliatt directed city staff to schedule a neighborhood meeting before the Dec. 20 meeting to show them exactly how the traffic circles would work and look.

The council meeting agenda wording also was changed to assure an open public discussion.

“I’m just one person in the neighborhood that feels that this is really going to be unsafe to remove the stop signs from these intersections,” Axelrod said, warning the council to expect a large crowd at the meeting.

“Traffic circles are fine — keep the stop signs,” he said.





2 Responses to “Petaluma ‘bike boulevard’ to get public airing”

  1. Camino Alto says:

    Good!

    The Humbolt Street traffic circle “experiment” in Santa Rosa is a failure. Why repeat something that hasn’t worked? And as an avid cyclist, I avoid traffic circles and roundabouts. I even do my best to avoid them while driving. They aren’t the least bit safe for cyclists and pedestrians as the cars don’t stop and therefore don’t give up the right of way.

    It appears that somebody on staff in Petaluma rather than the City council is pushing this. Anybody not think that’s wrong?

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  2. Roger Carrillo says:

    @Dale Axelrod: “Traffic circles are fine — keep the stop signs,” he said”

    I would suggest that you look beyond your own stated opinion for facts about how traffic circles with or without stop signs actually work and which are actually safer.

    Stop signs are actually less safe. Four way stop sign intersections are the least complied with traffic control device as everyone thinks the other driver will have to stop. Accident rates actually go down at intersections where traffic circles are installed with yield signs or without any signs at all. Take a look at what Seattle has done with their traffic circle intersections they even got rid of the yield signs.

    I would suggest to the residents of Petaluma that they try to make a decision based upon facts rather than opinion on what is best for the community. We need to make streets safer for bicycles and cars traveling together if we are going to combat global warming effectively on a local level. We need to allow bicyclist to be able to travel safely and unimpeded rather than forcing them to stop at unnecessary stop signs because we think the stop signs are safer when they are actually not safer!

    And finally we need more bike boulevards and bike amenities in every community so we can reduce our addiction to oil as a community and as a nation!

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