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Santa Rosa considers scaled-down bike boulevard

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A cheaper version of a controversial plan to make Humboldt Street more bicycle-friendly heads tonight to the Santa Rosa City Council, but bicycle advocates say the latest proposal doesn’t even deserve the name “Bicycle Boulevard.”

The plan endorsed by city planning staff now calls for removing the temporary traffic circles installed at four intersections in August 2009 and instead installing at mid-block locations seven flat-topped speed bumps called “speed tables.”

The hope is that the speed tables, when combined with other “traffic calming” measures, will accomplish some of the original goals of the project for less money. The tables are estimated to cost $100,000 instead of up to $850,000 for versions that included permanent traffic circles.

“The cost of doing this will not be nearly as much as it will be to do the circles,” city planner Nancy Adams said.

But Christine Culver, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, says the revisions “have resulted in a project that is so watered down that we can no longer consider it a Bicycle Boulevard.”

In an e-mail urging supporters to attend tonight’s meeting to send a strong message to the new City Council majority, Culver argues that the removal of the traffic circles and vehicle diverters “only serve to undermine the creation of a roadway which was intended to optimize bicycle travel and reduce cut-through auto traffic, which is the spirit of a Bicycle Boulevard.”

The debate is likely to be closely watched for signs of just how bicycle-friendly the new council majority will be. Two new council members, Jake Ours and Scott Bartley, ran campaigns critical of the project, and new Mayor Ernesto Olivares has questioned whether it’s the best use of city money.

The latest plan calls for removing all four traffic circles at Silva, Carr, McConnell and Spencer avenues but replacing only some of the stop signs at those intersections.

Under the latest plan, a four-way stop would be restored at the busiest of the four intersections, McConnell Avenue, where Bill’s Friendly Market is located. But the other three would have stop signs reinstalled only in the east-west directions, leaving no stop signs on Humboldt in the north-south directions.

The idea is that the speed tables will slow traffic enough so that those intersection will no longer need the four-way stops, Adams said.

The benefit will be that bicyclists will continue to enjoy coasting through those intersections without being required to stop, one of the original goals of the project.

“For the Bicycle Boulevard concept, stop controls are counterintuitive for bicyclists,” Adams said.

Councilman Gary Wysocky said he has several concerns, including the accuracy of the $800,000 construction estimates, the wisdom of the removal of the traffic circles, and impact on traffic on side streets.

“It’s a significant alteration of the project,” Wysocky said.

Not replacing north-south stop signs at three intersections raises safety questions in his mind, given that the traffic circles are highly visible.

“The thing that was good about the circles, ugly as they were in the present situation, was they made people pay attention,” Wysocky said.

But Adams said the speed tables also will be highly visible, with large painted arrows on the street running up to them alerting drivers to their presence. The city has never put this many traffic tables in such a concentrated area before, she said.

“This’ll be precedent-setting if it goes through,” she said.

Other measures aimed at supporting the project goals include new crosswalks, additional “Bicycle Boulevard” signs and street striping, and radar signs telling drivers how fast they’re going. Improving mid-block street lighting also is envisioned, as is creating “bike boxes” at intersections to give cyclists space in front of cars to wait for traffic signals to change.





12 Responses to “Santa Rosa considers scaled-down bike boulevard”

  1. SWERVED E. NUFF says:

    Three cheers to Rosa Koir,Kay Tokrud and all the other people who worked to uphold their right to determine the safety and functionality of their neighborhood.

    I admire your clarity and appreciate the information that you provide.

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  2. Rosa Koire says:

    The citizens of Santa Rosa and the members of the Santa Rosa Neighborhood Coalition are celebrating a victory today. The ideology of a ‘bike boulevard’ collided with the reality of the dangerous imposition of an obstacle course in a peaceful neighborhood.

    This project has been vigorously opposed by SRNC and the neighborhood for the 18 months that we have been subjected to it. Our petition, with 684 neighborhood signators, called for the restoration of Humboldt Street.

    We reported the City of Santa Rosa to Federal Highways Civil Rights Division for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and this is most likely what finally stopped it.

    Besides the danger, besides the price-tag, besides the arrogance of ignoring the concerns of the neighborhood, besides the fanatic adherance to an ideology that diverts radically from just the healthy experience of riding one’s bike, the arm-twisting, the deception, and the manipulation involved in this project has exposed the City and the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition to light.

    We applaud the citizen activists who refused to give in after countless meetings and pressure. Those who stand together to say that they will not allow their neighborhoods and neighborhood associations to be taken over by special interest groups have won a victory today.

    Now, instead of admitting defeat, the City is attempting to impose seven speed tables on Humboldt while refusing to re-install all of the stop signs. Although the City did a survey of homeowners on Humboldt and asked who would support speed humps in front of their homes, only 67 of the 258 responded. Be aware: the City will assume that you do not object to having a speed hump in front of your home if you do not alert them. See our website for more information: http://www.SantaRosaNeighborhoodCoalition.com

    Rosa Koire
    Steering Committee
    Santa Rosa Neighborhood Coalition

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  3. Steve Humphrey says:

    Anyone who rides a bike in this area knows the safe streets. Beaver street, for example, has little auto traffic and runs from downtown to Franklin Park with virtually no issues to a cyclist. Slater is also just as safe. North Steet has an existing bike lane. Why we are wasting time, energy and money coverting a north-south artery, used primarily by motorists is beyond the pale. It raises the question of motive by the Bicycle Coalition as to what their real intention is… that of of getting us all out of our cars and joining in their ideals.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  4. Alex says:

    Just end the pork project of the “million dollar street to no where”. Seriously, there are designated bicycle lanes on Mendocino and North and Franklin. This is a special interest group trying to push their agenda through at the expense of the tax payers. Enough is enough, return Humboldt Street back to the street is was for over a 100 years. The JC is very bicycle friendly…don’t try to fix what is not broken.
    Put a bicycle lane on College for God’s sake and you don’t have to worry about any 10,000,000 dollar bridge..then again, think of how nice it would be to have another overspent pork project with the name “Bike Bridge”.

    Thumb up 31 Thumb down 4

  5. Steveguy says:

    I used to live on Humboldt near Bill’s Friendly Market. I still frequent the are, even on a bicycle.

    The whole plan should be stopped, as it is a failure. Besides the fact that local cyclists don’t use Humboldt much anyway, I used Slater Street.

    And $850,000 ? For a feel-good project by those that never use or live on the street ?

    The residents of the street are held hostage for a petty political fight by those that can’t admit failure.

    It doesn’t work…

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  6. Dan Delgado says:

    “The benefit will be that bicyclists will continue to enjoy coasting through those intersections without being required to stop, one of the original goals of the project.”

    So there you have it. $850,000 so bicyclists can avoid stop signs. My experience is that they disregard them anyway. The experiment failed. Acknowledge it and get on with the business of the city. $100,000 for speed bumps is still a waste of money for an ill-advised compromise no one will like. Both bikes and cars shared the road for years before Wysocky came along.

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  7. Dave Madigan says:

    What would be best for the community as a whole is to scrap this entire project. The street should be put back the way it was.

    Thumb up 41 Thumb down 8

  8. Heritage says:

    The last City Council should of taken care of this a long time ago after all they are the ones that caused this issues in the first place, Now it’s up to the new City Council to clean up the mess. One can only hope that the New Council will listen to the people of SR unlike the past Council and do what the people would like to see.

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  9. John says:

    Traffic circles work well when they are designed into the street as it is being constructed. These intersections are Too Narrow to have an effective traffic circle.

    Fire response is slowed by these narrow circles as much as a speed table.

    As far as speeding between bumps…I tend to try to avoid streets with speed bumps or tables on them. They are very annoying which is probably why bicycle groups are against them. They are annoying to bicycles as well. But what if they had a narrow (1 to 2ft) gap in them for bicycles to pass through? would that make them a better option or is it only what the SCBC wants that will be acceptable to the entire taxpaying community?

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  10. cyclist says:

    I agree with most of Roger Carillo’s points except for no.2. Whether I am riding my bike or driving on Humboldt thru the traffic circles I don’t feel comfortable just going thru the intersection simply because I don’t know what the other driver is going to do. Some just simply speed thru it. Pedestrians are more comfortable to see a vehicle stopped before they cross rather than just slowing down.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  11. Chris says:

    Here are some facts the the Santa Rosa City Council

    1. They are out of taxpayers money.

    2. They need to focus on bringing jobs and busesinesses back into Sonoma County, not on bike boulevards that benefit a miniscule population (their constituents)

    3. Traffic circles work when they are designed with the the road being constructed, not retrofitted into existing interesections with insufficient space.

    4. Speed tables and humps work, and how long does it take to drive the 40ft fire truck through one of the rediculous traffic circles Roger? Duh

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  12. Roger Carrillo says:

    Here are the facts that the Santa Rosa Transportation Department and the City Council should know but apparently are set to ignore:

    1. Four way stop signs are the least observed of all traffic control devices. People run stop signs at four way stops more often than any other type of traffic control device making them less safe for all motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

    2. Traffic circles with or without yield signs have proven safer than stop signs at intersections.

    3. People tend to speed at higher than average speeds between speed tables or humps so they are not as safe as they appear.

    4. Speed tables and humps significantly slow down the response of fire equipment adding precious seconds to their response time to your emergency!

    So if the City Council has a lick of concern for safety and some practical intelligence they will reject the proposed changes. My money is they will take a common sense approach based on emotion rather than facts and adopt the proposed changes. If they do shame on them as they are going against what would be best for the community as a whole!

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