WatchSonoma Watch

Is Sebastopol bike friendly?

Sebastopol Councilman Patrick Slayter commutes to City Hall on his bike. KENT PORTER/PD


Despite its environmental leanings, Sebastopol doesn’t have a single bicycle lane and soon will have to choose between bike lanes or parking spaces as the city struggles to become cycling friendly.

“It’s the most significant tradeoff,” said Sue Kelly, the city’s engineering director, who is is proposing several streets for bike lanes.

Councilman Patrick Slayter is quite familiar with the problem. He rides a bike on city streets for most of his errands, whether it is going to the bank or to Andy’s Produce.

“What in the world is Sebastopol thinking? We like to think Sebastopol is progressive and green, but if we ask people to park their car for the day, it is like you are taking away their air,” Slayter said.

The City Council will receive a bicycle network master plan Tuesday that proposes changes to several city streets to allow for bicycle lanes and bicycle traffic, some at the expense of parking spaces.

Parking was a hot-button issue in Sonoma a week ago when the council agreed to remove parking for bike lanes on three city streets, but backed off similar action on West Spain Street, bowing to residents’ and business owner concerns.

In Sebastopol, where downtown parking is at a premium, it may be no different.

“The discussion is the same as it has always been in Sebastopol, the problem of creating bike lanes is about dividing up the street among the various users,” Kelly said.

Teresa Ramondo, executive director of the Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce, said the topic will spark debate by the bike community and by businesses that might be affected.

“Parking is always an issue, there is never enough or not in the right place,” Ramondo said. “But bike safety is also important.”

Slayter also is proposing that a bicycle and pedestrian committee be set up with members of the council and the community.

“An advisory committee is legally required for cities of 10,000 or more,” Slayter said. “Sebastopol is clearly under that, but I see it as a value statement, that this is important to us.”

Sebastopol has the Joe Rodota Trail running into the heart of the downtown, a designated bike route on Morris Street to Analy High School where there is another dedicated bike path, and the West County Trail going to Forestville.

However, Sebastopol remains Sonoma County’s only city without a bike lane.

City officials say is because it is at the intersection of Highway 12 and Highway 116, Caltrans has only recently indicated it would approve bike lanes on state highways and Sebastopol’s other streets are too narrow.

“We have a very old system of streets, the town is 100 years old, the streets weren’t built with modern vehicles in mind, it is a matter of there is not enough room,” Kelly said. “It is difficult.”

The city last year hired W-Trans, a Santa Rosa consultant, at a cost of $50,000 from traffic impact fees, to come up with recommendations for a bike network.

Kelly said the proposal calls for removing 52 parking spaces on the east side of Petaluma Avenue from Gravenstein Highway to McKinley Street to make room for a bike lane.

It also recommends removing 30 spaces on the south side and 29 on the north side of Healdsburg Avenue, and removing one southbound lane on North Main Street to accommodate bike lanes.

Kelly said there are other streets designated for bike lanes, but said she doesn’t believe that eliminating parking there will be an issue.

She said the conversions could be expensive, requiring special plastic tape and in some areas street restriping, surface grinding and road edge paving.

The city does not have money for the work, but Kelly said state and air district grants are available for bike lanes.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Michael Kyes is vice mayor of the Sebastopol City Council. An earlier version of this story misstated that Patrick Slayter was vice mayor.

8 Responses to “Is Sebastopol bike friendly?”

  1. NOTUTOO says:

    First, Sebastopol should do away with that insane 1-way traffic thing they got going.

  2. Pearl Alquileres says:

    I’ll never forget going to the “Earth Day” festival in Sebatcesspool with my wife and seeing among the sea of cars… NO BIKES! All these “earth loving”, “GREEN” people DROVE there!
    Sometimes the irony is just overwhelming.
    And yes “I” drove there too. In fact, I drove my full size Chevy full time 4×4 with a big block 454 and belched $10.00 worth of CO2 into the air doing it! But I didn’t go there to “save the earth”. I went for the Gyros.

  3. Mike says:

    If the enlightened Sebastopol City Council wants to really test their theories about pedaling to work or riding to a store, they should ban bicyles from the town and let the citizens walk or bike to work and to shop.

    They do this in Denmark and Holland and I can’t think of a reason they couldn’t do it in our enviromental leader, Sebastopol.

    I wonder how long it would take for reality to dawn on the poor devils walking in the rain or the elderly biking down the street to the drug store?

    I also like the idea that since Sebastopol doesn’t have the funds to implement their bike lane dreams, they want the rest of the taxpayers to fund it through another state agency. Creative thinking at others expense.

  4. NuttilyYours says:

    I highly recommend reviewing the recommendations before complaining about this bike lane plan. This is a time to respond to specifics, not make objections based on general feelings.
    Check out page 23 on the document for a quick look at the map, then read the whole thing: http://ci.sebastopol.ca.us/sites/default/files/suekelly/draft_sebastopol_bike_lane_feasibility_study_1-24-11_0.pdf

    I am quite impressed with the level of research and commitment to safety for all users of the road (cars, bikes, pedestrians). As someone who lives and drives in Sebastopol and who will have my parking impacted, I look at the areas for removing parking and see safer roads. Our narrow curving roads make for terrible visibility. The recommended areas for removing parking is not done lightly and research was put into where alternative parking would be available.

    I look forward to getting out of the car an on to these bike lanes!

  5. cyclist says:

    @scott reese — I lived here in Sonoma county for over 35 years and in general the county is very car centric and any change that inconvenient motorists will have a fight in their hand. But I am seeing some change and progress in this county. Don’t despair there is still hope. Gasoline price might go up to $4 this summer so may be some people will drive less and get on their bikes more.

  6. Jason Valez says:

    Scott, I’m tired of hearing that our little towns around here should be like Portland. Sebastopol has about 5,000 people and Portland is way over a half million people. You have to have the ridership for mass transit and you need a lot of cyclists to make building bike lanes worth the price. Otherwise you’re comparing apples to oranges. I’m from Portland and the population can support alternative transportation infrastructure.

    Sebastopol needs to do a cost/benefits analysis before rushing willy nilly into building expensive bike lanes at the expense of parking. I like bike lanes but I also like to have viable businesses in the downtown areas that have plenty of parking for shoppers. Not every town and every street is suitable for adding bike lanes. Lanes are not needed on every street. Put in lanes where it makes sense and in other areas leave well enough alone. If there are business owners who are very vocal about losing parking, they should be listened to. Cities need to save every dollar they can right now and not spend money that isn’t absolutely necessary.

  7. NOTUTOO says:

    Wow, quit comparing Sonoma County to Portland OR. If you’ve ever been there you would know what a seedy homeless infested town that is with a HUGE population of feral kids that are addicted to heroin and ecstasy. Doesn’t matter that they have a few more bike lanes.

  8. scott reese says:

    i lived in sebastopol for 22 years and i love many things about the town in which i raised my sons. i now reside in portland, or, and i can tell you without reservation that sebastopol is neither progressive nor bike/pedestrian friendly.
    sonoma county as a whole is light years behind portland in many, many areas. i place responsibility for this lack of progress in the last twenty years directly on the back of the citizens of sonoma county. if they wanted progress, progress would happen.
    all you have to do is ride on tri-met to see what true public transportation is all about. over ninety miles of light rail track carries thousands of people on a daily basis. virtually every major road across multnomah and washington county have bike lanes. downtown portland is a cyclists dream city.
    if sonoma county wants to be bike-friendly, transportation friendly it needs to get its act together.
    even more importantly, if sonoma county ever wants it’s citizenry to be able to afford to buy a home (let alone afford rents there) it needs to create reasons for employers to locate there and right now employers are leaving the county in droves. bike lanes, quality public transportation, improving quality of life issues and creating a positive environment for workers and employers is critical.
    having spent a good deal of my life in sebastopol, and as hard as it was to leave lifelong friends, my quality of life improved dramatically upon moving to portland. i suggest city and business leaders of sebastopol utilize portland and its surrounding suburbs as a model of what can be….and portland did it in 20-25 years. sebastopol can, too, with just a little bit of yet unforeseen vision by the city leaders.