By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, an advocacy group for bicycling issues, has hired a county planner with deep roots in cycling as its new executive director.
Gary Helfrich, 57, of Camp Meeker, takes over the position on Sunday. The position pays $50,000.
He replaces Christine Culver, who was the executive director of the coalition for eight years and has been a vocal presence at numerous public meetings, from the city of Santa Rosa to the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit district, where projects involving bicycle projects werer being discussed.
The coalition, which has 1,100 members and a $450,000 annual budget, is 10 years old.
Helfrich said he wants the nonprofit coalition to focus on outreach, safety and promoting projects that improve safety and away from the growing friction that has developed between cyclists and motorists.
“Cycling should be a choice, or walking a choice,” said Helfrich. “Now to have a job in Sonoma County it is mandatory to own an automobile. We are not saying get rid of cars, we are not trying to pre-empt cars from getting around, it is not an either-or conflict.”
Helfrich, a lifelong cyclist, was co-founder of Merlin Metalworks in Cambridge, Mass., a bicycle frame manufacturer. He also was a consultant for Trek, Serotta and Ibis bicycle companies after moving to Sonoma County in 1986.
For the past five years he has been a planner in the Sonoma County planning department, writing policies for the countywide pedestrian and bicycle plan.
He commutes by bicycle daily to the Sonoma County administration center.
Helfrich said, however, that he is among those who are being laid off at the end of June as part of the county’s budget cuts.
Helfrich is also a past president of the Camp Meeker Park and Recreation District, served on the Sonoma County Local Agency Formation Commission and has been a volunteer Camp Meeker firefighter for 20 years.