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Council awards contract for Sonoma Avenue redesign

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma Avenue will lose a lane for cars but gain two lanes for bicycles under a contract awarded by the Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday night.

The $287,000 project, awarded to Novato firm Republic ITS, is the latest in a series of “road diet” projects aimed at making streets safer by limiting vehicle lanes and adding bike lanes.

Instead of two vehicle travel lanes in each direction, Sonoma Avenue between Montgomery Village and Santa Rosa Avenue will be realigned to have three travel lanes — one in each direction plus a middle turn lane. With the saved space, bicycle lanes will be installed in each direction.

The work is scheduled to begin in October and take two weeks. It is the second phase of a project to make Sonoma Avenue more bicycle-friendly.

The first phase involved the installation of “sharrows,” or bicycle icons and arrows, urging drivers to share the road with bicyclists between Hahman and Yulupa avenues, and bike lanes from Yulupa to Summerfield Avenue. Once the second phase is completed, the bike lanes will create a nearly seamless corridor for cyclists to travel between Howarth Park and neighboring county and state parks in east Santa Rosa to the Prince Memorial Greenway and various bike trails in the west of the city.

The project is similar to the project on Hoen Avenue that ran into some opposition because it caused traffic to move more slowly through the area.

But City Traffic Engineer Rob Sprinkle said the traffic volumes on Sonoma Avenue are lower, which should make the project go smoothly.

A push last year by residents of the Luther Burbank Gardens neighborhood to reduce Santa Rosa Avenue from four travel lanes to two was rejected because traffic volumes were considered too high for it to work.





34 Responses to “Council awards contract for Sonoma Avenue redesign”

  1. Steveguy says:

    I ride a bike, and I have ridden for years. I ride by the rules and while driving a car, I come across FAR more bad drivers than bad cyclists.

    I used to live on Humboldt Street, the ‘bicycle boulevard’. What a waste of money and ‘feel good’ governance. Even with the ‘new’ boulevard, I wouldn’t take it as most every local there doesn’t use Humboldt Street to ride anyway. Slater Street, Orchard or Beaver are still the best way to go.

    I also know that my old neighbors did NOT want the ‘traffic calming hump’ on the 1400 block of Humboldt. The city put it in anyway, even though there is a stop sign just yards away at Bill’s Market.

    My biggest concern is at the intersection of Farmer’s and Sonoma. Cal Trans runs the lights ( It’s Hwy 12) and am concerned about waiting for 2-3 light changes to get through due to one lane being gone. Even on a bike !

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  2. Joe Public says:

    With all this money being spent to appease the cyclist in our area, how about spending some for “Bike Cops” to force them to obey the laws.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  3. Social Dis-Ease says:

    To homegirl: there is a counter movement to all the bike crap,
    (which stands for WAY more than bikes-who doesn’t love bikes?)
    It’s called the Santa Rosa Neighborhood Coalition.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  4. homegirl says:

    Based on the earlier postings I see that I am not the only person who avoids conflicts on the road with cyclists. They ignore every rule of traffic. Now they demand and receive special favors from the City Council, thanks to their ongoing presentations at Planning Commission hearings and the City Council. In my opinion we need a highly organized counter movement.

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  5. Jeff Elliott says:

    @Chris, if you can find a study with better data and methodology, please share.

    That DOT study found 21.8% of overall bicycle-motor vehicle collisions were deadly. Here’s the breakdown, courtesy StreetsWiki.

    5.1% The bicyclist exited a driveway in front of an on-coming vehicle.
    4.3% The bicyclist turned left in front of a passing vehicle.
    3.9% The motorist was overtaking the bicyclist, cause of the accident unclear.
    2.7% The bicyclist was struck while traveling on the wrong (left) side of the road.
    1.4% The bicyclist, on the wrong side, turned right in front of a vehicle.
    1.3% The motorist was overtaking the bicyclist and failed to see him.
    1.2% The bicyclist lost control and swerved into the path of the vehicle.
    .8% The bicyclist made a normal left turn but ignored on-coming traffic.
    .6% The motorist lost control of the car and struck the bicyclist.
    .5% The motorist struck a play vehicle (big wheel, bike with training wheels).

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  6. Chris from Santa Rosa says:

    @Jeff, the DOT study you cited was published 16 years ago, using data that was undoubtedly older. A lot has changed over that span of time. Also, the DOT cataloged 5 or 6 different categories of “driver overtaking” collisions. Did you combine the numbers from these categories? Also, the cost to the public for a cyclist to ride one mile on a public road is about a tenth of a cent. I ride about 3000 miles a year – not as much as many hard-core cyclists, but solidly above average. A registration fee of $3.00 would cover it, don’t you think?

    (Although the state would probably round it up to $10.00, meaning I would be subsidizing motorized traffic even more. :-( )

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  7. Social Dis-Ease says:

    These are ICLEI directives and goals.
    Bottle neck neighborhoods.
    Make parking unavailable or expensive.
    Roundabouts, big bike ‘sharrows’.
    Ever notice the town doesn’t flow in terms of traffic now?
    When you make Montgomery Village and the Downtown less conveinient in terms of access (and parking) you do harm to those business’ and the whole town.
    Look, if 10-20% of the people decide that 10-20% of the time going to that retail area is a pain, that makes a big difference. THAT could make the difference between black ink or red ink.
    Subsidize mall stuff.
    Sabotage small business stuff.
    (picking winners and losers=fascism)
    Ram Smart Trains ‘n bikes down our throats, bottle neck retail centers, mess with parking, small business, property rights, municipal services…
    Do you see a pattern?

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  8. Where are they getting the money for this project?

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  9. Reality Check says:

    @LBR,

    You overstate your point. In 1963 the gas tax was set at 7 cents. After that, increases failed to keep up with inflation (mostly during the Reagan and Brown years), let alone pay for other priorities, whatever their stated intent.

    1963 – 7 cents
    1983 – 9 cents
    1990 – 14 cents
    1994 – 18 cents

    We differ, I’m sure, at turning a nearly pure user- pays system for funding highway maintenance into a general tax for “other priorities.”

    As for the federal gas tax, during one five period early last decade, non-highway projects took 25% of the money.

    As to basing the gas tax as a percentage of price, it should be based on what’s necessary to accomplish its purpose.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  10. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @reality – “Yes, and that fact helps explain why our roads are deteriorating.”
    .
    In 1990, the tax was increased to pay for the other priorities. The reason why our roads are deteriorating is because the gas tax is a set amount per gallon of gas, not a percentage of the price, so the real inflation adjusted amount going to roads has diminished considerably since the gas tax was last changed in 1994.

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  11. Jim M says:

    The actual data the city has shows that this type of three lane configuration is safer for people in cars. Having the center turn lane is safer than having cars stop in the middle of a lane of traffic to make a left turn, also people will drive slower on a single lane which is safer as well.

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  12. Reality Check says:

    @LBR,

    Yes, and that fact helps explain why our roads are deteriorating.

    What was intended as a user-paid trust fund to maintain roads has become a giant slush fund that pays for sidewalks, bike lanes, and even parks. Yikes!

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  13. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Reality – “But one thing is clear today, more and more gas tax money is being diverted away from its original purpose.”
    .
    Maybe originally gas taxes were only meant for roads, but for the last 20 years, with the adoption of a new State Master Plan for Transportation in 1990, that emphasis was changed to “focus on reduction of traffic congestion, with an emphasis on expanding bus, rail and other public transit systems as opposed to adding more freeways.”
    .
    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/paffairs/about/cthist.htm

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  14. Jeff Elliott says:

    @Chris, there’s a whole section of the California Vehicle Code regulating bicycle use. Here’s a link for you: http://dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/vc/tocd11c1a4.htm

    Glad to hear you’re willing to “share the road” by paying a small fee for tags on your bikes. When can we expect the Bicycle Coalition to present a petition to Council demanding bike licensing?

    And since you brought it up, most avoidable fatal collisions are the fault of the bicyclist. A DOT study found drivers caused fewer than one-third of the accidents. By far, the most common deadly crashes were because a bike pulled out in front of an on-coming vehicle. Cars hitting cyclists from behind was way down on the list, responsible for about 1 in 20 fatalities. (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/pedbike/96104)

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  15. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @David and Reality – This was paid for through State Grant Funds (Bicycle Transportation Account) that provides “state funds for city and county projects that improve safety and convenience for bicycle commuters” – to learn more about these directed funds, check out:
    .
    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/bta/btawebPage.htm

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  16. Reality Check says:

    The article should make clear the source of funding for this project. It doesn’t. If state or federal funds are involved (they almost always are) bicycle lanes have become almost mandatory on all streets except residential.

    Time will tell how well this works. But one thing is clear today, more and more gas tax money is being diverted away from its original purpose.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  17. Liz says:

    @ Chris from Santa Rosa
    You say “Finally, I would be proud to pay an annual fee for the bikes that I ride on public roads, but I want bike lanes on every road in the state as well as additional training for all automobile operators teaching them how to drive safely around people on bicycles.”

    Great if bicyclists would pay that that would make me happy. But training just for automobile drivers hahaha it’s a 2 way street. Bicyclists need proper training as well as to how to ride on city streets. Many people on bikes have no idea how to ride on the street i.e. going against traffic instead of with traffic or riding recklessly too far out into traffic. I see it all the time. I have even been flipped off by bicyclists because they think they own the road. I expect everyone on the road to be safe and both bicyclists and drivers in this county are terrible.

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  18. James M says:

    About time. I use both Hoen and Sonoma Avenune on my bike every day. I also own a car and pay taxes of all kinds (payroll, property, car, sales, gas, state, federal)that pay for the road, and I am as entitled to use it as anyone in a car. If cars won’t learn to drive safely around bikes, then we need to seperate them. If you don’t want more bike lanes, give bikes more room when you pass, don’t cut them off, and be respectful – those are regular people who just choose a healthy transport option.

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  19. Dave Madigan says:

    @Dan Delgado:

    At one time, maybe 15 to 20 years ago, they City claimed to have enough money set aside in an emergency fund to operate the City for 2 to 3 years. Each City Department had it’s own account for disaster purposes.

    I haven’t heard anything about this since. If those accounts still exist, I wonder how much money the City has set aside?

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  20. Dave Madigan says:

    @Lets Be Reasonable:

    You say the bike lane work is paid for out of “specific targeted funds” that can’t be used elsewhere.

    Really?

    Where did that specific money come from? It came from the taxpayers. It is the City Council that says the money can’t be used elsewhere. They set the rules and then they tell us “sorry! we can’t do anything about it”. BS!

    I used to live off of Calistoga Road. I am well aware of the problems “traffic calming” has caused.

    You also stated that the City does not have the money for reunification of the Square.

    Bartley actually said they don’t have the money to pay for all of it at this time. That is why they want to do the work in phases. So they do have the money to get it started.

    I am not new to the campaign to reunify the Square. I have been fighting this for over 15 years. This is a huge waste of taxpayer money. Anyone on the Council who votes to go forward with this project should be recalled from office.

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  21. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Dave – The City General Fund is what has been having problems recently. I believe the Bike Lane work would come out of specific targeted funds that cannot be used elsewhere. The City also does NOT have money for the courthouse unification – the only work being done at the moment is downtown water and sewer upgrades to support downtown development, and again, this is not general fund money.
    .
    In terms of whether this is a good idea or not, I’ve seen it work on Calistoga Rd, and I believe it has lessened auto accidents (does anyone have facts here?). Even if the bike lanes are not used, I think this arrangement is safer for cars – more space between traffic and parked cars, and no one stopping in front of you to make a left turn. It certainly makes it harder to speed/race. I’m not much of a bike rider these days, but this location seems to make sense, providing a complete cross-city route. I’ll also feel better knowing my kids can be a bit safer on their bikes as they go to school.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 9

  22. Chris from Santa Rosa says:

    Just to clarify, operating a motor vehicle on public roads is a privilege. I’ve never encountered any law or regulation that restricts non-motorized traffic, except for restrictions based on local conditions (like the road being a freeway, for example). And yes, roadways are used by “ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, utility repair trucks, and other first-response vehicles” to take care of us in emergencies. That’s a utilitarian argument, which is rendered moot by the fact that most car trips are recreational – driving to the movies, the restaurant, soccer practice, the gym… you get the idea. Check out the number of rented convertibles touring the wine tasting rooms on weekends.

    I’m sorry you’re annoyed by cyclists who are active and vocal about wanting the roads to be safer for non-motorized vehicles. It’s entirely unreasonable for them to get all worked up over the number of avoidable fatal collisions, most of which are motor vehicles hitting cyclists from behind.

    Sorry for the sarcasm, but while motorists don’t want to be inconvenienced, cyclists don’t want to be dead.

    Finally, I would be proud to pay an annual fee for the bikes that I ride on public roads, but I want bike lanes on every road in the state as well as additional training for all automobile operators teaching them how to drive safely around people on bicycles.

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  23. Liz says:

    I never see any bikes on Hoen, that is when I do drive down it. I have stopped using it as much as possible because it is so jammed with too much traffic and accident prone. They said it was to force people down Farmers ln to get to hw 12 but didn’t realize that most drivers on Hoen actually live in Bennett Valley and are just trying to get home.
    Closing down Sonoma to 2 lanes is a really bad idea. I drive it almost daily and I can count on 1 hand how many bikes I see in a 2 week period.
    This is not the right thing to do but council moves forward anyways regardless of what we ask of them.

    Time for new representation in Santa Rosa city council, and not even the one I voted for last time. We need council members who actually listen to what we have to say. Time for someone new to step up.

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  24. Dan Delgado says:

    Dave,
    Absolutely right. They’re not being honest. The general fund only comprises about one-third of the toal budget yet garners 100% of the discussion. It’s about time we address the other two-thirds of our money set aside in dedicated accounts and funds.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  25. Dave Madigan says:

    I thought the City was broke? Things are so bad that fire stations are being closed on a rotating basis. Street lights are turned off at night. The City even wants to charge for parking at Howarth Park!

    All of the sudden we have $287,000 for bike lanes????

    All of the sudden we have millions to pay for reunification of Old Courthouse Square?

    The City Council must have won the lottery! Or….. The City Council is not being honest with the public about the City’s finances.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 3

  26. Terry says:

    $287,000 for a “road diet” projects aimed at making streets safer by limiting vehicle lanes and adding bike lanes. Safer for who?? The FEW bikes that will use the lanes or the cars that will be clogging the road when they take away the extra car lanes??
    What a waste of money. Why not use the $287,000 and PAVE the cruddy roads?? Or will we be wasting more money just to put it back the way it is now, just like those dumb roundabouts.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  27. Jeff Elliott says:

    Chris you’re right; roadways ARE heavily subsidized by the public. But roadways are also used by ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, utility repair trucks, and other first-response vehicles that need to reach you fast during an emergency. A good thing, yes? Look, I think bike lanes are great, but I’m truly annoyed by the vocal section of the two-wheeled community that argues they’re paying taxes into the general fund or whatnot and thus have a “right” to the public roadways. You don’t. Using the roadways is always a privilege, and there are many restrictions on roadway use by bicycles set under the state vehicle code, including VC 39002, which gives a city or county the power to license bicycles. I think you would find your cause better served if you were able to reply, “we’re proud to contribute to the cost of using the road, and cyclists helped pay for that $287,000 project by paying our annual license tags.”

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  28. The Hammer says:

    This is the kind of thinking that got us in the recession. And I would venture to say that 95% of those folks riding a bike do not obey the traffic laws. The city needs to post signs, paid for by the folks riding the bikes, stating that they must obey the same laws as the vehicles. Then the police need to start giving them tickets.

    And my final thought is anyone who thinks you can mix vehicles with bicycles is a either a FOOL or an IDIOT.

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  29. Chris from Santa Rosa says:

    Who pays for the roads? Everybody, whether they own or operate a motor vehicle or not. The fact is, if the full cost relating to automobile use was paid for out of road and fuel taxes, the price of gasoline would have to rise by $1.00-$1.50 per gallon to raise the necessary revenue. At present, up to 25% of our public expenditures for our automobile-oriented transportation infrastructure come out of general funds. This amounts to subsidizing our addiction to commuting by private automobile. When you drive your car on public roads, you are subsidized to the tune of 20-25% of the registration fees and the fuel taxes that you pay. When you ride your bike on public roads, the cost to the public for your use of the road is completely covered by the taxes you pay in the federal, state and local general revenue accounts. Motorists, not cyclists, are the real freeloaders.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 19

  30. Car Lover says:

    Who did Wysocky pay off to get this approved? Can’t wait for the next City Council elections.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 9

  31. Shelby says:

    I live on Hoen and can go weeks with out seeing a bike in the bike lanes.
    I use them myself but prefer to use side streets as its much safer.

    So this is my question. Why are we spending more money on bike lanes that
    get so little use?

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  32. LEVI says:

    The turned Hoen ave into a parking lot. 1st of all its Not very green and now there are much more accidents. Someone get rear ended every day their now

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 5

  33. sam says:

    Great! more bike lanes. My street has a bike lane on both sides and in one day I counted only 3 bikes using it (I don’t have a job now so I’m on my computer looking for one which is next to the window that’s how I know before anyone ask). Take that $$$ and use it for something else that everyone can use.

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 10

  34. April says:

    So, let me get this straight… We’re taking away traffic lanes all over town to make it safer and more accessible for cyclists, without regard for what these modifications do to the people driving cars. Who pays for the roads? Bikes? I think not.

    This is nothing more than strongarming. They’re trying to make driving a car such a headache for the average person by putting in all of these modifications which will only cause congestion that they think people will give up and just ride a bike.

    Apparently if the liberal Michael Allens, Gary Wysockys, and Susan Gorins of the world get their way, the only movement on the rode will be bikes occupied by frustrated people and cars occupied by undocumented and unlicensed drivers!

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