WatchSonoma Watch

Sonoma County to update ambitious bike path plan


For the hefty price of $340 million, Sonoma County could one day have an unrivaled bike path system, though transportation planners concede that the hard reality of tight funding could put that goal a long way down the road.

The entire 1,060-mile proposed bike network would cost about as much as adding 12 miles of carpool lanes to Highway 101 through the Sonoma-Marin Narrows. If the whole network were ever built, it would quadruple the number of bike-path and bike-lane miles in Sonoma County, making it one of the most cycling-friendly places in the nation.

But transportation officials have identified only a tiny fraction of the needed funding and acknowledge that there is little chance the whole network will be completed anytime soon.

The Santa Rosa Creek Bike Trail near Willowside Road is used by bicyclists, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. The trail, paved in 2009, was part of a plan by the county that was last updated in 2008. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

The Santa Rosa Creek Bike Trail near Willowside Road is used by bicyclists, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. The trail, paved in 2009, was part of a plan by the county that was last updated in 2008. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Instead, they say, making a wish list that includes each segment in the proposed network — there are 977 segments countywide — helps secure funding when the opportunity arises.

“Bike projects are different than other projects,” said Janet Spilman, deputy director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. “They are largely opportunistic. It’s a good idea to keep the list fresh.”

The transportation authority is updating the countywide bike plan for the first time since 2008. Back then, the county had 241 miles of bike infrastructure, mostly in the form of on-street bike lanes.

The update comes as cycling has boomed in Sonoma County, with triple-digit growth and an increasing array of recreational and competitive events such as the popular Levi’s GranFondo and the Tour of California.

In the past six years, the county and its cities have built a total of 73 miles of bike lanes and paved bike paths, according to the updated Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. The blueprint combines the independent plans of the county and its nine cities.

“It’s a guiding document for each one of our jurisdictions,” said Eydie Tacata, vice chair of the Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. “We want to make sure all the plans connect.”

The committee met Tuesday to finalize the plan and could approve it at its next meeting in March. The transportation authority could adopt the plan in May.

County officials tout specific bike path projects that have benefited from inclusion in the plan. In 2009, the county was able to pave the final 2.1-mile section of the Santa Rosa Creek Trail using state and federal money. The project may not have received funding if it wasn’t on the master list, transportation officials said.

“Without having a project identified in a planning document, the county cannot proceed with a project,” said Ken Tam, a park planner with Sonoma County Regional Parks. “In order to qualify for state and federal funding, it’s got to be in a document.”

But inclusion on the list doesn’t guarantee that a segment of path will receive funding, officials say, and many high-priority bike paths identified in the previous bike plan remain unfunded.

Some segments of pathway that are carried over from the previous plan include a 12-mile bike path from Santa Rosa through the Sonoma Valley that planners estimate would cost $5 million; an 11-mile path from Petaluma to Sebastopol with a $4 million price tag; and 11 miles of paved Petaluma Marsh Trail at a cost of $4 million. The plan also lists smaller projects, including a proposal for bike-route signs on one block of Third Street in Cloverdale, at a total cost of $967.

“Everything is thrown in there to make sure that when there’s money we can grab a project off the list,” said Gary Helfrich, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition. “The odds are zero that they will all get built.”

There are a number of reasons to improve the county bicycle infrastructure, transportation planners say. Giving commuters another option to get to work takes a car off the road, helps ease traffic and improves air quality. Bicycling has increased by 104 percent in Sonoma County since 2010, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Separate lanes and pathways helps keep cyclists safely away from traffic, planners say. Since 2008, there were 1,450 traffic collisions in Sonoma County involving a cyclist or a pedestrian, according to the CHP.

Transportation planners say there is not an imminent funding source for any of the bike projects, but cities and the county will use the plan to seek federal, state and regional money in the near future.

“It’s really a great tool for our jurisdictions to use to find funding for specific projects,” said Diane Dohm, transportation planner with the SCTA. “It’s definitely an active plan. It doesn’t just sit on a shelf.”

(You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocrat.com.)

14 Responses to “Sonoma County to update ambitious bike path plan”

  1. Nancy says:

    Mockingbird you have read the “Plan Bay Area” document prepared by ABAG and the Metro Transportation Authority to restructure the Bay Area. It makes for interesting reading for those that want our entire life style altered. It is a regional plan to mandate the integration of regional housing, job, transportation and land use.

    Many reject the grand master government planners directing where were live, how we live, where we work and how we get around. It is a plan that would not be a foreign concept to a European dictator or soviet boss.

    I have been to Europe many times, and I know many Europeans. I do not know one who does not own a car and many own two or more. After World War II, Europeans worked very hard to build up their countries and economies. They went from bicycles to motorcycles to very small cars to large passenger cars and they continue to own and drive them.

    What you are saying is a fantasy and simple not supported by facts.

    Marxists want state control over our lives because they fear individual initiative and social mobility. I want to choose where I live and I want to choose who I live next to. Most Americans believe in this and will not be forced by government to move into little public housing and work where the government dictates.

  2. bear says:

    Here’s another take. I think that exporting oil, shale oil, natural gas, coal or any other unrenewable energy source is a threat to national security.

    If it is done for short-term profit, it is treasonous. Let’s not sell the “seed corn.” Instead, think about what will power 747′s and our Air Force a hundred years from now.

    Your car might be electric by then, but the world will change.

  3. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Francis-we get around with good public transportation like a lot of seniors do now who can no longer drive. Like lots of hispanics who have no licenses, students going to school, the disabled who have no alternatives, commuters who don’t want to deal with the traffic messes, greenies and so on. That’s how we all should be getting around.

    Some cities in Europe do not allow cars downtown at all. You take public transportation, walk or ride your bike. Of course, they were smarter than the USA in developing these alternatives to cars.

    Just because we are car ego centered now, doesn’t mean we have to always be this way. The oil will be getting scarcer and scarcer, maybe not in our lifetimes, but we certainly aren’t doing future humans any favor by being so uncaring about the environment and so greedy.

  4. Francis says:


    In marxist countries they have projects, like them or not. Now in little old Sonoma County the politicians are trying to recreate these old marxist dreams, bike paths, unsmart trains, free homeless parking, the list goes on.

    The problem as always is who will pay for these dreams and what is the true social demand for these dreams.

    Very few people in this society ride bicycles vs cars. Yes there are the true believers who love wind in the face riding, but in reality unless you are 20 years old and healthy, how are most people going to get around?

    We need good roads, not elitist bike paths for the few. There are only so many dollars to spend.

  5. Brad Pipal says:

    Any bike travel will require the bikes to be ridden away from trucks, lifted 4×4′s, busses, cars…..Those that “ghost” along big trucks become “splat.”

  6. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Francis-that’s what a bike path is. Creating jobs. It doesn’t just magically happen. A crew of workers make it happen.

    All projects are job creation. Get a clue folks. The more projects the more jobs.

  7. Follower says:

    You’re just not seeing the “big picture” part of the “WAR ON making POVERTY more comfortable”.

    Sure, we could spend the money on helping small businesses create more jobs. . . or we could make it more comfortable for unemployed people who can’t afford a car to get around.

  8. Francis says:

    Thata way to go! Spend millions on bike paths so a few riders can enjoy the scenery. Instead of spending tax money to promote the economy and jobs we have bike paths.

    Makes sense to somebody, but maybe not to small business, the unemployed, the people who are just making it financially with two jobs.

  9. SantaRosaCitizen says:

    Maybe everyone who rides their bikes here could kick in some cash- this would be awesome, and I’d feel safer riding my bike, so would do it more often.

  10. Papa ESoCo says:

    Fix the Damn Roads first, then you can talk about bike paths for that Tiny minority that actually ride them.

  11. bear says:

    Let’s pretend I know the folks who wrote and adopted the current Bikeways Plan.

    I’m sure they want to know the length of all bikeways constructed in the last 20 years. 2.1 miles doesn’t cut it, even if it completed a vital link.

    We have the same problem with the trails plan. A lot of wishful thinking with doubtful funding.

    Yes, there is value in having both plans on the books. But I don’t see much of it happening in my lifetime.

  12. Don says:

    Why don’t we use the Open Space Tax for something that we will use, instead of buying properties that we will never get to touch! Or we can give some more cash to rich land owners that “promise” not to develop their vineyard! I think this would be a better use of that money.

  13. James Bennett says:

    Lotsa zeros involved…

    and the project sounds expensive too.

  14. GAJ says:

    This is a great plan for a County flush with cash.

    This is an insane plan for a County with over a half a billion dollars in unfunded liabilities and which has publicly stated that 80% of County roads will be allowed to crumble due to budget limitations which do not allow for proper maintenance.

    Our elected officials are idiots, plain and simple.