Patrick Slayter on bike

TRAINING WHEELS — Vice mayor Patrick Slayter, right, and Steve Levenberg in the bike lane queue box at McKinley and Petaluma Avenue in downtown Sebastopol.

Get ready to roll next month when the city of Sebastopol hosts a new bike lane education event and around-town ride called SebastoPedal Green, scheduled for Sept. 21 from 9 to 11 a.m.

At the last Sebastopol City Council meeting on July 16, the council authorized an expenditure of $4,000 from the general fund to support the new event.

“We’re contracting with the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition to help us organize and run the event,” said councilmember and avid cyclist Patrick Slayter. “They’re going to do a safety talk about how to use the bike lanes, plus we’re going to set up a mock bike lane, somewhere off-street — maybe at the police station, maybe in the parking lot on Burnett Street — so kids can practice riding in a straight line single file.”

But it’s not just for kids, he said. Getting more adults out of their cars and onto two wheels is the real endgame behind this event.

After the education portion, Slayter hopes to have groups of local cyclists plying the bike lanes around Sebastopol for a couple of hours.

“The goal is not to take over the traffic lanes or anything like that,” Slayter said, referring to San Francisco’s Critical Mass events. “It’s to give people the experience of using the bike lanes as they’re intended, which is single file and as transportation around town.”

There will also be free giveaways at the event, including bike safety lights and a limited number of helmets.

Cyclists and cars still struggling with bike lane markings

Sebastopol resident and transportation engineer Steven Weinberger is helping to organize SebastoPedal Green. He’s the founding principal of W-Trans, the traffic engineering firm that designed the bike lanes.

“The idea of the event is to do some education about the bike lanes, give people some exposure to using them and give drivers the experience of seeing cyclists in the bike lanes,” he said. 

Weinberger said he understands that people were surprised when the bike lanes popped up last year, but that the project had actually been in the works for years. He’s been involved for the last nine years.

Sebastopol’s bike lanes have a few unusual features, which, while state-of-the-art in terms of traffic engineering, are probably unfamiliar to local cyclists and drivers alike. Weinberger explained a few of these puzzlers:

The queue box: What’s with the green rectangle painted on the ground at the corner of Petaluma Avenue and McKinley, for example?

“It’s an unusual intersection because we have vehicles on Hwy. 116 that are turning left, but we also have drivers that are going straight toward the police department or making a right,” Weinberger said.

“To provide a safe path for cyclists, what we did in the design was to provide what’s called a left-turn queue box. The proper way for cyclists to use that is to enter the box, yield, look and see if any vehicles are going straight or turning left and then proceed across to continue on the route,” he said.

“I do see some cyclists that are making a sweeping left turn there without going into the box. That isn’t the way the bike lanes are supposed to be used because there is a potential conflict with vehicles that may go straight toward the police station.”

According to Weinberger, “Queue boxes are part of a new design that came out within the last five or six years so a lot of cyclists maybe haven’t seen them. But they are being used all over the nation now, along with the green paint.”

White slash marks: If you’ve been wondering what those white diagonal slash marks on the road are, Weinberger said they’re just buffer areas, meant to create a bit more space between cyclists and cars.

“Those were provided in areas where we had some extra width,” he said. “Rather than provide a wide vehicle lane, we provided a standard vehicle lane and provided that separation.”

Solid green paint and green slash marks: “There’s the use of a lot of green paint and hashed green stripes,” he said. “Those are mostly located in what are called ‘conflict zones,’ where a vehicle may be turning right across the bike lane or where there are unusual road geometrics (such as the intersections of Petaluma Avenue/McKinley Street and SR116/Covert Lane) or at bus stops.”

“The purpose of the green color is to make both the cyclist aware that they’re in an area where a vehicle may be turning, and for the vehicles, to be more aware of cyclists, like ‘Hey, there’s a bike lane here; be careful as you turn right.’”

Learn about these and other bike lane mysteries at SebastoPedal Green on Sept. 21.

Are you an experienced Sebastopol bicyclist who’d like to volunteer for this event? Contact the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition at events@BikeSonoma.org.

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