Bike lanes added to downtown avenue
Bright green patches appeared on Petaluma Avenue this week, leaving some residents scratching their heads, while others cheered.
“There is evidence of physical change, and people are responding,” said Sebastopol City Councilmember Sarah Gurney.
The lane striping is part of Sebastopol’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements Plan, as well as a repaving project by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).
Mayor Patrick Slayter discussed the implementation of the bike network during a town hall meeting last month.
“The biggest change is coming, which is the installation of the bike routes along the two state highways, Highway 116 and Highway 12, in partnership with Caltrans,” he said.
The agreement with Caltrans, which is responsible for the maintenance of Highway 116 through Sebastopol, helped to save the city millions of dollars, Slayter said.
“What we ended up with was a partnership with Caltrans, where we’re doing some accessibility upgrades with ramps for the sidewalks, and Caltrans is putting in the bike lanes,” he said. “In about two years, the city will go from having less than a quarter mile of a bike lane in the southwest quarter of the city to having a complete and comprehensive bicycle route plan.”
What does green mean?
The sudden appearance of the green lanes caused a stream of calls to city hall and inquiries on social media sites such as Nextdoor. People speculated whether drivers would understand the signage and how it would impact drive times through the city. A Nextdoor post by Jonathon Berger spurred a flood of reactions.
“Anyone have any idea what those odd green stripes and patches that have just been painted on northbound 116 are? I was thinking bike lanes at first, but they’re located all wrong for that. Does anyone know what they’re supposed to be?” Berger’s post said.
The city of Sebastopol sent out a press release to inform the public about the new bike lanes and what they will mean for drivers and cyclists.
The solid green painted areas indicate bicycle lanes, while the intermittent green painted areas show transitions where vehicle and bicycle traffic might cross, such as for turns on side streets or major driveways.
More room for bikes, less room for cars
The new striping will change Petaluma Avenue northbound to a single lane from Cooper Road to Palm Avenue, according to the press release. There will be two northbound lanes for cars between the Joe Rodota Trail and Abbott Avenue, and three lanes for cars between Abbott Avenue and the Sebastopol Road/ Highway 12 intersection.
The green patches for the bicycle lanes are the first part of the striping project, soon to be followed by crosswalk replacement markings, lane lines, fog lines and other markings. Lane stripping is scheduled to continue until Oct. 5.
Paul Fritz, local architect and member of the city’s planning commission, said the bike lanes are long overdue and will make a positive impact on the city.
“I think bike lanes will bring more balance to our transportation network, which has long favored cars over pedestrians and people on bikes,” he said. “I’m hoping bike lanes encourage more people to get out of their cars and onto bikes. For all of our efforts to be a sustainable city, I think it’s long past time we have a network of bike lanes throughout town.”
The city’s press release urges residents to exercise additional caution when driving, walking or cycling.
“The new striping arrangements will look different from what drivers and bicyclists are accustomed to seeing. In all instances, national and state standards and best practices were observed in making the bicycle lanes design,” the press release stated.
Councilmember Gurney encouraged people to check the city’s website for more information, call and ask questions and try to be patient as the project unfolds.
“The project is in progress,” she said. “Wait and see how it works.”