Thank You Bicycle Activists
We are regular folk who use bicycles to ride to work and school, run errands, burn up a few calories, or enjoy rolling fellowship with friends on Sonoma County's roads, routes and bike paths. We are the life-blood of our community, and we are thankful for our ability to partake in this economical, efficient, healthy and sustainable activity. This month, we shadow some folks who work around the clock to help make Sonoma County bike friendly.
On a brisk fall morning, we meet up with Sandra Lupien, Outreach Director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition (www.bikesonoma.org), in Sebastopol. The Coalition has been advocating for bicycle safety and education since 2001. We eagerly jump on our bikes and begin our 9-mile ride to Santa Rosa -- a nearly daily routine for Lupien. We make our way along quiet streets to the safety of the Joe Rodota Trail, so-named in memory of the architect of Sonoma County’s parks system. This 'rail trail' occupies the right of way of the former Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad electric railway, which served Santa Rosa and Sebastopol from 1904 to 1984. We thank Joe Rodota for his vision.
Rolling quietly through riparian willow and oak woodlands, crossing the Laguna de Santa Rosa, and soaking up the rising sun, we witness the dawning of a new day. "Good morning America, How are ya?", Arlo Guthrie's poetic ode to the American railroad, aptly captures the scene: Children walking to school, seniors out for fresh air, daily commuters heading to work, goofy wild turkeys with just enough sense to get out of our way, the morning dew gently rising from miles of pasture and farm fields. Like a shepherd watching her flock, Lupien rolls along, surveying the scene – signage here, striping there, traffic flow concerns – and making mental notes of bike path issues to work on back at the office. Thanks Sandra.
Another day, we ride the Class 2 bike lane up to the County Sheriff’s office for a meeting of Supervisor Zane’s ‘Sonoma County Safe Streets Coalition’. Lupien negotiates the cars, traffic signals, right turn lanes and stop signs with skill and finesse, and no doubt a bit of background knowledge. “They said this lane could never be built.” But it was, thanks to the Sonoma County Bike Coalition and others.
In her report to the committee, Lupien describes the Coalition’s web-based harassment reporting system, and the proposed ‘Vulnerable User Protection Ordinance’, which is intended to ‘Stop harassers before they become assailants.’ Lupien’s colleague, Christina Panza, who directs the Coalition’s highly successful ‘Safe Routes to School’ program, reports on the Coalition’s Helmet Bank and recent grant funding successes. Thanks for looking after our kids!
We ride back to the office, a little bit slower pace this time as Lupien contemplates the meeting just attended. In the back of our minds, we are grateful for the leadership of individuals such as Supervisor Shirley Zane, and for institutions like the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.