Senior citizens oppose new Santa Rosa bike plan

Backed by downtown residents; cite fast pace of bikes and reduction in parking

In February, the Santa Rosa City Council signed off on a plan that would overhaul the city’s 2010 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. The new directive met unexpected opposition, however, from senior citizens and downtown residents.

The California community hopes to construct some 88 miles of bike lanes and five miles of walking paths over a multi-year period.

The plan has slipped a gear as the proposal met opposition from two neighborhoods, including the retirement communities of Oakmont and the Villages at Wild Oaks on the eastern portion of the city, as well as the residential and industrial neighborhood north of Railroad Square near the West End neighborhood.

The seniors complain that a Class 3 (bicycle lane) path has no place running through a retirement community. Likewise, residents of West End, near the city’s downtown, expressed concerns that dedicated bike lanes would eliminate on-street parking.

The city council notes, however, that the lanes would create a vital link for riders to get to and from the future SMART rail station.

“In spite of the usual objections from the same homeowners' reps, the City Council unanimously endorsed the plan with this path included,” says Bill Oetinger of the Santa Rosa Cycle Club, who said that two of the council members are also members of the bike club. “The head of the homeowners' association claims he's had legal opinion from five different lawyers who all support his position. The city of course feels they’re in the right as well. Who knows what will be decided.”

Oetinger also says that he thought this should be an “open-and-shut case,” as the “city has the easement, end of story.”

But of course strange things can happen in politics, lending little credence to the “open-and-shut case.”

Until some other ruling comes, however, Oetinger says the cyclists continue to ride the paths, and while the community notes that some riders make it dangerous by disregarding local traffic laws — that this is by most accounts, a few bad apples.

“It seems unlikely to me that the court will rule in favor of closing the path to cyclists, for a number of reasons,” says Oetinger. “But if it doesn’t happen, I don't know what cyclists will do.”

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