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Teaching bicyclists, motorists to share the road

  • Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Doug Schlief hands out bike information to Matt Barnes and Lindsey Benjamin after pulling Barnes over for riding without hands as they were heading to class at SRJC. City officers are educating bicycle riders and drivers about how to properly use the Humboldt Street bike boulevard. Barnes was offered free lights after the officer discovered he has no reflectors. (JOHN BURGESS/The Press Democrat)

A Santa Rosa Junior College student pedaled down Humboldt Street with no hands.

A skateboarder rolled down Silva Avenue in the middle of the road.

A driver failed to yield for a woman and her children walking in a crosswalk.

And a 9-year-old girl rode a bicycle through Humboldt Park without a helmet.

These are but a few of the 127 people Santa Rosa police officers contacted during the first of a two-day enforcement and education operation targeting bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists near downtown with an eye toward making the roads safer.

The 11 officers involved in Wednesdays efforts focused on Humboldt Avenue, where a 15-block stretch was recently converted into the citys first bicycle boulevard.

We want to encourage a culture in Santa Rosa where people ride their bikes for short trips around the city, but we want to make sure they do it in a safe manner, said Rafael Rivero, a community outreach specialist with the Santa Rosa Police Department.

Roundabouts where four-way stops used to be, yield signs, and painted outlines of cyclists on the pavement are just a few of the changes aimed at putting cyclists on equal footing with motorists.

But it wont work unless everyone cyclists, motorists and pedestrians respects one another, said Christine Culver, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.

Cyclists are being encouraged to ride on the right side of the road in the middle of the lane, to prevent them from weaving in and out of parked cars, she said. This requires patience and understanding on the part of motorists, who will need to pass with care, she said.

This is what you learned in kindergarten. Take turns, share and just be considerate, she said.

Culver and other members of the coalition were on hand Wednesday to help police educate those contacted. Most cyclists were given a bright card reminding them to use hand signals, front and rear lights, wear a helmet, and avoid riding on sidewalks.

Its not illegal to ride on the sidewalk, but when they duck off the sidewalk at an intersection, thats when we have collisions, Sgt. Doug Schlief said.

The goal of the afternoon was not to hand out tickets. Of the 127 people contacted, only eight citations were issued, he said. Officers used the contacts instead as a chance to remind folks about safety and educate them about the new traffic patterns on the bicycle boulevard.

Its just new to people, so its a matter of getting them to understand how it works, Schlief said.

The program continues Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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