Some 3,000 or so residents of Sonoma County are expected to use the power of the pedal to get to work Thursday, this being that annual celebration otherwise known as “Leave your car at home day.”
The problem is Sonoma County is home to more than 100,000 people who probably could ride their bikes to work Thursday but will choose not to.
Why is that? What prevents more people from riding?
The extra time involved, long distances to work, a need for a car during the day, lack of showers at work; all are among the most common obstacles cited.
For many, we expect safety — or the perceived lack of it on local roads — to be near the top of the list for reasons to avoid two-wheel commuting.
In that regard, Santa Rosa and neighboring communities have made commendable strides in trying to improve bicycle safety in recent years through the creation of bike lanes and bike routes. But Santa Rosa city officials now face one of their biggest challenges.
Late last year, after much debate, the City Council agreed to spend $200,000 to explore the possibility of building a pedestrian/bike bridge over Highway 101, connecting the Coddingtown Mall area with the Santa Rosa Junior College area. Such a bridge would clearly be a benefit to the community and to bike safety. In the southern portion of the city, cyclists have the benefit of Prince Memorial Greenway to get to and from downtown. But in the northern part of town, no such easy path exists.
In addition, the bridge would provide an easy connection for those needing to get to the SMART station to be built on Guerneville Road near the mall.
But at what cost? Some say the bridge could be built for $10 million, while one estimate from Santa Rosa city staff pegged the cost at closer to $20 million.
In our minds, it doesn't matter. The cost of even studying the project is now out of the city's price range, particularly given its current budget constraints.