Santa Rosa bike boulevard experiment wears thin

Santa Rosa traffic officials are considering removing one of the four roundabouts on the city's experimental "Bicycle Boulevard" following safety concerns expressed by pedestrians, including blind ones.

The option is the latest effort by the city to tweak the design of the 1.5-mile stretch of Humboldt Boulevard revamped last summer to make it more bicycle friendly.

At the heart of the project are four temporary roundabouts designed to help drivers and cyclists keep their momentum through those intersections, making it easier and safer for them to get to and from downtown.

But neighborhood reaction to the project has been sharply split. Critics say the roundabouts are unnecessary, confusing and dangerous, while supporters say they're succeeding in reducing traffic and improving the experience for cyclists.

"It's been a mixed sentiment," city planner Nancy Adams said.

When the features and signs were installed in August of 2009, the city envisioned a six-month trial, but the Santa Rosa City Council has extended that period to help work out the kinks.

City Traffic Engineer Rob Sprinkle said he expects to ask the City Council in September to make a final decision on whether to make the project a permanent one and what the final design should be.

At the moment, he said, it seems to make sense to return the intersection of Humboldt Boulevard and McConnell Street in front of Bills Friendly Market to a four-way stop

"Our concern is the visually impaired who tend to use it to go to the bus over on McConnell," Sprinkle said.

Beryl Brown, 72, who is legally blind and member of the city's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, said trying to cross at a roundabout is a big challenge for the visually impaired.

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