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Petaluma bike boulevard plan draws jeers

A proposed bicycle boulevard in Petaluma similar to Santa Rosa's Humboldt Street drew mostly negative responses during a public hearing Wednesday.

About 60 people attended the meeting, and most were passionate about their feelings for the pilot project.

Worries included pedestrian safety and whether replacing stop signs with yield signs would help or hinder the flow as cars and bicycles try to share a quarter-mile section of East D Street between Payran and Wilson streets.

"Three blocks? It looks like somebody needs a way to spend 50 grand," said Dave Libchitz, who lives on Wilson. "I vote for the no-build option."

Others said anything that helps bicyclists cross town safely is welcome.

Petaluma received a $50,000 air-quality grant to make bike-friendly changes on East D Street from Payran Street to Lakeville Street.

The plan includes replacing two four-way stop intersections with all-way yields and traffic circles. The theory is that cars would stop less, creating fewer emissions.

Many speakers compared the Petaluma plan to Santa Rosa's, some lauding it as a success and others deriding it as a hazard for bikers and walkers.

What was billed as a six-month test on Humboldt has stretched to three times that, at times becoming a ferocious battle between drivers and bicyclists. The City Council last month voted to continue studying it until after the Nov. 2 election.

Santa Rosa planners said the city pricetag would be $800,000 to complete the 1.5-mile project. Traffic on Humboldt has decreased by 29 percent and speeds have decreased by 7 percent since the changes. Three non-injury collisions have occurred, none involving bikes.

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