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These days Santa Rosa's Humboldt Street would probably be more aptly named Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Street.

For those who travel it, or live there, it's become a street with a dual personality since the launch in August of a six-month test as the city's first official bike boulevard — a route shared equally by cyclists and motorists.

Keven <NO1>(cq)<NO>Brown said he used to ride his bike alongside that of his 8-year-old daughter from their Hidden Valley home to the downtown library, choir practice or his family's business, Corrick's.

"We used Humboldt a lot. It is a direct route," he said.

But he said it doesn't make sense now that the 1.5-mile stretch of Humboldt from Fifth Street to Lewis Road has been, at least temporarily, converted into an experimental bike boulevard where stop signs at several intersections have been removed and replaced with traffic roundabouts along with other changes he believes make the road more dangerous to ride.

"The roundabouts seem precarious. I love the idea of roundabouts but the area is too small for good visibility," he said, noting he sees motorists and cyclists shooting around the traffic circles without looking, sometimes speeding.

"It seemed it was much safer when there were stop signs," he said.

Others claim the safety issue along the 15-block straightaway is further complicated by the narrow, tree-lined street where long lines of parked cars make it somewhat of an obstacle course.

And, they say, the danger is heightened at night when most street lights are doused, part of a cost-cutting measure that ultimately will result in half the city's 16,000 street lights being turned off.

But Spencer Street resident and avid cyclist David Cooper sees the other side of Humboldt's personality.

"I love it. I seek Humboldt out because it is receptive to cyclists and I find it safer," he said.

"I don't find the roundabouts to be a problem. You have to be sensitive to the fact automobiles are on Humboldt and that cars might be in the vicinity. That's not a problem, you just have to watch out," he said.

"The responsibility of a bicyclist is to watch out for cars and vice versa," he said.

The project involves temporary, stanchion-lined traffic circles at four intersections — Spencer, McConnell, Carr and Silva avenues — and the use of stanchions to extend sidewalks into the streets at some intersections to slow traffic and make it easier for pedestrians to cross.

Yield signs, painted outlines of cyclists on street pavement and street signs denoting Humboldt as a "bicycle boulevard" also remind motorists it is now a shared street.

Humboldt has been long designated in the city's general plan as a bike boulevard where cyclists would be entitled to share the lane with drivers rather than be shunted to the side.

The shared concept requires that motorists and cyclists follow each other in single file but allows drivers to pass bike riders when there is no oncoming traffic. To reinforce that concept, the raised dots that divided Humboldt into two lanes have been removed.

Humboldt Street homeowner Diane Whitmire and the owners of Bill's Friendly Market have collected 225 signatures, mostly from neighborhood residents, expressing opposition to the experiment.

Whitmire said Humboldt "is too bloody narrow" to accommodate free-flowing, equal sharing of the road, a narrowness complicated by parked cars on both sides and garbage cans once a week.

"The onus of responsibility to navigate all this safely and not hit a living thing is being put on all of us," she said.

Neighborhood resident Christine Culver, who heads the 1,000-member Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, thinks just the opposite.

"Before, it felt too dangerous with cars going too fast. People use to just haul through there," she said.

Replacing the stop signs with roundabouts has eliminated the starts and stops of traffic and provided a slower and safer flow. "It is a better environment to have a more consistent speed," she said.

Some contend reinstalling stop signs at the roundabout intersections would slow traffic, but Culver said returning the signs would defeat the purpose of a bike boulevard.

"Stop signs were invented to control car speeds but if you can slow cars down using roundabouts it's much better for bikes to come to a situation where they yield," she said.

"It's a hassle for a cyclist to get off and on their bikes, particularly if they are carrying a bunch of things," she said.

Police Sgt. Doug Schlief, head of the department's traffic division, said since the experiment began overall traffic on Humboldt has slowed slightly and there has been no noticeable increase in traffic collisions.

"From a public safety standpoint, I don't think we've gone backwards at all," he said.

Schlief said the main problems he sees are foliage and landscaping that limits some views as people approach the roundabouts and confusion by motorists and cyclists about how traffic circles are supposed to work.

He is, however, surprised by one thing. "I haven't seen a significant flow of bicycle traffic on the street," a theme echoed by some Humboldt homeowners who question why the city is catering to so few.

A limited survey in September of four sections of the roadway found vehicular traffic dropped from 2,887 to 2,333 cars a day from 2008 and the number of cyclists riding specific sections of Humboldt during the heaviest hours of use — morning, mid- and late-afternoon — rose from 385 to 485.

Traffic speeds overall dropped between 0.5 mph and 1.9 mph.

The city has continually made changes to see what works best before the council decides in March whether to spend more than $200,000 to make the roundabouts and other improvements permanent.

The tweaking will continue Tuesday when the City Council is expected to approve changes that will make Humboldt more hospitable for bikes but less so for cars.

One change would prohibit right turns from College Avenue onto Humboldt.

The more controversial one would install a traffic diverter, a line of concrete blocks, to block through traffic on Humboldt at Pacific Avenue. Motorists who want to proceed on Humboldt would need to drive around a block to do so.

There would be breaks in the concrete barrier, however, that would allow cyclists and pedestrians to cross Pacific directly.

The idea of diverters was raised months ago but was dropped because of the controversy surrounding their use.

Sheila Moore, who lives on Humboldt next to the Carr Street roundabout, originally supported the bike boulevard as a way to reduce noise levels. She has changed her mind because of what she said is an increase in speeding motorists who now make it more dangerous to back out of her driveway and for pedestrians who cross the street.

The idea of the diverter has her even more opposed.

"I am appalled," said the 70-year-old Moore. "I have direct access to Kaiser Hospital and Safeway and this will make me find another side street to go down and take longer for me to get there."

Whitmire said the more circuitous route could become problematic for parents dropping off students at schools and serve as a disincentive for some motorists to shop at Humboldt Street businesses.

Culver supports the diverter, noting it will dissuade cross-town motorists from using Humboldt as a shortcut and create only a slight inconvenience for neighborhood residents.

"They (residents) will be able to navigate to their houses without any problem. Going around a block in a car to get to your house is pretty easy," she said.

There seems to be little compromise between the two sides. "Nothing will change the width of the street. What will make it safer? Return it to what it was," Whitmire said.

<CW-11>"This isn't about my love or their hate," Culver said. "If it works, we don't want to lose it."

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