The Sonoma City Council on Wednesday dropped a plan to put bike lanes on a key thoroughfare after opponents packed the meeting to denounce the idea.
"I can't remember if this is the most people we've ever had speak," Councilman Steve Barbose said following the lengthy hearing, during which most people said putting the lanes on West Spain Street was not a good idea.
The council voted unanimously to scuttle the lanes for West Spain while approving bike lanes on sections of three other thoroughfares: Fifth Street West, West MacArthur Street and Napa Road.
The plan for West Spain, which connects the city's Plaza to Highway 12, proposed eliminating 91 parking spaces to accommodate the new lanes.
The City Council, on a 4-1 vote, had previously approved the lanes in 2008 as part of a master plan for bicycling improvements in the city. Wednesday's hearing was triggered by the council's consideration of an environment analysis the city commissioned as part of the plans.
Barbose, who originally voted to approve the plans, reversed course.
"When you get this much opposition from so many people, you have to begin to wonder whether this is for the greater good," he said.
Councilman Ken Brown, who also was an early proponent of the West Spain lanes, was pleased that three of the four proposals for bike lanes were approved.
"I'm a practical person," he said.
Councilwoman Joanne Sanders said she would have supported putting less restrictive bike improvement on West Spain, such as directional signs for cyclists. But that idea did not get council support and was not approved.
Councilmembers were confronted by a large crowd, many who sported "No lane on Spain" stickers and raised their hands in agreement with speakers who were opposed to the lanes.
Critics of the West Spain proposal said it would make it more difficult for residents and employees who work at businesses on or near the street to find parking.
"If you want to get the attention of businesses, talk about taking 91 premium parking spaces downtown and you will get it," said Jennifer Yankovich, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Others argued that the bike lanes would have made the road more dangerous by encouraging people to speed down the street once parking was no longer allowed on one side.
"It's not a safe place, and one line saying it's a bike path is not going to make it safer," said David Brown, who lives on the street.
But supporters said the bike lanes would have enhanced safety for cyclists on the street.
"I run the risk of either being run over by the incredibly fast traffic or going on the sidewalk and being terrified of running over a child," said Travis Lyons.
The city's original plans called for spending $173,000 on the new lanes, including re-striping costs. Of that, $100,000 was to come from the city's capital improvement budget and $45,000 from grants. City officials are seeking additional funding sources to cover the rest.
City staff estimated that not putting bike lanes on West Spain would reduce costs by $40,000.
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