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GUEST OPINION: Making room for bicycles in Oakmont

Oakmont, nestled squarely in the Valley of the Moon, is a beautiful place to live. Its lovely setting is enhanced by plentiful amenities: two beautiful 18-hole golf courses, eight very well maintained tennis courts, three impeccably clean swimming pools, a state of the art fitness facility. There are myriad clubs and organizations appealing to a wide variety of interests. Indeed, we Oakmonters are a fortunate group to live where we live with access to the cornucopia of the good life available here.

Within Oakmont a tension has surfaced between those willing to share our beautiful place with the broader community and those seeking to reduce access by "outsiders." Several illustrations exist. Should outsiders be permitted to attend musical performances? Are they welcome at symposium and speaking events? Can they enroll in Lifelong Learning courses offered at Oakmont by Sonoma State University? Are they welcome to ride bicycles through our streets? Some believe that the vitality of Oakmont is enhanced by the presence of neighbors from outside of Oakmont, while others attempt to pull up the draw bridge rendering Oakmont less inclusive.

This tension is well illustrated by the current debate on the Santa Rosa city bicycle plan. This plan is the result of extensive work and thoughtful analysis of alternative bicycle routes. It identifies a safe, scenic route for cyclists. For less than three miles, this plan routes through Oakmont streets. This plan is welcomed by some Oakmonters but opposed by others.

Ever since Oakmont was established 50 years ago, its residents have included many bicyclists riding throughout our streets. Owing to beautiful surroundings, and relatively little traffic, cyclists from outside of Oakmont also enjoy riding here. Many Oakmonters welcome cycling activity as a symbol of vitality and fitness. As with people in other active communities, such as Lake Tahoe, Healdsburg, Tiburon and Del Webb, residents see cycling as part of an identity that infuses healthy recreation into the fabric of community. Cyclists on our streets, riding in colorful pelathons add their own brand of aliveness and verve to our world.

Sadly, some in Oakmont see bicyclists as an unwelcome "horde," to use the term which appeared in the March 1 Oakmont News reporting on the minutes of the Oakmont Property Development Committee. This group, while making no objection to golf carts, walkers and scooters for folks with mobility impairments, portrays bicycles as a safety hazard.

In fact, there is room for all. Oakmont streets are wide, relatively free of traffic and easily visible. Automobiles, golf carts, scooters, and, yes, bicyclists can cooperate sharing the roads of Oakmont.

Obviously, safety considerations are paramount, with or without bicycles. All operators using the streets should treat one another with courtesy, making safety the top priority. An uncivil minority, in all forms of transport, violates traffic laws and contributes to unsafe streets. These unsafe and illegal operators should be cited and fined by police. Honesty requires us to acknowledge that no single group of vehicle operators has exclusivity for discourteous or dangerous driving/riding, not drivers, not golf cart operators, not users of scooters and not bicyclists.

<NO1>Rudeness is an equal opportunity phenomenon.

<NO>Riding bicycles in Sonoma County and Oakmont is a singular, scenic pleasure enjoyed by Oakmonters, Santa Rosans and even tourists. We should celebrate this, not reject it. Bicycling represents yet another way to enjoy the natural beauty of Sonoma County while appreciating a health-giving form of fitness and vitality. Oakmonters should welcome bicycling as a way to make a great community even better.

Tom Cooke is an Oakmont resident, bicyclist and professor emeritus of Sonoma State University.


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