New Sonoma Avenue lanes draw praise from cyclists

Bicycle lanes installed last week on Sonoma Avenue are winning praise from bicyclists and few complaints from the drivers who gave up roadway real estate to accommodate them.

The changes mark the creation of a long-sought east-west corridor for bicyclists between downtown Santa Rosa and the scenic Rincon Valley and Bennett Valley areas and parks popular with bicyclists.

"It seems to be safer," said Glen Wiseman, who rides daily from his Bennett Valley home to his job as a cook at a Fountaingrove restaurant. "The cars seem to be watching what they're doing more."

Wiseman, 47, estimates that the addition of the Sonoma Avenue lanes means he enjoys about three-quarters of his 15-mile round-trip commute on streets with bicycle lanes.

City engineers said the three-week project to realign Sonoma Avenue and add bike lanes wrapped up last week. Instead of two vehicle travel lanes in each direction, Sonoma Avenue between Montgomery Village and Santa Rosa Avenue now has three travel lanes — one in each direction plus a middle turn lane. The extra space allowed for new bicycle lanes in each direction while preserving on-street parking.

A previously completed portion brought bicycle lanes and shared bicycle/car lanes called "sharrows" between Hahman and Summerfield avenues.

City traffic engineer Rob Sprinkle said he drove down Sonoma Avenue after the latest striping was completed was pleased with the results.

"It looks like it should have looked all along," Sprinkle said. "It's working well."

There are many residential cross streets and driveways to professional offices between Santa Rosa Avenue and Montgomery Village. This created challenges for drivers when the road was four vehicle lanes, Sprinkle said.

Drivers turning left often had to come to a full-stop and wait to cross two lanes of opposing traffic, creating sudden traffic backups, Sprinkle said. Those turns are now made from the middle turning lane, which keeps the traffic flowing more smoothly, Sprinkle said.

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