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Windsor has been named a "Bicycle Friendly Community," solidifying its credentials as a town that nurtures cycling and safe riding.

It becomes only the second city in Sonoma County — besides Sonoma — to be singled out for the coveted award from the League of American Bicyclists.

The distinction has eluded many cities, including neighboring Healdsburg, which earlier this year was spurned when it applied. Even though Healdsburg is a mecca for cyclists, it has relatively few bike lanes compared to Windsor.

"I'm really proud our efforts are being recognized nationally. It makes Windsor a great place to live and for people to move to," said Mayor Debora Fudge, adding that the town also earned recent distinction as one of the best communities for young people, along with other accolades.

Cycling advocates say the award is not easy to attain. Applicants need to demonstrate their community is bike friendly on a number of fronts, including on education and encouragement.

Of more than 550 communities to date that have applied for the bike-friendly moniker, only 242 have attained it.

"It's not something you sign up for — a feel-good thing. This isn't automatic. You have to have a thoughtful, well-prepared application," said Gary Helfrich, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycling Coalition.

Windsor garnered the minimum "bronze" certification, the same as Sonoma. Nationally, only three communities have the highest "platinum" status: Davis, Portland, Ore. and Boulder, Colo.

Windsor was singled out for a number of reasons, including extensive bicycle education for school children, bike valet parking at community events, and encouraging bike-to work. And the town recently adopted a "complete street" policy that takes into account all modes of transportation in street planning, including for cyclists and pedestrians.

That may have been one of the factors that helped Windsor get bronze, over and above the &‘honorable mention" it received last year from the League of American Bicyclists.

The town continues to expand its bike network and more bicycle lanes are in the works.

"Seventy five percent of arterial streets in Windsor have bike lanes. That's a really good percentage of streets," said Bill Nesper, vice-president of programs for the League of American Bicyclists.

"We've given prominence throughout the community for cycling,' said Public Works Director Richard Burtt. "All of our major cross-town streets have bike lanes. It's something we've made a concerted effort on."

Windsor also has triathlon events, including the ironman Vineman, that attract competitors from around the country to ride its roads.

There is a specialty bicycle shop prominently located next to the Town Green.

"Windsor has institutionalized a lot of this stuff," Nesper said of the bicycle culture that is taking root.

Nesper said his organization is not "anti-car. but if you can get to where you want to go by biking, or walking, it's a big plus."

He said it can translate to more tourism, as well as attracting active retirees to live in Windsor.

And being bike friendly doesn't just benefit those who self-identify as cyclists, he said.

"Grandma, who doesn't call herself a cyclist, can get down to the store, get a gallon of milk and park her bike," he said.

"The whole point is to make it safe for everyone to get around Windsor without feeling they have to drive," said Mayor Fudge.

"Bicycling is more than a practical, cost-effective solution to many municipal challenges — it's a way to make Town of Windsor a place where people don't just live and work, but thrive," stated Bicycle League President Andy Clarke.

Helfrich, head of the county bicycle coalition, said he'd like to see all nine cities in Sonoma County and the county itself achieve at least bronze, bicycle-friendly status.

"I think we can get there too, even though there are a lot of challenges," he said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com)