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Healdsburg, or at least the road network around it, is a mecca for cyclists, but that doesn't qualify the city as a "Bicycle Friendly Community."

City officials recently learned Healdsburg did not make the cut after applying for the designation from the League of American Bicyclists.

"Our reputation precedes us. People come here from all over the world to cycle," said Lynn Goldberg, senior Healdsburg planner. "It's mostly because of fantastic rides outside the city. We just happen to be in the middle of it."

The organization that bestows the title essentially found that Healdsburg needs to be more proactive if it wants to be recognized as a superior place to bike.

About 200 U.S. communities have attained official bike friendliness at one of four levels: platinum, gold, silver and bronze.

In Sonoma County, only the city of Sonoma has earned a distinction. In Napa County, Calistoga got the nod. Both communities got the minimum "bronze" certification.

Nationally, three places have the highest ranking: Davis, Portland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo.

The league presented Healdsburg with a nine-page list of suggestions for improving its chances of selection.

"Some are simple," Goldberg said. "Others require a commitment on the part of staff and financial resources we can't do now."

With the city's tight financial condition in mind, cycling advocates addressed the City Council this week on ways to foster "a culture of cycling awareness," despite being turned down as a bicycle-friendly community.

"We suggest the city develop an attitude about cycling, rather than spend a lot of money," avid cyclist Richard Burg told the council.

Council members were receptive.

"I like the attitude part of it -- something we can do for nothing," Councilman Jim Wood said.

Councilman Steve Babb, a driving instructor, agreed that "attitude is everything," especially when it comes to teaching his students to leave at least 3 feet distance from a cyclist when passing.

Burg and Richard Peacock, owner of Spoke Folk Cyclery, said fostering awareness can start by putting "Share the Road" bumper stickers on every city vehicle. The Parks and Recreation Department could coordinate school bike rodeos and safe rides to school, they said.

Police officers, with the support of local vendors, could issue coupons for bicycle lights and helmets instead of citations, particularly for younger riders, they said.

Officers might also hand out "good job" citations for cyclists observed obeying stop signs, signals and indicating turns.

More bike parking at shopping centers and other public-access areas, as well as monthly rides led by the mayor and elected officials, also were among their ideas.

The cycling advocates said there are significant potential benefits to the city in developing cycling as transportation: economic and health advantages, as well as carbon-footprint and traffic reductions.

"The message is a great one," said Councilman Tom Chambers, an avid cyclist. "We're lucky we have the ability to get out on fabulous rides."

Bicycling magazine recognized as much last year when it named Healdsburg one of the six best places in the nation to take a cycling vacation.

Recreational cyclists can head for Eastside, Westside, Dry Creek and West Dry Creek roads. More serious and fit riders go for Pine Flat, The Geysers, Rockpile and Skaggs Springs roads.

The small town's wide streets and low volume of traffic make Healdsburg a relatively safe place to ride.

But there are just five miles of bike lanes separated from motor vehicles, all on the Foss Creek Pathway.

There also are five miles of signed, striped bike routes and one mile of shared use.

The League of American Bicyclists cited highlights such as the Healdsburg Harvest Century Tour, Walk or Roll to School Day and the city's offering free installation of bicycle bollards and bike racks.

But it had many recommendations for improvement, including increasing the number of bike lanes and wide shoulders; adding colored bike lanes; improving signs and pavement markings; and increasing secure bicycle parking.

It stressed bicycle safety education at schools; public campaigns to promote sharing the road; bike festivals and commuter challenges; and conducting an economic impact study on cycling in the community.

Cycling advocates acknowledge that it may take some time to officially be designated bicycle friendly. But they said all segments of the community can benefit if the city champions bicycle use.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or


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