Christine Culver remembers the day she evolved from bicycle rider to bicycling advocate. On her morning commute to work, yet another irate driver had given her an earful.
?It was the last straw,? she remembers. ?I was so tired of people telling me to get off the road.?
She pedaled to her destination, turned on her computer and googled ?Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.?
?I called ... went to the next meeting and I have never missed a meeting since,? she said.
That was nearly 10 years ago and Chris Culver is now executive director of the 1,000-member coalition, an organization that has not only grown in size, but in political stature around Sonoma County.
She is a regular at city council meetings, county transportation forums and community events ? always urging policymakers to include the needs of bicyclists in street design, construction and planning.
Typically, she shows up for business on one of her eight bikes, helmet in hand ? but never hat in hand.
?She, by necessity, has learned or acquired great political skills over the years that I have worked with her,? said Santa Rosa Mayor Susan Gorin. ?She listens very carefully. She tries to hear what your concerns are, always knowing that uppermost in her mind is the safety of cyclists and moving the community forward.?
A native of Southern California, Culver moved to Sonoma County in 1988 after getting a taste of the area at a mountain bike race in Annadel State Park.
Her early days in the county were spent traveling around the country as both a professional and amateur cyclist. Mountain bike, road racing ? if it involved two wheels, Culver competed and excelled.
A mountain bike crash in 1998 left her with a broken back and one inch shorter.
?I was incredibly lucky and I know it,? she said. ?It was kind of an eye-opener.?
But she continued to ride. She biked to work; she still tooled around Annadel?s trails. Yet she never considered herself an advocate until she?d had one too many drivers flip her off, buzz her left shoulder or shout an epithet for simply being there.
?That first year, I basically just did whatever needed to be done,? she said of her involvement with the bicycle coalition.
She was named executive director in 2003. That fledgling group has grown. Last June, it moved from a 300-square-foot space on Orchard Street to a 750-square-foot space in an office building across from City Hall. The coalition staff consists of two full-time and three part-time employees armed with an e-mail list of 950 people to rally support to all variety of civic meetings.
The landscape of Santa Rosa has changed both figuratively and literally in the decade since Culver joined the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.
The city of Santa Rosa has added miles of bike lanes, including on thoroughfares such as Mendocino Avenue, Calistoga Road and Hoen Avenue; brought cycling and pedestrian advocates to the table on long-term planning; and elevated the influence of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board. Santa Rosa has approximately 110 miles of bikeways, an increase of 40 miles over the 70 miles outlined in the city?s 2001 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.