s
s
Sections
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone

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.

Since 1998, nearly 23 miles of new bike pathways and lanes have been added in unincorporated Sonoma County, according to county transit officials.

Santa Rosa also has become a regular home to a stage of the annual Tour of California and is gaining national recognition as a mecca for quality riding.

While Culver is a decorated professional and amateur cyclist, her focus now is making it easier for commuters, kids and riders of all abilities to get across town safely and easily.

?The people who are riding their bikes should be getting rewarded, not penalized,? she said.

Take a jaunt across town, and it?s clear that cycling is becoming more popular in Santa Rosa. Whether it?s the residual effect of soaring gas prices, a faltering economy, the battle against the obesity epidemic or the massively popular Tour of California, more Santa Rosans are on their bikes.

It is Culver?s self-appointed mission to make sure they are seen, heard and safe.

She tackles her mission with an unmistakable passion, said Gary Wysocky, a founding member of the bicycle coalition and newly elected Santa Rosa City Council member.

?She has an athlete?s frame of mind. She?s a competitor, she doesn?t want to be beat, she?ll go in and do her homework,? he said. ?We have butted heads from time to time, but it?s all good.?

Even for those who don?t ride, Culver says it makes sense to support bicycling: it lessens traffic, is quieter, has a lighter impact on roads and makes people healthier.

To that end, Culver is ever-vigilant, demanding change ? one mile at a time.

?It?s not going to be done by asking people nicely to do it,? she said. ?We have to create an infrastructure that is better for bicycles and pedestrians and less accommodating to cars.?

Show Comment