Sonoma County paints poles along regional bike paths after cyclist’s death

The controversial poles along Sonoma County’s bike paths have been repainted and striped bright yellow to make the paths safer after a cyclist crashed into one and died in August.|

The controversial poles along Sonoma County’s bike paths, which are meant to ensure safety but for many bicyclists are, instead, one of the main causes of injury, have been repainted and striped bright yellow to make the paths safer after a cyclist crashed into one and died in August.

The poles, called bollards, were painted following a Sept. 21 meeting of the county’s Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, according to Eris Weaver, executive director of the Sonoma County Bike Coalition, a Santa Rosa-based advocacy group.

She said that during the meeting, Sonoma County Planner Kenneth Tam suggested alternative ways of maintaining or improving the safety of bicyclists along the trail, while also ensuring state standards are met and vehicles are kept off the trails.

“In response to the bike community’s feedback, we’ve applied fresh yellow paint and reflective tape to the center bollards on the West County (Regional Bike Trail) and Joe Rodota Trail. We’ve also refreshed or added new asphalt striping around the bollards,” Meda Freeman, county marketing manager, said Tuesday. “We plan similar work for bollards on the Hunter Creek and Colgan Creek trails.”

Weaver said the county settled on repainting the poles as the most immediate solution to improving safety but will continue to research additional options.

“I’m pleased that some action was taken fairly quickly,” she added. “Even if it’s not the end, it’s a beginning. I know other jurisdictions are looking into this.”

Santa Rosa chef and restaurateur Rob Reyes died Aug. 23 after he crashed into a bollard while riding his bike along the West County Regional Bike Trail.

Since Reyes’ death, cyclists, in particular, have complained that the poles can blend into the landscape, becoming difficult to see at certain times of the day. Cyclists say bright sun, as well as dappled shade, riding in groups or momentary distractions can cause them to smack into the poles.

As head of the bicycle coalition, Weaver has been lobbying the county, including the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and Bert Whitaker, the county’s regional parks director, to remove or otherwise improve the bollards.

Also, during last month’s meeting of the county Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee a report presented by W-Trans, an Oakland-based traffic engineering consulting firm, recommended using signs as a first attempt to restrict vehicle access to a trail.

“A sign can be a low-cost and minimally obstructive solution since it does not need as much infrastructure as a bollard or gate and is placed beside the trail,” the report states.

It pointed out that, according to the state Caltrans Highway Design Manual, “obstacle posts and gates are fixed objects, and placement within the bicycle path … can cause them to be an obstruction to bicyclists. Obstacles such as posts or gates may be considered only when other measures have failed to stop unauthorized motor vehicle entry.”

Weaver added that city staff from Petaluma and Healdsburg were also at the advisory committee meeting.

Healdsburg city officials are also considering removing, replacing or improving the bollards on their city’s bike path, Foss Creek Pathway. Last month Healdsburg’s City Council, led by Vice Mayor Ariel Kelley, agreed the existing metal poles aren’t the best safety option anymore.

Jake Bayless, who heads up the California Mountain Biking Coalition and who said he rides the county’s trail between Forestville and Santa Rosa daily, was not happy with the county’s paint job.

“I’m amazed the community hasn’t taken the matter into their own hands yet. We all still have to carefully avoid more than 30 mostly unnecessary bollards in the middle of the path that we use to get to school, to work, and to play,” he said in a Tuesday email. “I am still disappointed in the laggard leadership by our District 5 supervisor, as well as regional parks management who continue to ‘study the issue.’ ”

He added, “Paint is not infrastructure. Paint is not an investment in the safety of my kids riding every day to and from school.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at or 707-521-5209.

Kathleen Coates

Windsor and Cloverdale, The Press Democrat 

As someone who grew up in a small town, I enjoy covering what's happening in Windsor and Cloverdale, which are growing in their own unique ways.  I delve into issues by getting to know people and finding out what’s going on in the community. I also pay attention to animal welfare and other issues that affect Sonoma County.

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