Buying a car used to be a hallmark of adulthood. Yet today, the renaissance of two-wheel transportation is surging. Reducing environmental impact is not the only driving force –– instead it’s a trend mixed with a desire to return to the outdoors and create sustainable community within urban environments.
Nearly 40 percent of all bike trips in the U.S. are less than 2 miles, and the number of bicycle commuters in the U.S. grew by more than 62 percent between 2000 and 2013, according to the League of American Bicyclists.
“People want to live near where they work and they don’t need a car to do much of their daily commuting,” said Eric Anderson, a long-time developer and Santa Rosa resident. “The growing trend of ‘urban’ cycling is really related to the growing trend and shifting demography of how and where people live.”
Anderson is one of the key developers in the newly opened Astro Motel on Santa Rosa Avenue, which caters to cyclists. Guests can rent bikes from the hotel, have existing bikes fixed at the motel’s in-house bike shop, or even have them shipped ahead and assembled in their rooms when they arrive.
The Astro also provides bike rentals, a particular brand called Shinola Bikes The American-made bicycles are town-style, making them potentially more appealing to a broader tourist base.
“We love Shinola Bikes because they have been reinvigorating the American brand by returning to standards where American manufacturing began,” said Sam Hamby, the day manager at the Astro. “They source the highest-quality materials and are individually hand made in Wisconsin and assembled by hand in Detroit.”
Hamby pointed out that riding a bike allows guests to explore more of the community.
“(They) can go where cars can’t go and slow down their pace, and be able to experience more of their surroundings without being distracted by the responsibility of driving a vehicle,” said Hamby. “It’s safer for them –– and getting on a bike really brings out the kid in all of us.”
The motel is located down the street from an entrance to the Prince Memorial Greenway and less than half a mile from a conjoining entrance to the Joe Rodota bike path, which extends to Sebastopol.
Anderson noted the ease for cyclists to get around Santa Rosa, but believes there are still ways for the city to improve.
“It’s all very localized and compact –– all the elements are here, all of the dots are here –– they’re not just necessarily connected,” said Anderson. “But they could easily be connected with the right kind of encouragement and motivation.”
It’s an element the city of Santa Rosa is responding to.
“One of the top priorities for Santa Rosa is creating downtown housing and a 24-hour downtown,” said Mayor Chris Coursey. “It’s creating an environment where they don’t just come downtown, they live there, shop there, play there and are entertained there.”
Coursey sees improving Santa Rosa’s bike infrastructure as a part of that.
“We want to make sure you don’t have to get on a bike path to go places and that’s about making our streets safer, too,” said Coursey. “There’s a lot of places where we’re expanding bike lanes, and there’s still more work we can do.”
Three Urban Cycling Rides To Try
Astro Motel day manager Sam Hamby has a few recommendations for rides to get from city to country and back again.
1. Joe Rodota trail to Forestville: About 16 miles from downtown Santa Rosa to Sebastopol and back.
This is about 30 miles round trip from downtown Santa Rosa to Forestville and back. One block from the Astro you can jump on the famous Joe Rodota multiuse trail to gain access to Sebastopol, Forestville, Graton and more of Sonoma’s west county beauty without ever encountering vehicle. The amount of quality scenery, specialty shops and restaurants along this route are absolutely stunning. It’s also mostly flat.
2. Downtown Santa Rosa to Occidental: About a 35-mile round trip from downtown Santa Rosa.
This route also takes you on a west county meander via Occidental Road to Occidental to enjoy Howards Station (one of my favorite breakfast spots) and back through Freestone to stop at WildFlour Bakery (another favorite) before heading back through the rolling hills of west county. The roads taken to get to Occidental really embody the beauty of Sonoma County.
3. Cavedale-Trinity Loop: About a 17-mile round trip if you start from Sonoma. About 40 miles round trip if you start from downtown Santa Rosa.
This ride will test your climbing legs as you head out Highway 12 toward Sonoma and loop around on Lawndale and back to Highway 12. From here, you will head up Cavedale Road. A roughly 5.5-mile-climb toward Mt. Veeder offering breathtaking views of Sonoma County’s Valley of the Moon. Following Cavedale will connect you to Trinity Road for a fun, sweeping downhill ride back toward Highway 12 and back to Santa Rosa.