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.”