After another dangerous year on local roads, a group of bicyclists pedaled through central Santa Rosa on Wednesday night to raise awareness for greater safety along public streets and roadways.
A small group bicycled a 2-mile route around downtown and the Cherry Street Historic District to commemorate those killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. The silent and somber ride was sponsored by the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition and was part of national event conducted annually in other cities across the country on the third Wednesday of May.
“Every year, we lose a few people,” said Eris Weaver, the coalition’s outreach and events coordinator. “It’s part of our mission. How do we make Sonoma County a safe place to bike?”
At least two local cyclists were killed in 2017 and another eight were injured, according to a tally compiled by the coalition.
That includes four riders injured after a pickup ran into them on Point Reyes-Petaluma Road during an Oct. 7 charity event.
Aaron Michael Paff, 22, of Novato, was later arrested and has been charged in Marin County Superior Court with four counts of felony hit-and-run. His Marin County trial is scheduled for next month.
The coalition has been working on a media campaign to educate drivers on a 2014 state law requiring vehicles to maintain at least a 3-foot buffer when passing a cyclist.
“I think they (drivers) need more education,” said Sarah Hadler, who rode on a tandem bike with her son, Sylvester Hadley, 6. “It’s not mainstream yet.”
Cycling activists also want more money put toward dedicated pedestrian and bicycling paths in Sonoma County to make them safer, whether for commuters to work or athletes breaking a sweat.
They have been disappointed in the lack of commitment to fund a trail along the path of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit tracks, despite the system attracting many riders who bring their bikes on board. Only 13 miles of SMART trail have been completed along the initial 43 miles of rail corridor from the stop near the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport to the downtown San Rafael station — and those pathways are in segments.
“SMART expressed a commitment to the path. But a real commitment means funding and a timeline to get the pathway built,” said Alisha O’Loughlin, the coalition’s executive director.
Cyclists are concerned SMART’s board will prioritize funding toward a future Windsor station, instead of mapping out a plan to create a functional trail system, O’Loughlin said.
“At what point do we prioritize the pathway?” she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @BillSwindell.