Of road stripes, bike lanes and SMART trains
On a recent dark and stormy night, we turned off Highway 12 and onto Arnold Drive leading into Glen Ellen. A yellow lane line, laid down by Caltrans during recent reconstruction of the sweeping curve on Highway 12, led us on to Arnold Drive for maybe 50 feet, and then stopped. In the darkness beyond, we could see neither the center of Arnold Drive nor the shoulder – just a wall of night.
That’s because the lane and shoulder lines on the county-maintained roadway have long-since faded to the point that they are almost invisible at night.
We successfully navigated that almost unmarked stretch of road because we have done so often enough to know its contours. But we are convinced that sooner or later someone will run off the road because the shoulder will be invisible.
This is a subject upon which we have lavished editorial attention in the past, and at one point we were informed by the county’s Transportation and Public Works Department that the cost of bringing in a striping machine for such a short length of Arnold Drive was prohibitive.
Ironically, the county recently had such a machine less than a half mile away when they striped the repaved stretch of Arnold Drive from Hill Street to SDC.
Obviously, no one remembered the forgotten bit of faded striping near Highway 12.
Now let’s talk bike lanes (trust us, there’s a connection).
Deputy Directive 64 of the California Department of Transportation, states that Caltrans “fully considers the needs of non-motorized travelers …” and that the department’s project development process “must” give attention to “provision of alternatives for non-motorized travel” among other issues.
And yet, when Caltrans recently repaved a long stretch of Highway 12, from Arnold Drive to Kenwood, no effort was made to expand the width of the vestigial bike lanes on either side of the highway. Those lanes literally runs out of roadway at several points, exposing bike riders to the potentially lethal risks of passing traffic.
And as a result, there is no safe bicycle route from Sonoma to Santa Rosa.
Now let’s talk trains.
The SMART train, which has gone at least 25 percent over budget and will only have enough projected revenue to launch a line for half the project distance – from San Rafael to Santa Rosa – is also supposed to have a parallel, $90 million bike/pedestrian path. But now there is only enough money for two-thirds of the shortened, 37-mile bike path. And that shames the SMART train vision of “… a transportation network of buses, shuttles, ferries, trollies, bike paths and sidewalks all connected with a centralized rail line …”
All of which leads to the following conclusions.
When a local government cannot lay down a simple, single yellow stripe to enhance public safety; and when a state agency that proclaims a commitment to “non-motorized” travel cannot provide slightly wider bike lane shoulders when it is already repaving a highway, and when two counties approve a sales tax to pay for a commuter train and a bike path, except the bike path shrinks to a third of its promised length, maybe it’s time rethink our transportation priorities.