Roundabout vs. bike lanes?
If you travel the Arnold Drive corridor on a regular basis you are intimately, perhaps painfully, familiar with the one-mile stretch of patchy asphalt between Sobre Vista Road and the Sonoma Golf Club. What sets that segment apart from the rest of Arnold Drive, of course, is that it lacks significant shoulders and has little or no room for a bike lane.
The result is a treacherous gap in an otherwise reasonably safe bicycle commute between Glen Ellen and Sonoma. The alternative is Highway 12. Enough said.
Given the volume of traffic on Arnold Drive, which frequently includes large trucks, it is something of a mystery - almost a miracle - that no one has been seriously injured or killed on that shoulder-less stretch in recent memory. We often think it's only a matter of time.
The obstacle to upgrading that miserable mile, we've been told, has been citizen resistance to the loss of some trees, the refusal of some property owners to grant easements and the county's reluctance to exercise eminent domain.
We understand the problems, but we think it's long past time for a solution, or, at the very least, a public airing of the issue. That's why we've been a little surprised by the county's rush to install a roundabout on Arnold at Agua Caliente Road to resolve a problem that is not, from our perspective, as urgent or necessary as shoulder improvements in the danger zone between the golf club and Sobre Vista.
And this raises a broader issue about communication from the county to the public and the opportunity for public input before the die is cast. There was a useful airing of the roundabout issue at the Sonoma Valley Citizen Advisory Commission meeting Wednesday night, but we got the feeling that - while the SVCAC narrowly endorsed the project on a 5-4 vote - the decision is already a done deal.
There may not be an either/or option here in the choice between a roundabout or a bicycle lane - and the costs of each project may not be comparable. But if the highest priority of local government is public safety, then we think the public should have a right to insist that Arnold Drive decisions be placed in that larger context and explained.
Because a lot of people who ride bikes on Arnold Drive - or don't only because they're afraid to - might legitimately question why a roundabout is more important than their safety.
And while we're on the subject of communication with the public we'd like to lend our voice to the chorus of concerned residents impacted by construction of the school district's solar power project.
We heartily endorse the project and called for support of the bonds that paid for it. Converting our schools to solar power makes absolute economic and ecological sense. But we get the impression the district has blown the process of communicating its construction plans to the people most impacted - the neighbors who had no idea they would find solar panels abutting their back yards or reflecting blinding light through their living room windows.
Mitigation for these concerns may be possible, but restoring good will among the few - but highly-impacted - neighbors may not be so easy.