A possible vote to ban bike riding on Plaza-adjacent sidewalks, followed by a budget presentation, will be the highlight of this week’s Sonoma City Council meeting, scheduled for Wednesday evening because of the Presidents Day holiday on Monday.
According to a staff report, the move to amend Sonoma’s bike-riding ordinance comes, “In response to a bicycle vs. pedestrian accident and subsequent legal action” and is being recommended by City Attorney Jeffrey Walter. Wednesday’s proposal would prohibit bicycle riding on the sidewalks in the downtown Plaza area, including those on First Street East, First Street West, Napa Street, and Spain Street. Bicycle riding is already prohibited inside the Plaza.
“Since the Plaza area has the great number of pedestrians, this change will substantially address the safety concerns about pedestrian and bicycle conflicts,” a city staff report states. Police Chief Bret Sackett is scheduled to be present to discuss the ordinance.
Wednesday’s proposal is fallout from a Nov. 28, 2009, incident involving Sonoma resident Wendy Mitchell and then-13-year-old Brett Bonfigli, who was riding his mountain bike along a Broadway sidewalk when Mitchell stepped out from behind a tree and into his path.
Mitchell, then 72, suffered a head injury in the collision with Bonfigli and suffered severe brain trauma, resulting in a three-week coma and months of rehabilitation, according to her attorney. An extensive police review, including a re-enactment of the accident, did not find Bonfigli at fault, but Mitchell sued the family and settled for $1.4 million in September 2012, with the city of Sonoma paying $250,000 as part of the settlement.
Mitchell’s attorney, Rick McGreevy, said at the time that Sonoma shared the blame due to its unusual bicycle ordinance that allows people to ride on city sidewalks. State law lets local cities and districts make their own rules on bike riding – and Sonoma’s ordinance allows people to ride on public sidewalks unless it is “at such speed or in such manner as evidences willful, wanton or reckless disregard of the safety of other pedestrians in the vicinity.”
Also on the agenda for Wednesday is a presentation of the 2013-14 midyear budget, including “discussion, consideration and possible action on amendments” to the city budget. And the council’s consent agenda includes ratification of last meeting’s decision to uphold Planning Commission approval of the Mission Square project at 165 E. Spain St.
The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Community Meeting Room, 177 First St. W., Sonoma.