City Council delays bike vote for ‘tweaking’

Last week’s City Council meeting included a lively discussion – and near vote – over banning bicycle riding on Plaza-adjacent sidewalks. But at the last minute, council members decided to put it off in order to make “minor tweaking” to the ordinance’s language.

The move to amend Sonoma’s bike-riding ordinance came, “In response to a bicycle vs. pedestrian accident and subsequent legal action,” according to the agenda, and was presented Wednesday by City Attorney Jeffrey Walter and Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett.

That accident occurred on Nov. 28, 2009, when Sonoma resident Wendy Mitchell was struck on a Broadway sidewalk by then-13-year-old Brett Bonfigli as he rode his bicycle. Mitchell, then 72, suffered severe brain trauma, resulting in a three-week coma and months of rehabilitation, according to her attorney.

Police 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.

The proposal discussed Wednesday would prohibit bicycle riding on the sidewalks in the Plaza area, including those on First Street East, First Street West, Spain Street and Napa Street. Although the Plaza is about three blocks from the location of the 2009 collision, city staff said that because the Plaza area has the most foot traffic, “this change will substantially address the safety concerns about pedestrian and bicycle conflicts.” Bicycle riding already is prohibited inside the Plaza.

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