Sonoma City Council to mull bike ban near Plaza


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.



  • Hilary Onstott Gruendle

    This is absolutely crazy. Banning bicycles on the plaza, Really? What next should we ban locals on the plaza too?

  • Karen Adams

    I agree Hilary, just ban them on the SIDEWALKS. Bikes DO NOT belong on sidewalks anywhere. THAT is ridiculous and dangerous. They are moving vehicles, keep them on the roads. If people are afraid to ride on roads, ride on our wonderful bike paths or don’t ride. I say find a large space for parking and close all the roads around the Plaza, making it even safer for our locals and tourists.

  • Rick Bolen

    I agree that it is dangerous mixing bikes with pedestrians. Equally as dangerous riding behind cars pulling out from diagonal parking spots. I do not see a solution except closing all the streets around the plaza. It would be great to have more bike parking. The only spot that I know of is in the middle of the Plaza near the front of city hall. On a final note life is not free of hazards. Would be nice if people were not as litigious.

  • Casey

    It is a crime that the person who was hit by the bike was able to sue Sonoma and the minor (or his family) who hit her. This is what is wrong with our country today. Bad things sometimes happen and you cannot blame someone every time there is an accident. This kid was just riding a bike down the street. 1.4 million and then another $250K?? Mitchell should be ashamed of herself. Disgusting.

  • Ardyth Brock

    that’s total bah humbug. let’s ban motorcycles on the plaza.. they make sooooooo much noise and the drivers i have personally found to often be inconsiderate and rather rude. i’d like to see MORE bicycles and less vehicle traffic overall. enough said.

  • dd

    It would make more sense to ban all East Siders from the plaza – then there would less snobbery and more joy for all..