Sonoma Valley bike trail closes in on its goal
Some 25 bicyclists gathered in Fetters Hot Springs the evening of May 12 to begin a “Ride of Silence” near two sites recognizing the fatal collisions where David Davison and Adrian Albert were killed in 2019 and 2020, respectively - each site marked by a “ghost bike,” painted white.
In both of those cases, the fatalities occurred to some measure because the cyclists were riding unprotected on Highway 12, with only a thin stripe of paint separating them from vehicular traffic.
The gathering was one of three that night in the county, organized by the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition to bring attention to the risks cyclists face on the roads. The other two, in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, also had strong turnouts, but for coalition director Eris Weaver the positive response came with a catch: after a relatively incident-free spring, on May 12 an intoxicated driver sideswiped two bicyclists traveling separately near Sebastopol, and one of them later died.
Mark Osborne, 52, of Santa Rosa, was an Australian-born enologist at the Gary Farrell Winery in Healdsburg. But he lost his life – despite being a competitive mountain biker and marathoner, he was no match for a drunk driver in a pickup.
Weaver was straightforward in her description of the fatality, calling it “a horrific incident of vehicular violence.” Among Weaver’s anguished questions: “When will we decide that engineering our built environment to protect our most vulnerable users – pedestrians and cyclists – is more important than enabling drivers to get places as fast as possible?”
It's a sentiment shared by Logan Harvey, who stepped down from his term as Mayor of Sonoma on June 7 in order to take a job in Washington state. He led the Sonoma Ride of Silence, and if anything it re-enforced his commitment to bicycle safety.
“There’s no way to ride from Sonoma to Santa Rosa, even Sonoma to Glen Ellen in a safe way – it’s awful,” he said. “Sonoma should be a bike mecca. There just isn’t safe biking infrastructure in this town.”
That biking infrastructure is split between two jurisdictions, the City of Sonoma and the County of Sonoma. While the city has the Sonoma City Trail, a nicely-paved 1.5 mile pedestrian-bike path cutting across town from Sonoma Highway to Fourth Street East, the county has long promised an ambitious Sonoma Valley Trail to connect Santa Rosa to Sonoma – as well as plans for bike trails east of Sonoma, down Eighth Street East to Highway 121, and on to Napa County.
The county’s main bike project in the 1st District – which includes Sonoma Valley and Schellville – the Sonoma Valley Trail has been in the study stage since as far back as 2001, according to the Sonoma County Regional Parks Planning Director Steve Ehret. A feasibility study was finally released in 2016 after the county’s second appeal for a Caltrans planning grant to complete the study was accepted in 2013. The study mapped out a preferred route of a 13-mile paved trail from Los Alamos Road to Agua Caliente, generally following Highway 12 the entire way.