Editorial: A bike lane or Peet’s parking lot?

The southbound Broadway bike lane seems to be used most frequently by people stopping for their morning coffee at Peet’s.|

It was a misty morning, which created low visibility just as dawn broke on Friday morning. But one thing was perfectly clear: The line of cars double-parked in Broadway’s southbound bike lane as drivers dashed in to grab a cup of coffee at Peet’s.

It’s a scene that plays out every morning, especially on weekdays, when commuters are too rushed to find legal parking and make the choice to block both other parked cars and potential cyclists. And if you’ve ever seen the morning rush at Peet’s, you know those cars will be there for a while while caffeine-seekers wait in the long line for their order.

By our unscientific study, double-parked drivers at Peet’s are by far the largest users of the $41,700 protected bike lanes that the Sonoma City Council had a challenging time debating and redebating, from 2020 to 2022.

In March 2020, the council sought public feedback on the infrastructure project, which were considered in conjunction with a $7 million re-striping project on State Highway 12 that Caltrans planned to launch in 2021. Despite the public’s negative opinion, the council voted to build the lanes.

Then, a month later, it reversed the decision facing extensive public outcry.

But after a woman and her dog were hit on Broadway in April 2021, the council revisited the issue, fresh with a new public survey. When it came to the design, a majority of residents preferred traditional bike lanes, where cyclists ride between the lane of traffic and parked cars.

Once again, the council rebuffed public opinion by selecting “buffered bike lanes,” which sandwich the bike lanes between rows of parked cars, an option even city staff called “confusing.”

That confusion is realized each and every morning outside of Peet’s, where a frenzy of cars tries, often unsuccessfully, to navigate the many stripes designated for parking and bike lanes.

The Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition acknowledges that Broadway’s few blocks of bike lanes are only a small step toward getting people to change their transportation habits and make the switch to pedal-power for short trips around town.

A safe and inner-connected trail network is needed to get riders out of their emission-producing cars.

But additionally, there must be enforcement to ensure cycling infrastructure isn’t misused. Were a police officer keeping an eye on the bike lanes in front of Peet’s, it’s fair to assume drivers would take the extra 2 minutes to find a legal parking spot instead of blocking bike lanes.

Until the powers at be make it a priority, it seems the city spent $41,700 to add parking at Peet’s.

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