CA: Healdsburg Wins Bike-Friendly Label

After getting spurned two years ago, Healdsburg has been named a "Bicycle Friendly Community," solidifying its status as a welcoming place to pedal around town or venture onto surrounding country roads.

The League of American Bicyclists gave the designation to Healdsburg last month, following a series of measures taken by the city to improve bike safety and improve its chances of attaining the award.

Officials say it not only fits Healdsburg's reputation as a premier cycling destination, but can help encourage more local residents to use bikes for transportation.

"Healdsburg, along with the rest of Sonoma County, is really a Mecca for bicycling, and it seemed we had the obligation to put in the work to start down the road of 'Bicycle Friendly Community,'" said City Councilman Tom Chambers, an avid cyclist.

"It would be a nice culture if we could have more pedestrians and bicycles out there, as opposed to getting into the car every day," he said.

Healdsburg joins Sonoma and Windsor as the only other cities in Sonoma County to achieve Bicycle Friendly recognition. All have "bronze" status, lower than silver, gold, and the ultimate platinum designation.

Nationally, only four communities have platinum: Davis; Boulder, Colo.; Fort Collins, Colo.; and Portland, Ore.

The City Council is scheduled to formally accept the award at its meeting today, which starts at 6 p.m.

Healdsburg already is trumpeting its bike-friendly status by installing street signs that incorporate a logo of a winged bicycle wheel.

Officials say there are a number of fairly obvious reasons to encourage cycling, ranging from reducing traffic to lessening pollution and promoting physical activity.

"It's one of those things everyone can get behind. It's a good, wholesome activity," Chambers said.

"I hope it changes people's minds to get on their bikes a little more," said Tina Lindenberg-Kirchner, Healdsburg's administrative services director, who oversaw the application for the award.

And bike tour operators say it will no doubt bring more people to Healdsburg for a two-wheel experience.

"Of course being in the bike tourism business, anything we can do to promote Healdsburg as a great place to come ride a bike is wonderful," said John Mastrianni, owner of Wine Country Bikes, which offers guided bike tours with a catered picnic lunch and stops at wineries.

He said he hopes the city and Chamber of Commerce will use the award as a marketing tool.

Even though Healdsburg is ideally situated as a quick jumping off point for scenic rides into adjacent Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River valleys, the city itself has relatively few miles of designated bike lanes.

But the many residential street and low speed limits make it relatively easy to get around on a bike.

"With very few exceptions, I feel it's very safe to be riding around Healdsburg," said Richard Peacock, a member of the city's Transportation Advisory Committee and owner of Spoke Folk Cyclery.

"Healdsburg has good bones in terms of how its urban core is laid out, a nice grid system," said Gary Helfrich, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition. "There's always a back street you can take that takes you off the busy road."

Peacock said both kids and adults should feel comfortable riding in Healdsburg.

"Certainly we'd like to encourage more people to ride their bikes to school and use them for their errand running," he said.

Peacock noted that the number of bicycle/vehicle collisions is low, something the League of American Cyclists took into account.

Cycling advocates say the bike friendly designation is not easy to get. More than half of the cities that apply get rejected.

Applicants need to demonstrate their community is not only engineered for bicycles, but bike friendly on a number of fronts, including education and encouragement.

After Healdsburg failed to get the nod from the League of American Bicyclists in 2012, the city redoubled its efforts.

Healdsburg developed and approved a bicycle-pedestrian master plan, came up with a bike route map and established stronger connections to regional bike safety and advocacy efforts, including with the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, Lindenberg-Kirchner said.

The city added a bike lane on March Avenue, installed bike racks on its transit bus, sponsored a public education booth on bike safety at a local wellness fair and improved police department outreach at local schools.

The city also offered a bike safety page on its website with riding tips and links to find classes on bike maintenance and report stolen bikes and road hazards.


You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.

Copyright 2014 - The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.

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