‘Slow and laborious’ bike paths on Highway 12, Ken Mattson launches multi-purpose path to Schellville


All wheels are turning for First District Supervisor Susan Gorin as she works to build a bike path along Highway 12 before her term ends in 2024. When some of those plans went off the rails, Sonoma Valley real estate mogul Ken Mattson proposed a multi-use path to connect several of his businesses, from the Boyes Food Center to Sonoma’s Best to Cornerstone Sonoma.

The original 13-mile path between downtown Sonoma and Santa Rosa ran into design and funding issues, Gorin said, causing county officials to focus on a stretch of Highway 12 at Boyes Hot Springs where two cyclists have been killed in recent years.

Cycling safety should be a top priority for county officials, according to Eris Weaver, executive director of the Sonoma County Cyclist Coalition. Creating safer bike paths would help meet countywide goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, she added.

“We need to accelerate all of our construction from safer and more user-friendly protected bike lanes,” Weaver said. “We need to take bolder and bigger action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to stop climate change. And of course, making it easier for people to get around without being in the car is one of those things.

With 60% of Sonoma County rides less than 5 miles away, according to a Sonoma County Transportation Authority study, and cycling advocates say the county has failed to create infrastructure to make errands accessible and safe for bikes compared to minivans.

Highway 12 Bike Path

Two cyclists, David Davison and Adrian Albert, died in 2019 and 2020 respectively after being hit by cars while riding on Highway 12. County supervisors have made it a priority to improve traffic conditions where they were killed along the causeway between Madrone Road and BR Cohn Winery in Glen Ellen.

“The number one reason people give for not riding their bikes is that they don’t feel safe on the roads,” Gorin said. “So I focused on the Sonoma Valley Trail from Agua Caliente to Lolita. This is where accidents happen.

But Caltrans, the state agency that oversees Highway 12, and the county were unable to agree on the necessary width of a bike lane. The county argued for “regulatory 5-foot bike lane widths,” Gorin said, while Caltrans insisted on an 8-foot bike lane.

As the county and Caltrans tussle about 36 inches, Weaver and other climate hawks have criticized local leaders for “not putting their money where their mouth is.” Weaver said she was challenged for demanding more be done at once instead of just one piece at a time.

“They’ll be grumpy that I’m not more grateful about it,” Weaver said. “An extra mile of a bike path doesn’t help me if it doesn’t connect where I am and where I want to go.”

The cost of the project, estimated at $1.5-2 million, isn’t the issue – it’s the design, environmental impact report, and one-on-one negotiations with landowners along Highway 12 , Gorin said. Since the proposed bike path would encroach on private property, an agreement would have to be signed with each owner to use part of their property for the bike path.

“I think I have met my match. It’s really hard to plan even bike paths, let alone multi-use trails throughout the valley,” Gorin said. “The city has done a good job creating a bike network in the city, but it doesn’t get very far.”

Path to Schellville

On the east side of the valley, Ken Mattson proposed a bike path that would connect his Boyes Hot Springs businesses to Carneros, according to Gorin. It is reportedly tied to a Sonoma County Regional Parks project that had been underway since before Gorin became supervisor.

“(Mattson) envisions a network from Cornerstone to Sonoma’s Best to Boyes Hot Springs,” she said. “I know he has a checkered reputation with some members of the community. But he’s a cyclist, he’s a runner and he would like that to happen.

The bike path would “triangulate” between Mattson properties, including the Boyes Food Center in Boyes Hot Springs, creating a network for cyclists. No action has been taken by the county on Mattson’s proposal, but Gorin sees merit in building more bike lanes.

The planned path east of Sonoma is complicated by a long-running dispute between the county and the Union Pacific Railroad Company over rights of way over the land.

“The path and easements for the railroad and the road…over time, those easements and alignments have changed back and forth, which makes it really complicated to identify who owns the land,” Gorin said.

Creating a bike path remains a key priority for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition to keep cycling safe and growing in the Sonoma Valley.

And for Gorin, creating safe bike paths is as much a personal matter as a political goal – her husband is a “veteran cyclist” who competed in the Sonoma County 200-Mile Bike Race and Gorin carried the torch. of former supervisor Valerie Brown, who made it a priority to widen Highway 12 for cyclists.

“I wasn’t happy that there weren’t funded projects for bikes in the Sonoma Valley, which is why it’s a full court press, alone, working on this,” said Gorin said. “I have two and a half years left in my mandate. I have to do that.

Contact Chase Hunter at [email protected] and follow @Chase_HunterB on Twitter.


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