With a CalTrans work order looming for the re-striping of Broadway, Sonoma’s City Council finally reached a conclusion about what type of bicycle lane, if any, it prefers. The vote was 3-2 in favor of a buffered bike lane running next to the lane of traffic (option A) rather than one placed against the curb, protected by bollards and parked cars (option B).
It took two lengthy special council meetings to hash out a solution, the first this past Wednesday, which ended abruptly when the City Attorney Jeff Walter decided that the abstention by council member Sandra Lowe counted as a vote; thus a motion failed, this over the objections of Vice-Mayor Kelso Barnett, who argued that an abstention does not count as a vote. The vote was over suspending the normal rules of order in order to allow the council to discuss the Broadway striping plan. Turns out Barnett was right.
The City Council’s parliamentary rules are those of Rosenberg’s Rules of Order, a simplification of Robert’s Rules of Order, and they explain that an abstention does not count as a vote. Thus the city attorney’s ruling was incorrect, which led to another special council meeting this past Friday. The four hour meeting began with an acknowledgment that the 3-1 vote at Wednesday’s meeting was sufficient to suspend the normal rules, and take up the reconsideration of the previously approved option B.
At that point, discussion and a vote took place over a motion to reconsider, and after public comment, the motion passed, with Lowe abstaining. City traffic engineer Penry presented a detailed analysis and visuals of both options A and B, explained the difference between bollards and delineators, and discussed the measurements and striping styles. Much of this information was new to the discussion and had not been presented previously. He offered no opinion as to his preference.
Fire Chief Akre, a life-long resident of the city, spoke about his concerns and preferences, in response to a request for his reaction by Vice-Mayor Barnett. His opinion was not offered when the previous council approved option B in August of last year. Akre’s focus was on safety, and he said that option B, in his opinion, was less safe for the movement of emergency vehicles and autos, particularly during emergencies like evacuation. In a letter to Vice-Mayor Barnett, he states, “Any physical barriers, curbs, bollards, delineators, etc. do present a significant challenge for evacuations and even for a normal response with emergency vehicles. These barriers can and do increase emergency response times and can present challenges for emergency vehicle placement at fire scenes, especially the ladder truck.” He summed up his position; “With consideration of the two options before Council, the FD would support Option A “Buffered Bike Lanes” and not be supportive of Option B “Protected Bike Lanes”.
Although a “street diet” was prompted by an auto/pedestrian crosswalk accident in 2020, public comment was dominated by supporters of bike lanes. Little to no time was spent discussing proposed funded and planned pedestrian safety improvements. Given three minutes each, bike lane supporters seemed to prefer option B, saying it was safer. Nobody seemed concerned or even mentioned that the bike lanes will terminate at its ends, at MacArthur Street and Napa Street, leaving bicyclists negotiating traffic in the common roadway. Council member Lowe asked if the bike lane could continue to Leveroni, but was was told there is no plan for that.
Finally, after nearly four hours, a motion to adopt option A was made by council member Felder, who was the one who had initiated the need for the meetings by, as a member of the majority in August, 2021, was entitled to ask for a re-consideration. Calling option B “unacceptable,” Felder’s motion received a second. Everyone seemed relieved to be at the point of resolution, and offered thanks to all involved in the discussion. The final vote passed 3-2, Felder, Lowe and Mayor Ding in favor, and Agrimonti and Barnett opposed.
The next step is for the city to work out a timetable with CalTrans for the striping, which had been scheduled to begin as early as next week.