A plan to reroute a popular bicycle trail around a proposed gas station and market on the western edge of Santa Rosa was criticized as not doing enough to protect bicyclists but was approved anyway Thursday by the city's Planning Commission.
In a 5-1 vote, the commission signed off on plans to build the station, market and one-bedroom apartment along the Joe Rodota Trail at North Wright Road just south of the Fulton Road and Highway 12 intersection.
Most commissioners felt the developer had found a creative solution to the problem of possible conflicts with bicyclists by diverting them behind the station along an easement on the property.
But some bicycle advocates and Commissioner Vicki Duggan felt the project wasn't doing enough to protect bicyclists along what is already a problematic portion of the trail linking Santa Rosa to Sebastopol.
“I cannot support a gas station that's going to give us 3,000 additional points of conflict with cyclists,” Duggan said, referencing the number of car trips the station is expected to generate. “To make it more dangerous, I think it is really unconscionable.”
Duggan instead wanted the developers to be required to install a crosswalk that would allow bicyclists to get across North Wright Road at the project site instead of Sebastopol Road about 300 feet to the south.
Bicyclists heading west on the trail need to turn down the sidewalk on the east side of North Wright Road until they get to Sebastopol Road, where they cross at that intersection to pick up the trail again.
But Gary Helfrich, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, called that intersection “incredibly dangerous” for bicyclists.
“The bike coalition really doesn't care one way or the other about the gas station. We care about the safety of cyclists through this area,” Helfrich said.
Duggan, who rides the trail often, said it is unnatural for bicyclists to ride against traffic along a sidewalk. The crosswalk at Sebastopol is dangerous because cars at the busy intersection don't pay attention to bicyclists, she said.