Let's face it, with half-dozen serious and fatal bicycle accidents since May, the roads and highways of Sonoma County are not as safe as they once were.
The incidence of car versus bicycle combativeness has reached fever pitch -- and neither side seems willing to come to the bargaining table and admit their fault in the mess that "Share the Road" has become.
(My opinion is that sharing the road is a nice idea, but one that will never work until bicyclists are made to adhere to similar rules of the road as drivers, mandated to use mirrors, have license plates, rider licenses, etc.)
The volume of drivers on Petaluma Hill Road barreling past at 50 miles per hour is unpleasant and has become too much even for my steel nerves. Add to that other bicyclists coming at me in the wrong direction, apparently for their own safety, and there are plenty of good reasons to slow things down and get off of the highway and back on the side roads.
My regular ride is also along the same route as Steve Norwick, the environmental studies professor from Sonoma State University, who was killed in a hit and run accident in June.
For that reason (and my wife fearing that I would ultimately become one of these fatalities on my 15-20 mile rides), I have thrown in the towel and decided to have a different view on where and how I use my bicycle. From now on, it's my preferred mode of transportation around town in Rohnert Park -- but not my preferred mode of travel to go to Santa Rosa or Petaluma and back.
But where does a middle-aged suburbanite find a new place to ride in The Friendly City? It turns out that the trails and paths have been there all along. In between many of the neighborhoods exists a series of paths that go along several creeks. Each of these paths lead a walker or rider from one end of the town to the other. I have lived in Rohnert Park off and on for 25 years, and full time for the past 8, and had no idea about the connectivity of these paths.
In my case I entered Copeland Creek Path from its entry point on Snyder Lane and took a completely uninterrupted ride all the way across town, exiting at Commerce Boulevard, near the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. I poke around a little further on the return route and found that by crossing the very cute wooden bridges (rickety but apparently safe), that one could find themselves on a different trail emerging at a different section of Rohnert Park.
Riding the bike paths of Rohnert Park was an entirely different experience that riding the main roads of Sonoma County, where people have actually swerved as if they were going to hit me, and on one occasion actually threw cans out the vehicle window at me. On the bike path were small, young families walking for exercise, people walking their dogs, and an older gentleman who waved hello and good morning to me! Very, very peaceful. I couldn't imagine why I had not thought of taking these routes before. The City of Rohnert Park was designed to be a pedestrian and bike-friendly city -- but apparently it is also the town's best kept secret.
At home, I checked the website for City Hall and found a link to a page and a printable PDF that featured a map of existing and proposed bike paths in Rohnert Park. The document was from 1998, and a lot has happened since then. But just finding the existing paths was enough for one weekend afternoon that got me to and from the house safely.