While the Great Redwood Trail continues to inch along toward its goal of linking San Francisco and Arcata with a 320-mile bike path, a more local project has earned a regional award as the best bike infrastructure project in the county.
The Foss Creek Pathway, a 4.1-mile mixed-use (Class I) path running from Front Street to the Healdsburg Community Center, will be presented with a Golden Spoke Award from the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition’s inaugural Gala in Santa Rosa, to be held Saturday, Sept. 30.
“The award determinations were made by SCBC Board and staff, although we solicited nominations from our broader membership,” said the Coalition’s executive director, Eris Weaver. Though multiple projects were nominated—including the Joe Rodota Trail clean-up and Petaluma Boulevard South—the Foss Creek Pathway was a clear winner in its class.
The infrastructure category was defined as a project such as a “bike lane (buffered, green, or protected), bike bridge, bike boulevard, bike box, bike parking, bike trail, etc. that improves safety and encourages more riders.”
Key City Goal
The Healdsburg City Council has made the pathway a civic priority to encourage more people to walk and bicycle. “A well-connected multimodal transportation network is a key city goal. We know that people will walk and ride more if they feel safe doing so. This path provides a safe and inviting option for residents and visitors alike,” said Healdsburg Principal Engineer Clay Thistle.
In development since 2006, the paved pedestrian walkway and bicycle path (Class I) along Foss Creek and the former Northwestern Pacific Railroad line is one of the longer bicycle projects recently completed in the county. The pathway was originally envisioned as a way to “tie major destinations together within the city,” including residential neighborhoods, recreational areas, the downtown and even the Healdsburg Community Center, which in 2006 was still Foss Creek Elementary school.
“It will provide children a safe route to school, and create a pedestrian/bicycle link to the planned Healdsburg intermodal transit facility and railroad station,” read the original proposal. “Major segments of the pathway will lie adjacent to Foss Creek and provide the public with opportunities to view its riparian vegetation.”
To a great extent, the Foss Creek Pathway has exceeded its goals. The path is well-used for much of the day, by everyone from power-walkers seeking to meet their steps quota to electric-powered Bird Bike users.
“Recent counts show an average of more than 300 users a day, with 75 being bicycles,” Thistle said. “Usage is expected to continue to grow, with use of the new segment providing connection to additional destinations and communities.”
Two segments remain: a third of a mile currently under construction as part of private development at North Village, and a final one-half mile to be incorporated into the Healdsburg Avenue Complete Streets Project, scheduled for construction in 2026.
Long-range, the Foss Creek Trail will eventually connect with the state’s Great Redwood Trail which will reach all the way to Arcata to the north, and south to Windsor and beyond as further sections of the SMART Multiuse Pathway are constructed all the way to Larkspur.
The trail already runs through the former Healdsburg Depot on Hudson Street, long proposed as the probable site of the SMART station in town.
During its 27 years of development, “the biggest hurdle has been funding,” said Thistle, the city’s present lead engineer on the project. He succeeded long-time senior engineer Mario Landeros, who retired in 2021. “Sonoma County Tax Measure M contributed $3,250,000 of the total $5,788,000 that has been spent constructing the pathway. Other funding came from grants, local funds and developer contributions.”
“We believe that so many more people would ride a bicycle if they felt safe and comfortable doing so,” said Jenny Bard, the president of the organization’s board. “We look at other cities investing in protected bicycle lanes and safer bicycle infrastructure, which we know must be the default design. Transportation is the leading generator of greenhouse gases and thus the most central opportunity for GHG reductions.”
Said Bard, “The quickest way we can quickly reduce emissions and improve health is to make it easier and safer for people to ride a bicycle. And riding a bicycle is just plain fun!”
The Golden Spoke awards will be presented at the Coalition’s inaugural Gala on Saturday, Sept. 30, at the Finley Center in Santa Rosa, starting at 5:30pm. In addition to the awards ceremony, attendees will enjoy appetizers and small bites, fine wines and local beers, and have a chance to bid on silent online auction items. Naturally, bike valet service will be available.
Santa Rosa City Councilmember Chris Rogers will lead the event’s fundraising. “Our goal is to raise funds for the coalition to support our critical work while elevating all of the great work being done in our county to make bicycle riding safe and fun for all ages and abilities,” Bard said.
Other awards include Bike Champion of the Year to Bill Petty, a dedicated bike commuter, Climate Rider and cycling evangelist; and Bike Advocate of the Year to community organizers Alexa Forrester and Chris Guenther, of Bikeable Santa Rosa, for their efforts to “catalyze” a bikeable network in Santa Rosa.
Two Bike Friendly Businesses of the Year were named, including Shady Oak Barrel House, a Santa Rosa tavern that’s particularly friendly to the city’s many bike-centric events; and Sonoma Clean Power, the first county agency to receive Gold certification as a Bicycle Friendly Business by the League of American Bicyclists.
The Coalition intends to make the Golden Spoke Gala and awards an annual event. Next year’s gala will be held at SOMO Village, which already signed on as a major sponsor.
More information about the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition can be found at bikesonoma.org.