‘Bike boulevard’ pilot project planned for Petaluma’s Fifth Street

Quick-build roundabouts, traffic diverters and other features are expected to be installed by March 2023.|

Petaluma officials plan to install the area’s first “bike boulevard” on the city’s west side, giving cyclists and pedestrians higher priority on a portion of Fifth Street between A Street and Mountain View Avenue.

Introduced during a Nov. 9 public workshop, the project has not yet been finalized but would incorporate traffic calming elements such as traffic diverters, curb extensions, speed humps, stop sign removal and the installation of signage, lane markings and high-visibility crosswalks – and all would utilize quick-build features.

Traffic circles, also known as roundabouts, are proposed for Fifth Street at B, G and I streets.

“Our project goals are really to reinforce Fifth Street as a safe, slow, quiet neighborhood street that is safe and inviting for people on foot, on bike, on scooter,” said project manager Bjorn Griepenburg.

“We want to use it as a pilot project to test and evaluate (resident) feedback and then adjust, potentially, some of our design elements and develop some good design standards as we roll these out throughout Petaluma.”

The city’s project website defines bike boulevards, also called “neighborhood greenways” or “neighborhood bikeways,“ as streets with lower vehicle traffic volume and speed. They do not involve striping designated bike lanes, as ”the expectation on bike boulevards is that people traveling by bike may enjoy full use of the roadway.“

Establishing bike boulevards in Petaluma was an idea first recommended in 2008 in the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. The concept was later approved by City Council.

Traffic diverters would prohibit traffic from crossing D Street or making left turns onto or off of D Street. A refuge island would be installed at D Street to allow for safe crossing for pedestrians.

When polled, 64% of the roughly 50 attendees supported use of traffic diverters, while 23% were against and the rest were unsure.

“My concern is that Petaluma Boulevard and Sixth Street are already busy turning intersections, particularly during times of congestion,” said a resident named David during the public comment section of the workshop. He said he supported the overall project but was one of the “unsure” votes when it came to the traffic diverters.

The project garnered overall support from those in attendance, with residents adding suggestions that ranged from planting street trees and greenery to swapping out speed humps for stop signs.

Griepenburg said Fifth Street was chosen as the better option for a bike boulevard in the downtown area, as opposed to Petaluma Boulevard South or Sixth Street, because it has less daily traffic. Staff reported Fifth Street sees less than 1,000 vehicles per day, while Sixth Street sees more than 7,000 and Petaluma Boulevard more than 12,000.

The bike boulevard would also support city goals of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 by promoting more transportation options, Griepenburg said.

As a model for such a project, Santa Rosa incorporated a bike boulevard on Humboldt Street to prioritize those biking and walking between local neighborhoods.

To gather more community feedback on the pilot program, city staff said they planned to offer an online survey, and to share the results along with more discussion at the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting in January, followed by a second public workshop.

The quick-build elements are expected to begin to be installed by March. City staff will then evaluate whether the design is a good fit, with the possibility of it becoming permanent in 2024. Funding would come from the city’s traffic mitigation impact fees.

Amelia Parreira is a staff writer for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at amelia.parreira@arguscourier.com or 707-521-5208.

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