Sonoma County has been a tourist haven for wine connoisseurs and recreationalists for decades. In more recent years, the county has gained notoriety for its commitments to climate protection, alternative transportation and sustainable communities. This is evident in the planning efforts of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority (SCTA) and the Countywide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. The plan helps local city governments integrate their bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure into regional networks, and incorporates urban design principles that enhance connectivity.
The effects of the Master Plan can be seen in cities such as Healdsburg and Santa Rosa, where bicycle boulevards and pedestrian walkways facilitate circulation in the urban core. Both downtown's are made up of Class II bikeways and attractive sidewalks, which eventually link up to regional corridors such as the Joe Rodotta and West County trails. This system provides commuters with well-maintained routes, and also draws tourists who want to experience the beauty of Wine Country without a car.
Specifically, the Master Plan seeks to accomplish ten county-wide objectives:
- Create a regional bicycle and pedestrian network;
- Utilize accepted design standards;
- Integrate the network with existing and planned transit;
- Encourage comprehensive support facilities;
- Promote health and environmental benefits;
- Make the safety and security of users a priority;
- Encourage smart-growth;
- Plan for future expansion;
- Maintain system quality; and
- Maximize funding for related projects.
These objectives serve as a blueprint for Sonoma County and its nine cities and encompass a wide range of planning goals. Transportation and land use are addressed, but so are sustainability and the intangible concept of quality of life that is unique to Sonoma County. This needs to be incorporated into any transportation plan if a pedestrian and bicycle-oriented culture is to thrive.
You don’t need to be an urban planner to know that active transportation reduces carbon footprints and improves human health. However, it is important to realize that these benefits do not surface on their own; a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian master plan is necessary to achieve and enrich them.
Are regional bicycle and pedestrian plans necessary to create healthy communities?
Credits: Images by Nick Danty. Data linked to sources.