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March 2002

Measure D: Unnecessary, Irreversible Change

Of Bolinas' Country Road Entryway

By Dale Polissar

A few essential considerations about Measure D, the proposal to widen the road into Bolinas for addition of bicycle lanes.

1) If you start small, you can always go bigger. But if you start big, you can't go back again.

If we start with a separate path paralleling the road (and I'll talk later about achieving that), and we find that it is teeming with bikes and walkers-then we can always move to bicycle lanes. But once we widen that road (with the $212,000 retaining wall and $16,000 in signs that the funding proposal calls for), we will have forever erased the beautiful country entryway to Bolinas that we enjoy right now.

2) Our local Bolinas bike traffic does not need a massive $548,000 project. Unless we invite swarms of recreational bicyclists into Bolinas, our local bike use would be perfectly well served by a simple path.

In warm, sunny spring weather last May, we counted seven kids walking or biking to school in three days. The funding application for the wide-road project is based upon a prediction of an increase to 50 kids walking or biking to school-about half of the Bolinas students.

Remember that most Bolinas kids live on the Mesa, separated by a painfully steep hill from the proposed bike lanes.

3) Belittled as "paranoia" by the bike-lane advocates, the concern that Bolinas will become a destination for flocks of recreational bicyclists is actually a realistic one.

The Marin Bicycle Coalition has shown a great interest in the Bolinas election. Its president came to the meeting on the alternative path at the Bolinas school to advocate for the bike lanes. (Actually, he ended up enthusing that we should go for both plans -- there's lots of funding out there for bicycle access, he said!)

And, the county master plan envisions eventually putting bicycle lanes around the lagoon, into Bolinas from the highway, and from Bolinas out to Palomarin trailhead. Measure D opens the door to that vision. (The Bolinas bike lane plan is already listed on many bicycle web sites.) It is not far-fetched to imagine bike-loaded SUV's rolling into town, occupying our limited parking during a jaunt in the country. This has already happened in Fairfax -- local residents are very upset about it.

4) It seems obvious that a path separate from the road would be safer for kids than having them riding right beside 40 mph vehicles. And, it is common knowledge that when you widen the road, cars go faster.

5) A separate path is an achievable reality. One link of it -- from the Mesa Road intersection down through the BPUD forest to the old Community Garden -- already exists and only needs widening and paving. Research by Judy Molyneux, during which she obtained generous cooperation from Olema Bolinas Road neighbors and assurance of support from County and CalTrans officials if Bolinas chooses the path option, has shown that the rest of the path is not that hard to realize. And, contrary to assertions by the bike lane advocates, it would not have anywhere near the environmental impact of the road-widening project.

Judy has suggested and researched several alternatives, but if you consider the biggest one -- a Class One path, eight feet wide and five feet from the road -- here's what it would look like: Along Gospel Flat, it would blend into the fields, being made of an earth-colored hard-surfaced crushed granite (such as is used on Presidio bike paths), separated from the road by five feet of grass. On the narrow stretch, going up Finney's Hill, the dangerous ditch on the west would be paved over, with a culvert for drainage, and the road moved a few feet to the west (a strip that would be paved anyway in the bike-lane plan); and the Buell fence on the east side moved over two to three feet to allow space for the path and the five-foot grass separation from the road. (The path from there through the BPUD land is not even visible from the road.)

That's the largest alternative. We also think a smaller path is achievable. Our study of bike paths and lanes around the County has shown that the County frequently allows deviation from the official norm where circumstances require. (Look at the narrowing of the path coming from Stafford Lake toward Novato, or the multi-use path just west of Lagunitas School.)

Instead of bike lanes, with kids endangered by cars and high speed recreational bicyclists, Judy's vision is a lovely country path where people stroll, walk their dogs, children play, and -- yes -- bicyclists traverse Gospel Flat, at a pace appropriate to that green, special, irreplaceable country setting.

 

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