The free ride for major bicycling events may reach the end of the road next year as Sonoma County officials begin revamping rules for certain gatherings involving public roadways.
Separate from a process regulating parties and events at wineries and other private spaces, the special event encroachment permit involves things on public streets: parades, fun-runs, vehicle cruises and bike rides.
Unlike the rest, cycling events were exempted from 1985 regulations requiring a special event encroachment permit. That seems likely to change. Unpermitted large rides can create issues for other road users.
As county supervisors looked at changing the rules, Jana Blunt of West County said she happened upon a large cycling event on a recent Saturday....and after making several turns get out of the way.
"I ended up, along with several other cars, in the middle of double direction bicyclists, hundreds, going in both directions."
She said less patient drivers might have caused an incident.
Supervisors say they think the process should be predicable, simple and improve safety and sustainability. Organizers may be soon be required to coordinate with first responders for traffic control and medical response. Some regular autumn events may be encouraged to move to the spring, reducing conflicts with agricultural harvests and potential disruption from wildfire.
Eris Weaver with the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition says the concept of charging for cycling conflicts with other board priorities.
"Requiring an encroachment permit for 50 people riding. You have passed a climate emergency resolution. You've set goals for reducing vehicle miles travelled and greenhouse gas emissions, so theoretically you'd like to see more people on bicycles. So many complaints that people make about cycling is because they have to slow down for us. If we are following the rules of the road, we're not blocking traffic, we are traffic."
Outreach will continue through the fall, with a draft ordinance ready in the spring.