As light waned late Friday afternoon, just more than a dozen cyclists began rolling through Petaluma. Part happy hour alternative, part sight seeing and light exercise, the monthly first Friday ride also has a political purpose--visibility and setting an example.
As the gloaming gave way to nightfall, cycling advocates Bruce Hagen and Rick Holstedt set off with a mission--show off practical and direct safer alternatives to Petaluma's main thoroughfares. A collection of quiet side streets, bike lanes and trails connecting schools, grocery stores, the library, parks and eateries without rolling across busy arterials.
Hagen, co-founder last year of 'Safe Streets Petaluma', said the thing that stops most people from traveling by two wheels, is safety.
"Sixty percent of the people who are now driving would be willing to ride a bicycle some or all of they time, if they had safe, stress-free facilities. That means you're not really worried about somebody swerving over, catching your left handlebar."
Visibility is another. That's one of the things that drew Kevin McDonnell, the city's mayor to participate.
"People hear people saying the future is biking or 'out of your car' but, they have to see it, they have to see a lot of people, they have to see their leaders, they have to see that it's not just talk."
McDonnell said cycling, when it's not raining at least, is entirely viable.
"Yesterday I took the train up to Santa Rosa and biked to the government meeting I was going to. A week ago, Los Cien hosted something at Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park...[I] took the train to Cotati station and when you're on a bike, parking's simple."
The approximately hour and a half ride went eastward across the antiquated 101 overpass with it's sharp curves and bollard at the bottom of a downhill, past schools and parks before returning via the Lynch Creek trail.
Hagen believes a commitment to speedily add more and safer routes will pay dividends.
"Communities that have done that have seen a huge increase in ridership, not to mention all the other health benefits, and reduction of traffic," he said.