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01.26.11

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Breaking Away

By Leilani Clark


Members of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition (SCBC) were told in an announcement on Friday, Jan. 21, that executive director Christine Culver is stepping down from her position. Culver, a passionate advocate for the promotion of bicycling as transportation, has held the position since 2003. She will stay involved with the coalition in a lesser position.

Twenty ten was a particularly challenging year for bicycle advocacy in Sonoma County. After years of work by the SCBC on the Humboldt Street Bicycle Boulevard, the Santa Rosa City Council voted to settle for installing speed tables while removing much of the original plan. A proposed pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Highway 101 was criticized and nearly killed by councilman John Sawyer in a procedural move at December city council meeting. And in January, the Sonoma City Council voted down a proposal to add bike lanes to West Spain Road in Sonoma.

Culver maintains that these upsets have nothing "at all" to do with her decision, "but it's a fairly intense job," she says.

Culver will continue to work part-time on "pet projects," including the bridge between Santa Rosa Junior College and Coddingtown, the SMART Rail and Trail and the effort to retain access to a popular bicycle route currently challenged by property owners in the Wild Oak subdivision near Oakmont. "I'm excited to shift gears and focus more on projects that are dear to my heart," says Culver.

Since Culver took the reins from SCBC's first executive director Ted White seven years ago, the coalition has grown from a part-time staff of one to a 1,200-member organization with a staff of eight and hundreds of volunteers.

"At one point, someone said to us, 'If we can't make cycling work in Santa Rosa, it's not going to work anywhere.' We have the weather and the topography. Sonoma County is a great place to ride a bike and that's only going to improve," says Culver.

Sandra Lupien, SCBC's development and outreach director, says the board is at the initial stages of launching a search for a new executive director. No possible candidates have been proposed as of this week, but Culver is confident that the organization will be able to move forward.

"This was the best time to hand it over," says Culver. "Our finances are good. The staff is very able and smart, and it really seems like the best time."


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