By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition has a drive under way to raise $30,000 in the next two weeks to fund its advocacy efforts and allow it to put on family-style bike rides.

Those are the two things the coalition can’t do now within its current budget, which is made up largely of donations and state and federal funds that are designated for specific programs.

The coalition, which has 1,100 members, has a budget for next year of $474,000.

The single largest portion is $307,000 in federal funds to provide Safe Routes to Schools education programs at 16 Sonoma County schools.

The coalition also gets $42,000 in local sponsorships and funds through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for the Bike-to-Work Day, the coalition’s second largest undertaking.

What is left out is enough money to fully fund public outreach and to advocate for such projects as the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit pedestrian-bike path and the pedestrian-bike bridge over Highway 101 in Santa Rosa, said executive director Gary Helfrich.

“We need to do our core mission, to make Sonoma County the best place in California to ride a bike,” Helfrich said. “It is not limited to transportation. We are for everything from recreational cyclists to racers to commuters to kids who want exercise because of an inactive lifestyle.”

Helfrich said the coalition doesn’t support highway widening, but it does advocate fixing the existing roads on the premise that potholes are a pain for everyone.

The coalition sees the pedestrian-bicycle bridge over Highway 101 as a necessary part of the redevelopment of the Coddingtown area, and has had staff members research cheaper, alternative bridge designs.

Two other projects high on the coalition’s list is the Sonoma Valley Trail, a bicycle path from Santa Rosa to Sonoma, and a similar trail along an abandoned railroad right-of-way from Petaluma to Sebastopol.

There are other bicycle clubs in Sonoma County to support serious riders, but few family-oriented, show-up-and-ride events.

The coalition this year, in cooperation with a Sonoma County Museum exhibit on the history of the bicycle, put on a family ride tracing Luther Burbank’s daily bicycle commute from his Santa Rosa home to his gardens in Sebastopol.

“A lot of what we can do next year will be determined by the money we raise this year,” Helfrich said.

Helfrich said they already have $10,000 pledged to match any new donations.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.