Recently the Rohnert Park Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee added a new member who is traveling the roads on a different set of wheels, namely, in a wheelchair. The city’s mayor, Pam Stafford, recently appointed Shirley Johnson to the committee in order to fill a vacancy brought on by a previous representative moving out of the city limits and no longer able to complete his term.
“I’ve always wanted to be involved in my community in Rohnert Park,” says Shirley Johnson, who also works as a part-time educator with the Sonoma County Office of Education, as well as in the Upward Bound program at Sonoma State University and a part-time faculty member in Environmental Studies at Mendocino College. “Plus, I roll around a lot – I’m in a wheelchair – and so I thought it would be good to represent the wheeled community. I’m a good mix between pedestrian and bicycle. I thought that would be a good fit.”
Having been in a wheelchair for 37 years, Johnson feels it is good to represent the needs of others in wheelchairs on the advisory committee, besides pedestrians and bicycles.
“I prefer to roll around rather than load up my chair into my car,” adds Johnson.
Johnson has lived in Rohnert Park for 30 years. She first started working here for Hewlett Packard in 1984, before eventually moving here in 1988.
“I really love Rohnert Park,” says Johnson. “I’ve known all the changes and I look forward to being part of it. I’m kind of way overdue of being an integral part of the city! It’s been close to my heart and I’m thrilled about it.”
Since Johnson just started on the committee, she has only attended one meeting thus far, but definitely has a wish list of certain areas she’d like to improve in the city for the safety of pedestrians, bicycles and those in wheelchairs. One area is more accessibility and a better intersection in L section and she would also love to see a better way to cross over the freeway.
” Where I live in on the west side of the freeway, there’s really no good way of getting over from the west side of the freeway to the east side of the freeway,” says Johnson. “I know foot bridges are a real expensive option but even on the creek side - I wish we could connect the pathway along the creek over to the west side - that would be nice. There’s no real decent path between Redwood Highway and Labath Avenue.”
In addition, she would love to see improvements made to other areas such as the section of road near Sonoma State University where the sidewalk abruptly ends, forcing walkers and those on wheels to continue on East Cotati Avenue, a busy road.
Volunteering for over six years and serving as Board President for four years for Disability Services and Legal Center in Santa Rosa (formerly Community Resources for Independence) gives Johnson good experience in working with boards. In addition, in the early 2000’s she had been a part of “Friends of SMART” which pushed to get the train built to further develop our public transportation system.
“I’m just going to learn and soak it in and see,” says Johnson. “We’re just starting to look at our General Plan and what’s going on. What I want to be is just another set of eyes and a voice for the folks that are in wheelchairs or scooters. That’s what I really want to contribute. Even though we have lots of cut-outs and rules, there are some things that we can do better.”