I have created an interactive ArcGIS Online Instant Web App for the county, for those who want to zoom in on areas, or look at the detailed election data for each precinct. Empty precincts had no voters in this election on this measure. Three bookmarks (icon on the left of the map) allow you to zoom to county, city, or active precincts. Comments about usability and content are welcome.
It should be obvious, if you have been reading, that the City of Sacramento’s Freeport Blvd Transportation Plan is a failure of vision and possibility. How so?
The city removes from all planning efforts the possibility of reducing speed limits on streets that are reconstructed, usually complete streets projects. Whatever the speed limit is before the project will be the speed limit after the project. I’ve written about this before: lower speed limits on complete streets in Sac. I get that changing posted speed limits without changing roadway design has only limited effect in lowering speeds. But we are talking about reconstructing streets, the very design changes that are necessary to effectively lower motor vehicle speeds. Yet the city refuses to consider lowering speed limits when planning reconstructed roadways. Posted speed is like a rachet, it can only increase but never decrease. Some planners and engineers go so far as to claim that the law prevents lowering of speed limits on reconstructed streets. That is a lie.
The city also refuses to consider lane reductions (also called road diets, roadway reallocation, or right-sizing) when average daily traffic counts (ADT) are above certain thresholds. It will not consider that ADT is above what it should be because the city earlier widened roadways and induced the travel that is now resulting in high ADT. Again, lane counts are like a rachet that goes only one direction. You can increase lanes, but you can’t decrease lanes, except in situations where the roadway is so obviously overbuilt that it would be ridiculous to suggest maintaining that number of lanes.
The city has a responsibility to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the city, under state law, under SACOG guidance, and its own policy in the Mayor Climate Change Commission Report and Climate Emergency declaration. Yet in transportation planning, the city seems to be fully committed to maintaining the current levels of VMT by ensuring that the current levels of traffic are not reduced. This is climate arson.
Community input to the Freeport Blvd planning process provided high priorities: safety, economic vitality, and walkability. Yet the plan maintains motor vehicle capacity, ensuring that the community priorities will be only partially met. This is not a compromise between drivers and walkers and bicyclists. It is throwing crumbs to the walkers and bicyclists so that drivers may eat nearly the entire cake.
Freeport Blvd, today, is a suburban form. Uninviting streets, hostile walking and bicycling, many small businesses in strip malls and a few big box stores (some of them closed or failing). The built environment is an artifact of the time and way in which Sacramento grew in this direction. It is a fact. But the city, in its transportation plan, makes no effort to change or mitigate that fact. In no way does it even suggest transformation to a more vibrant and interesting place. At the simplest level, it just adds bike lanes and changes nothing else. I’m not against bike lanes, and certainly not against separated (protected) bikeways, but they are not transformative. What would be transformative is shifting Freeport towards a walking-first transportation corridor, a destination for people who live there and people who travel to there.
The city intends to add a number of new crosswalks to the corridor. That is good news, as distances between safe crossings are too great. The problem is, most of these will require extensive signalization to protect the people crossing there, because speed limits are such that a person hit by a motor vehicle will be seriously injured or killed. Lower speed limits, not just posted but enforced by design, would allow much less expensive crossings. Money matters. The city will put very little of its own funds toward these changes, depending mostly on regional, state and federal funds, which will always be too little and too slow.
This plan is only the first step in changing the roadway. Grants will be solicited for major project work. A few critical locations will be improved in the near term. But the plan as a whole is decades away from completion, particularly if the probably unnecessary section south of 35th St is included. The city has done pretty well obtaining grants for complete streets, but with an entire city full of streets needing improvement, Freeport Blvd can’t be and won’t be the only priority. Once the plan projects are complete, the street won’t likely be changed for 30 years. So 50 years from now, more or less, the roadway will look like what the city has planned today. Will it meet the needs of citizens at that time? Very, very unlikely. In the future, VMT will be and must be much lower than it is now. A much higher percentage of trips will be made by walking and bicycling. The built environment will densify, with more small businesses, though some stretches won’t make it and will fail. That’s OK. Properties with failed businesses are good candidates for infill housing, which will support those businesses remaining. But housing along a dangerous traffic sewer, as Freeport Blvd currently is and will largely remain under the city plan, is a disservice to everyone who lives there. Who wants to live on a busy arterials stroad, where you can’t let your kids outside because the risk of traffic violence is too great, and the air hazardous to breathe, and the noise of traffic is a constant psychological and health danger? Riding to the grocery store may be slightly more pleasant and somewhat more safe, but many people still won’t want to because they aren’t comfortable with regular bike lanes beside high speed traffic, and complicated intersections. People won’t want to walk during the summer because the city failed to plan for and install trees along the sidewalks.
Enough said for now. I may write some more or post others if people point out important issues that I have not addressed. Otherwise, the next post will be just before the plan goes to city council, in hopes that citizens will urge the council to reject this plan as too flawed for use. I was very disappointed that the City of Sacramento Active Transportation Commission rubber-stamped the plan and passed it along to council, but that is water under the bridge.
The city can do better, but only if a significant number of citizens press their council members to set a higher standard for transportation planning than is exhibited in the final draft plan.
The city has proposed a roundabout for the intersection of Freeport Blvd and Sutterville Rd E. This is a good location for a roundabout, in part because there is so much space here already that a roundabout would not encroach on other uses.
Notes: I am calling the section of Sutterville Rd to the east of Freeport ‘Sutterville Rd E’ and the section to the west of Freeport ‘Sutterville Rd W’, but these names do not reflect street addresses, since this is all East Sutterville Rd. This post introduces the idea of protected intersections along Freeport, which apparently were not considered by the city in their planning process. For more information on this design, see protected intersections and Davis protected intersection.
First, what it looks like today. As you can see, there is a huge area of wasted space in the intersection
Second, the roundabout proposed in the plan.
This is a multi-lane roundabout. These roundabout designs are significantly less safe, for all modes of transportation (walking, bicycling, driving) than single lane roundabouts, and current roundabout practice is to only use multi-land roundabouts where they are absolutely necessary for the ADT (average daily traffic) to be designed for. Not the existing traffic, but the desired traffic. Not being a roundabout designer, I can’t say for certain whether a multi-lane roundabout is desired here. It is true that this intersection, and the stretch of roadway between Sutterville E and Sutterville W, combines traffic from both Freeport Blvd and Sutterville Rd. In the traffic counts diagram in the plan, this segment is shown as having the highest ADT of any section of Freeport, at 28,000 ADT. This does not mean the intersection needs to be planned for this volume, but it is an issue to be considered.
The possibly congested traffic flow is westbound from Sutterville E, south on Freeport, and then west on Sutterville W, or conversely, eastbound on Sutterville W, north on Freeport, and then east on Sutterville E.
So, yes to a roundabout at this location.
However, there are several potential improvements to the roundabout design.
- Traffic north of the intersection does not need two lanes northbound or southbound. Freeport to the north is only two lanes (mostly at 3/2 design with center turn lane). It makes no sense to have the segment to the north with unneeded capacity.
- There is 1060 feet of roadway south of the roundabout for southbound traffic to merge right for a turn to Sutterville to the west, or left to continue south on Freeport. Merges do no need to happen within the roundabout. That means the west side of the roundabout need only be one lane. Or, the west side right hand lane can be a bypass lane, with no interaction with the other lane providing the roundabout function.
- Similarly, there is ample space northbound for merging, so the lane that goes from Freeport northbound to Sutterville to the east can be a separated or bypass lane, with no interaction with the other lane providing the roundabout.
- Proposing something way outside the box, traffic from Sutterville E with Sutterville W could be routed through the park, rejoining Sutterville to the west of the Freeport – Sutterville W intersection
So, why is roundabout in the post title potentially plural? Because I think either roundabouts or protected intersections should be considered for the intersection of Freeport with Sutterville W, and Freeport with Fruitridge.
First, what Freeport – Sutterville W intersection looks like today.
Second, the plan proposal. It is very much like the present configuration, the differences being the the southbound bike lane is merged across the right hand turn lane rather than being dropped, the bike lanes are partially separated bikeways (meaning at least vertical delineator ‘protection’ and perhaps curb protection), and parking is removed from Freeport south of the intersection. There are some safety benefits to these changes, but nowhere near as much as a roundabout or protected intersection would offer. Is there space for a roundabout here? Possibly. It would require using some of what is private land on the southwest corner and the east side, but there are no buildings, only parking lots, in the area needed.
And now, the Freeport – Fruitridge intersection. I’ve already made comments on this in the photo essay, but to repeat and look more closely… This is what it looks like today. There are intersections like this along every arterial in the south Sacramento, both city and county. A vast area of pavement, flared out at the intersection in favor of right and left turn lanes, designed to promote the flow of motor vehicle traffic, and designed with little thought to walkers and bicyclists. Of course volumes of bicyclists are new since these were built, but volumes of walkers are not new, they have always been here but were intentionally ignored by the planners and engineers.
And the intersection proposed by the plan. Other than being rotated 90 degrees, there is no significant difference. Green bicycle markings through the intersection? For what purpose? The purpose of green paint is to signify conflict zones, but the green in the intersection is not a conflict zone. Courageous bicyclists are not going to be encouraged nor protected by this green paint, and other bicyclists are just going to pray.
Every dedicated right turn lane is still there. Every dedicated left turn lane is still there, including the hazardous and unnecessary double left from Freeport southbound to Fruitridge eastbound.
Have median islands wide enough to be, and designed to be, pedestrian refuge islands on these long crossings, been added? No.
There is enough space here for a roundabout. Or maybe a protected intersection would be better. I’m not sure, but what I do know is that the intersection design proposed by the city is just plain unacceptable. The community asked for safety, walkability, and economic vitality. This intersection design offers none of those things.
So, given the need for trees to shade sidewalks along Freeport, where do they go? The answer is in the sidewalk buffer or planting strip. At one existing location along Freeport, there is an example of street trees in a sidewalk buffer, where the new Raley’s shopping center is. The photo below is from the photo essay. I don’t know whether the city required the developer to put in sidewalk buffers and wider sidewalks, or whether the developer knew this was the right thing to do and did it on their own. In any case, this is the only part of Freeport that has them, other than a short section along the airport north of Blair Ave.
The one situation in which sidewalk buffers may not be appropriate is where buildings come to the curb in dense retail areas. But there are virtually no instances of this along Freeport. Almost all buildings are set back from the sidewalk a little, or a lot. In several cases there are massive parking lots adjacent to the sidewalk, creating the kind of place where no one wants to be. So buffers and trees at least mitigate the blandness to some degree.
As with any post, I look for example photos and diagrams. So I searched Google for ‘sidewalk buffer’. Lo and behold, the second item is my own post about this! It is experiences like this that make me realize the value of this blog, when other people are using my advocacy work in their advocacy work.
So, so rather than re-write the post, I’ll link to it here: sidewalk buffers. I encourage you to take a read. Trees, and the sidewalk buffers that would allow them, are probably the most important aspect of Freeport Blvd, and the most important topic that the city has neglected.
If you take a look at the Freeport Blvd Transportation Plan, including Appendix F Design Layout, you will see that most of the existing trees are preserved. But there is no information about new trees, not in the diagrams, not in the text. In fact, the only text mention of trees, other than existing trees, is in the Community Vision (page 20, 23 in the pdf), where it says “4 IMPROVE SHADE AND COMFORT: Enhance the walking and bicycling experience along the corridor by integrating street trees to provide shade and comfort from the sun and rain”. Certainly, that is the community’s vision, but it does not seem to be the city’s vision. If it were, the plan would have addressed trees.
Given that a major objective of the plan is to make Freeport Blvd more walkable, the lack of trees and mention of trees is concerning, to say the least. When questioned about trees at the January 18 Active Transportation Commission meeting, city staff said two things: 1) we aren’t the experts in trees, so we didn’t include them, and 2) tree information will come later in the design process.
This is a classic case of planning and engineering gaslighting. The story beforehand is always, well, it’s too early in the planning process to consider that. The story later is that it is too late to consider that element of the plan, we’re already past that, the decisions have been made. Every plan goes that way. It is true that this plan is only the first step in design, and there will be more detailed design to come, but when you don’t plan for trees from the beginning, you get a roadway with too few trees. Or no trees.
Almost all the existing trees are in median strips at a few locations along the roadway. Trees in medians have some value. They make the road look prettier, they slow traffic to a slight degree, they shade pavement and slightly reduce the heat island effect. But they are not even as remotely useful as trees along sidewalks. What Freeport Blvd needs is trees adjacent to sidewalks, not median trees. But the city has nowhere reserved space for them. So they won’t be there.
Next post is about where to put the trees, adjacent to sidewalks.
I rode Freeport Blvd on Monday to refresh my memory, because I hadn’t been along the stretch in a few months. For readers who don’t regularly use Freeport Blvd, it may help you understand the city’s Freeport Blvd Transportation Plan. Yes, Freeport, as it is, has many problems. My concern is that the plan doesn’t solve most of them. The photos below include my thoughts about various places along Freeport Blvd. See the category Freeport Blvd for other posts.
This is Freeport Blvd north of 13th Ave, showing the conversion of what was a four lane traffic sewer to a two lane street. It includes a center turn lane, which is often not needed, in what is called a 3/2 configuration, two travel lanes and one center lane. It has regular Class 2 bike lanes. The sidewalks were repaired but not widened except at McClatchy High School. This is called a complete street.
Freeport Blvd adjacent to Land Park park. Sacramento City College is across the road. It shows the dirt/decomposed granite walking/running path within the park, which is great, but not usable during wet weather. There should be both a sidewalk and a natural surface walking/running path adjacent. A local advocate has suggested there be a separated two-way bikeway along this section, since there are no driveways and only two streets (two branches of 14th St) along this entire stretch of the park from 13th Ave to Sutterville Rd to the west.
Approaching Sutterville Rd to the east, the roadway design abandons all pretense of a traffic calmed complete streets and goes from two lanes to five travel lanes. Southbound, there is an extra lane without any added traffic, just to match the roadway to the south. Northbound, there is an extra lane which almost immediately merges back, and serves only the purpose of easing the high-speed free-right from Sutterville Rd to the east, and letting traffic merge after the intersection rather than before. Most traffic is heading east on Sutterville, not continuing north, so two lanes are not needed. The city is proposing a roundabout for this intersection, which makes sense, but they have designed a two-lane roundabout, which is significantly less safe than one-lane roundabouts.
Freeport Blvd approaching Sutterville Rd to the west (right). The bike lane disappears in favor of a right turn lane. There is, at least at some times of day, significant right turn activity. The plan has a design where the bike lane crosses over the right hand turn lane with a dashed green pattern. Green paint has no legal meaning whatsoever, but it does serve somewhat to alert drivers to bicycles. In this heavy right turn situation, something more innovative than green paint is needed. Perhaps a bike signal face that holds motor vehicle traffic while bicyclists are moving.
Freeport Blvd southbound approaching the new Raley’s shopping center. As part of the development agreement, the project installed a sidewalk buffer (often called planting strip) and a wider sidewalk. This is a good design, as it provides shade for walkers (when the trees mature) and a buffer from the noise, exhaust, and violence of motor vehicle traffic. But it is NOT the design proposed in the plan, which does not use sidewalk buffers and trees except at a very few locations. The buffered bike lane is better than a regular bike lane, but would be better with vertical delineators (soft hit posts) or physical protection.
This is the abandoned store and parking lot, where Raley’s used to be. The new store is nice, but this abandoned location is a blight on the neighborhood. If the county continued to change the same property tax as when the store was open, it would be much more likely to either be filled with another business, or replaced with different land use, perhaps housing and small businesses. But with the owner paying little it property taxes as is, it will probably remain abandoned for years.
Freeport Blvd typical roadway. There is an unprotected bike lane, with a parking lane to the right of it (not right here, as there is a very faded no parking sign for the bus stop), and wide traffic lanes. The sidewalk is good, and the bus shelter is good, not blocking the sidewalk. The only issue is the homeless possessions using the bus stop. Looking down the street, this area of parking is unused (the one vehicle is temporarily stopped, not parked). Where there is ample off-street parking, the on-street parking is seldom used. The plan does remove a lot of unused parking. More about on-street and off-street parking in another post.
A typical setting on Freeport Blvd. A strip mall set back from the street with a narrow area of parking fronting the street. Unused on-street parking. The setting works, sort of, but what an unpleasant place to be, whether walking, bicycling, or driving. Nothing to grab your interest, or make you slow down, or shade you (nary a tree in sight). On the other hand, a lot of small businesses are the strength of this area, providing variety, and significantly higher sales tax and property tax income than large buildings with a single business.
Freeport Blvd south of Oregon Drive, with narrow sidewalk further narrowed by utility poles, and a blank fence. The blank fence is a response to the unpleasantness of the roadway; the developer wanted to isolate the homes from the noise and violence of the street. Understandable. But it leaves a long stretch of street with nothing to look at, and an unpleasant experience for someone walking. The world is only fence and traffic. The plan does not change this in any way, including not widening the sidewalk. It is unknown if the utility poles will be moved or removed.
Freeport Blvd at the intersection with Fruitridge Rd. It this a place where anyone wants to be? This is the largest intersection in the plan area, and is also the highest crash intersection. Southbound, the roadway widens from two lanes to five lanes, with two dedicated left turn lanes (unneeded, according to the plan) and a dedicated right turn lane. With the two northbound lanes, this is seven lanes of traffic to cross, with no pedestrian refuge median, 86 feet total. With the default 7 second white hand and standard walk rate of 4 feet/second, this is 29 seconds to cross. Not only is this too long for the walker, but it is too long for traffic to wait. A narrower roadway is good for the walker, and good for the driver because the signal cycle can be shorter. But the plan makes no changes to the lane configuration of this intersection. None.
Fruitridge Rd westbound approaching Freeport Blvd. This is the single worst aspect of this intersection, the free right slip lane which allows high speed turns from Fruitridge to Freeport. You might think that the signal stops right turning traffic, but it does not, it is on the same cycle as the though traffic. These high speed slip lanes are pedestrian killers. A driver is looking only to their left, for conflicting motor vehicles, not to their right for people walking. Just while standing here, I saw five drivers take this turn at over 35 mph. Slip lanes are never appropriate in an urban environment, and should be removed. But the plan does not change this at all.
Freeport Blvd south of 35th Ave. There are significant sidewalk gaps. There are commercial buildings on the west side (right), but only about half the businesses are open. As you can see, this section of Freeport has a completely different feel than north of Fruitridge, and I think should be considered separately. In fact, given the traffic levels and acceptable bike lane, I’m not sure anything needs to be changed here at all. This is not a place people would walk.
Freeport Blvd northbound, just north of Blair Ave. Looks good, but this is just the part close to the airport entrance. This does not continue very far northward. Note the 40 mph speed limit, which means the roadway is designed to be ‘safe’ at 50 mph. Of course it is not safe at 50, or 40. It should be both designed and posted as 35 mph.
And this is what it looks like to the north. A parking lane where no parking would ever be needed, alongside the airport, just because the city over-built the roadway width. No sidewalk, just a use path. A chain link fence, that most hostile of fencing designs. Yuck. This is also a section where a local advocate has suggested a separated two-way bikeway, since there is only one driveway in the entire section of the airport between Blair Ave and Fruitridge Rd, a half mile of uninterrupted roadway northbound.
Freeport Blvd northbound, just south of 35th Ave. Just to emphasize how hostile this area is to walkers, a bus stop with no sidewalk connections at all. The crosswalk to the north, at 35th Ave, is not accessible to anyone with a mobility device or even mobility impairment. To the south, it is just dirt. I don’t know how many riders use this stop, but I can guarantee that every one of them is unhappy about the stop. However, I’m not at all sure that building a sidewalk along this stretch of the airport, as the plan proposes, is useful or cost effective. How many people would walk? It is two miles along the east side of Freeport to anything a walker would want to access. Better to spend the money on places where people do or will walk.
Freeport Blvd at Claudia Dr. Another location where some improvements have been made, with better sidewalks and detectable warning strips (the bumps) for ADA. But to what end? It still feels car dominated to me, with unnecessary parking, a regular bike lane, multiple overly wide driveways. This is what the city intends that most of Freeport Blvd will look like after the improvements.
Freeport Blvd. Another strip mall. Multiple very wide driveways. You can see the slope of the driveway aprons here, essentially not navigable by mobility devices. The two solutions here are a driveway apron in the sidewalk buffer, so that the sidewalk is level (the best solution), or having the sidewalk ramp down to cross a flat driveway segment (an acceptable but not optimal solution). But there is no sidewalk buffer here, and the city does not intend that there be. Either they will leave these driveways in unacceptable condition, or will do the ramp down. The plan does not get into such details, but the one diagram that shows a driveway (Proposed Prototypical Concept on page 25) shows the sloped driveway apron, neither solution.
Yet another strip mall. No sidewalk, a poor quality bus stop, two-directional parking lot traffic in a narrow undefined space (I observed several driver conflicts while taking the photo). At least the on-street parking has some utilization.
Freeport Blvd at Meer Way. This is another location where the city has improved pedestrian crossing. The offset sidewalk in the median is intended to face walkers toward oncoming traffic so that they notice drivers running the red light, which is kind of a sad statement on safety from drivers. This is not a bad crossing, and probably safer than what was there before, but look at all those signal heads, just to make crossing the street safer. This is probably a $100,000 intersection, and it is only one of many along Freeport. If the city slowed traffic to 25 mph, both designed and posted), these fancy and expensive crossings might not be needed.
There are a few more posts to come, diving into specific issues.
The plan states, page Appendix A-9, “Fruitridge Road: The left turn from Freeport Boulevard to Fruitridge Road includes two left turn lanes, which may not be needed given the turn volumes. U-turns are moderately used at this location.” Despite this statement, the plan for this intersection is to leave it essentially unchanged. The diagram from Appendix F Design Layout is below.
The same seven lanes across for the north side of the intersection (to the right in the diagram), 86 feet for a person using the crosswalk, with no pedestrian refuge in the middle. Long crosswalks like this require a long pedestrian signal to meet federal standards, which of course slows all other movements in the intersection. In an effort to ease motor vehicle traffic by maintaining unneeded lanes, the city is actually slowing down everyone at the intersection, and making traffic worse rather than better.
The same dedicated double left turn lanes southbound (from the left). The same dedicated right turn lanes which require right turning traffic to conflict with the bike lane as they merge (out of the diagram left and right). The same free-right, high-speed slip lane from Fruitridge westbound to Freeport northbound which presents a tremendous hazard to walkers, bicyclists, and drivers traveling on Freeport.
Again, the city has released a final draft plan which fails to meet the needs of the community, fails to calm traffic, and fails to keep people (walking, bicycling, and driving) safe.
I rode Freeport Blvd today to refresh my memory of the roadway and surrounding, and to take photos to illustrate points I want to make. Photos to come.
What was clear to me is that the part of Freeport Blvd from Claudia Dr to Blair Ave is completely different in character from the rest of the ‘south’ segment identified in the Freeport Blvd Transportation Plan. Starting just south of Fruitridge Rd, the east side is the Sacramento Executive Airport, a long stretch of chainlink fence all the way to almost Blair Way. The west side is a mix of businesses and empty lots, but about half of the businesses are closed. The Sacramento Safety Center, just south of Claudia Dr, offices for police and fire, is a one-story building surrounded by a sea of parking, the worst sort of suburban form that doesn’t even generate any property or sales tax. Nor, I’m pretty sure, does it generate any walkers or bicyclists.
Freeport Blvd south of Fruitridge is a different sort of roadway that deserves to be treated as such in the plan. But it is not. This section also has a significantly lower ADT (average daily traffic) count that much of the rest of the plan area.
Yet another flaw in the plan that should be corrected before it is adopted.
As a person who walks a lot in the central city, and some in other areas, I often see and report illegal parking to the city through the 311 app. I’m not talking about parking too long, or not paying, but about blocking driveways, sidewalks, and crosswalks. 90% of the time, the response that I get was that a parking officer was dispatched and the vehicle was no longer there, so no citation was issued. I provide the license number, vehicle description, and a photo, but the city will not use that information to ticket once a vehicle has moved. But, the real issue it that they often ignore the violation completely.
An example. I reported this illegally parked vehicle at 9:17AM. It was blocking the crosswalk over 13th St, and the ADA ramp. The remaining ramp area was not wide enough to allow a wheelchair to pass. At 11:09AM I received an email reply from the city, stating: “A Parking Enforcement Officer arrived at P ST & 13TH ST, SACRAMENTO, 95814 to find that the vehicle(s) reported were no longer on the scene.” At 7:30PM, the vehicle was still in exactly the same place. The officer was lying. The vehicle was still there. Either the officer never visited the location, or decided not to cite the vehicle.
This is the sort of attitude the city has toward people who walk, or roll. They are always less important than people who drive.
I am getting so, so tired of people on Twitter, bicycling advocates, who see bikes and bikes only as the solution to everything.
These are people who believe that it is always best to remove on-street parking in favor of bike lanes, whether regular or separated bikeways. In fact, they are always looking for roads on which to install bike facilities and remove parking, because they get off on the idea of removing all parking. A lot of advocates want bike lanes on every street.
Well, I disagree.
If there is a situation where existing or future bicycling use should be accommodated, and the only way of doing do it is to remove parking, then I’m in agreement. But that is often not the case. On any street with more than two lanes, it is almost always better to remove a travel lane (called general purpose lanes) than to remove parking.
Parking does (at least) two things:
- Calms traffic by creating perceived friction, which slows drivers down. It is moving vehicles, quite often moving well over the posted speed limit, that are a hazard to bicyclists, and everyone else. It is not parked cars (not ignoring the issue of door-zone bike lanes).
- Provides places for customers to park who so far have not shifted to walking and bicycling, or who are in that rare situation of needing a car for disability reasons or items being picked up/dropped off.
Sure, we need less parking than we have, but no parking is not the solution. If there is no on-street parking, then it increases the demand for surface parking lots, which are the worst possible land use in cities, or for structured parking (parking decks) which are the most expensive type of parking to build, and almost always require taxpayer subsidy. Both of these also produce almost zero property tax and sales tax.
I’m also in favor of managed parking, so that it is never free, and costs enough so that there will always be some empty spaces available, and that drivers are paying market value for parking, and for the cost of the pavement and maintenance they are using. I’m also in favor of designated passenger drop-off/pick-up curbs and unloading/loading curbs for commercial use. We do have too much parking, and way too much free parking. We should have less.
For those who I haven’t convinced, or have made angry (no doubt), please read The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup, and Walkable City by Jeff Speck. Both recommend retaining parking, but managing it better, in most situations. And removing it when there is really a good justification. Donald Shoup has conducted more research on parking than anyone, and Jeff Speck has designed more projects to improve walkability and livability than most.
Lastly, let me say I hate cars and hate most car drivers. The world would be a better place if we had about 5% of the cars we have now. The world would be a better place if almost all people walked or bicycled for almost all trips, and used transit for the few others. But I think it is dangerous to just remove all parking without looking at the situation on the ground, which includes all modes and everything that is adjacent to the street, including businesses.