The City of Sacramento is going to use street rehabilitation funds (from SB-1) to create a separated bikeway on J Street between 19th and 30th, starting this summer. The city held a public meeting last night (January 25) to gather public comments on the design elements, which have not been finalized.

I like the proposal, and see it as a significant improvement over what is there now. The general purpose travel lanes would be reduced by one, from three to two, while bike facilities would be increased from zero to one. The separated bikeway, also called a cycle track or protected bike lane (separated bikeway is the correct term in California) would be installed along the right side of the one-way street. The project will improve pedestrians safety by shortening the crossing distance over general purpose lanes, but this is more a traffic calming and bike facility project than a pedestrian project. This project is intended to be a “paint only” project that fits with the funds available. Improvements needing concrete would come later, if at all. The separated bikeways would be “protected” with flexible delineator posts between the parking lane and the bikeway, which provides increased safety but not full protection.

Though the diagrams shown last night indicate that bus stops would be at the existing curb, and the bikeway with green paint would swing around the bus stop to the left, it appears that the city is rethinking that and will use a shared bus/bike lane for the length of the bus stop. There is talk of moving bus stops to better locations, and perhaps reducing the number of stops for better service times. The only bus currently using J Street is SacRT Route 30, which has a 15 minute frequency on weekday day times, 30 minute evenings and Saturdays, and 60 minute Sundays. This is a route whose ridership probably justifies 10 minute frequency day times.

The intersections will be daylighted by removing the parking spaces that currently are right up against the crosswalks and reduce visibility between drivers and pedestrians. I completely support that and feel that the safety benefits make the loss of a few parking spaces worthwhile. I’m not against on-street parking, in fact I like it because it slows traffic, but safety is even more important.

I would like to recommend some improvements to the project as presented:

  • Reduce lane widths from 11 feet to 10 feet. This is the most important action that could be taken to enhance safety. The best action for pedestrian and bicyclist safety is to #SlowTheCars (@StrongTowns). The narrower the lanes, the slower the traffic, and the slower the traffic, the less severe collisions that do occur, and the less collisions. The city currently has an 11 foot standard they don’t seem ready to change, but what better time than now to create a significant project with narrower lanes, so we can directly experience the safety benefits.
  • Reduce the speed limit to 20 mph, and stripe the street in a way that encourages this actual speed. Again, the city is reluctant to go below 25, but there is a growing national movement to 20 mph in urban areas. Goes hand-in-hand with the lane width reduction, and is very inexpensive to implement.
  • Stripe the separated bikeway and street in such a way that the shared bus/bike lane at bus stops can be converted to floating bus islands with the bike lane at the curb. This configuration keeps the bus in the flow of traffic, which greatly speeds bus times as they don’t have to wait for a gap in traffic to continue. I do not know how wide the islands need to be to accommodate bus shelters, but am looking into that and will report. Another advantage of the lane width narrowing is that it would provide another two feet for the islands. The separated bikeway “lane” is seven feet, and that seems fine to me. Since this is a “paint only” project, concrete bus islands would delay it for additional finding, which I don’t want to see, but the design should be ready for bus islands as soon as they can be funded.
  • Reduce the number of bus stops to one every three or four blocks. The increase in service speed makes the greater walking distance worthwhile, and since the walking environment will be more appealing and safer, this is a good trade-off.

The meeting last night was the only formal opportunity to have input to this project, but I encourage you to email Jennifer Donlon-Wyant with support for the project, for these improvements I’ve presented, or you own ideas. You can also comment here, but emailing Jennifer is the first step.

Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. People for Bikes: Floating bus stops made of plastic panels hit the street in Oakland: http://peopleforbikes.org/blog/floating-bus-stops-made-plastic-panels-hit-street-oakland/

  2. I fully agree with all of your suggestions. Also your link to the plastic bus islands is very interesting. A relatively cheap and relocatable approach this “ new and untested” approach.

  3. People have raised questions about some of my recommendations. First, lane widths on transit routes. Yes, SacRT prefers 11 foot lanes. However, transit agencies in many locations operate in 10 foot lanes, with higher frequency routes, with safety, and perhaps greater safety due to lower speeds. As a compromise, the left hand lane could be 10 and the right hand lane 11, but I still feel that 10 is safe and efficient.

  4. Second, the 20 mph speed limit. Some people feel that speeds can never be set lower than 25 mph in California, with the exception of schools and senior centers. However, my interpretation of CVC is that if a street is designed for less than 25 mph, the speed can be posted at less that 25 mph. Prima facie speed of 25 only applies when the street is designed for a higher speed. I realize there is disagreement about how to interpret CVC language, but I feel confident in my interpretation, AND I think it is time to change CVC through the legislature, to remove prima facie, and to remove all mention of the 85% from all state documents. Our lives are worth it.

  5. More on lane widths: SacRT has a policy to request 12 foot lanes widths on bus route streets. However, they do operate on streets with narrower lanes.

  6. I did not think about the issues of delivery and rail hailing curb use, so did not look to see if there were any designations on the design diagrams. This is an issue that should be considered.

  7. Marked crosswalk missing from 24th St east side. Consistent high-visibility crosswalk markings should be used on all crosswalks.

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About Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.

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