Sacramento central city is booming with construction, which I consider to be a wonderful thing. Mixed use buildings, single lot apartments and  homes, state office buildings. But the construction is having a serious impact on walkability, and often bikeability. (Note: this post is not about road construction or about temporary closures, which also need to be addressed, but not today.)

Two examples, both of state developments, but with principles applicable to private developments, will illustrate the issues. For the new California Natural Resources Agency building between O and P, and 8th and 7th, the sidewalk, parking and one travel lane on the south side (P St) were removed from service. These are not being used in any way for the project. Perhaps they will be eventually, but in the meanwhile, presumably for the entire life of the construction project, they are just sitting empty and unused. For the new O Street office building at O and 12th, the sidewalk and parking were removed from the east side of 12th between the N-O alley and the O-P alley. The section to the north, where the building is being constructed, needs closure, as the underground level is being dug and the sidewalk will be replaced. But on the section to the south, which is being used for storing construction materials, do not need to be closed. There is plenty of space on this former parking lot.

For some of the private construction going on, of which there are many examples, some closures are no doubt necessary. But the closures seem to be occurring from the very first day of construction to the very last day of construction, even though it is needed for only part of the time.

Construction companies are doing this because they can, out of convenience or laziness. And the city is allowing them to. Each construction project requires a traffic control plan, and the permit specifies allowable areas and time frames.

When I questioned the closure on the southern section of 12th Street, Matt from Construction Services in Public Works argued that since parking was removed, it was only fair that the sidewalk access be removed. His thinking was that fairness required making everyone lose something, and that the loss of parking was equivalent to the loss of sidewalk access.

This of course is a ridiculous argument. Parking is in no way equivalent to access. And priority must be given on all roadways to the most vulnerable users, which are in order of importance, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicle drivers.

At the recent Sacramento Active Transportation Commission meeting, Jennifer said that she though there might be guidance on access restrictions, but wasn’t sure, and would look into it.

In the meanwhile, let me propose:

  1. For any roadway with more than one lane in a direction, space will be taken from a general purpose travel lane:
    • If a sidewalk or informal walking path is present, pedestrian access will be preserved by the creation of a temporary sidewalk protected by delineators or barriers.
    • If a bike lane or separated bikeway is present, access will be preserved by the creation of a temporary bike lane protected by delineators or barriers.
  1. For any roadway with a single lane in a direction, space will be taken by closing the general purpose lane in one direction, with appropriate detours for motor vehicles:
    • If a sidewalk or informal walking path is present, pedestrian access will be preserved by the creation of a temporary sidewalk protected by delineators or barriers.
    • If a bike lane or separated bikeway is present, access will be preserved by the creation of a temporary bike lane protected by delineators or barriers.

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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bikeability, walkability

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