As you may have read here before, I am opposed to one-way streets, and feel that all or nearly all should be converted back into two-way streets. One way streets exist to speed the flow of car traffic. They do not exist to promote walkability or safety, and in fact are a significant detriment. Multiple-lane one-way streets encourage the multi-lane threat, where a driver in one lane stops, the pedestrian proceeds, and is hit by a driver in the other lane(s) who does not stop. I think one-way streets in Sacramento should be converted. Ironically, so does the city, but it has been reluctant to do so for fear of blowback from the cars-first commuters that use the one-way streets as traffic sewers to and from the freeways.

When there is discussion of one-way streets on the Internet, someone always puts up an example of a one-lane one-way street, either accidentally or purposively not understanding that it is multiple-lane one-way streets that are being talked about. But there are examples of one-way streets that work, if they are one-lane.

I was in San Luis Obispo (SLO) this last weekend for contra dancing, and had a chance to look again at many of the traffic calming features of that town. SLO has several one-lane one-way streets. Below is Pismo Street, which has a general purpose lane, a bike lane, and parking lanes on each side. The width is probably 28 feet, though I did not have a tape measure with me. I watched this street, a residential street, off and on over a period of three days. I did not ever seen anyone speeding on this street. When crossing the street walking, I had to only look in one direction, not two, and not multiple lanes. Judging from the pavement paint, and my memory of the last 10 years or so, I think this configuration has been in place for some while.

Pismo St, San Luis Obispo; one-lane one-way

This street configuration does not exist in the Sacramento region, so far as I know. The street width of 28 feet is also somewhat unusual. Most streets range upward from 32 feet.

SLO has also recently implemented a traffic calming one-lane one-way on Garden Street. This is a much fancier installation, involving decorative pavement, curb extensions, wider sidewalks, and other features. The drainage channel with different pavement does clearly separate travel from parking, and the handicapped spot is extra wide for loading and unloading from either side. I did not observe this street over a long period of time, but I did not see any speeding. Though the street does not have a posted speed limit, other than the general 25 mph, most vehicles were going well below that. I also saw people comfortably crossing the street mid-block, and drivers yielding to them. This is clearly a street that says ‘slow down’ and ‘stop to enjoy the restaurants and other businesses’, as it should, given the location in the walkable, destination-rich downtown area.

Garden St, San Luis Obispo; one-lane one-way

San Luis Obispo is not a walking paradise. There are multiple-lane one-way streets in the same area, where speeding does occur (note the one-way Marsh Street in the photo above, where speeding certainly does occur on a two-lane one-way street). Once out of the central city and old neighborhoods, it looks just like any place else in California, with wide residential streets and super-wide arterial roads. But it is a good model for the traffic calming that it has done well.

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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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walkability

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