What City of Sacramento ISN’T doing

The City of Sacramento, that bastion of doing the least amount possible, has failed to notice that progressive cities in the US and worldwide are making changes to their environment to make is safer for people who walk and bicycle, and more efficient and welcoming for people outside of cars.

What the city is NOT doing, that it could:

  • Accept responsibility for maintaining sidewalks, as an integral part of the transportation network. The city continues to shirk its responsibility, spending funds on motor vehicle infrastructure instead of maintaining walker infrastructure.
  • Installing leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs) at every traffic signal in the city. The same eleven have been in place for years; none have been added. The recent legislation, AB 2264, only applies to state highways; it is up to cities and counties to implement on other roadways.
  • Daylighting intersections. This means removing parking from within 15-20 feet of the crosswalk or stop bar, either by painting and enforcing red curbs, or building curb extensions (bulb-outs) at every intersection. Upstream, approaching the intersection, is the big safety feature, downstream, leaving the intersection is much less important. There are interim solutions here, such as painting curb extensions and using soft-hit posts (vertical delineators).
  • Implementing construction zone requirements that accommodate walkers and bicyclists. The current city policy is to provide safe bypasses only if it does not in any way inconvenience drivers. The public has asked that a policy be developed along the lines of the Oakland construction policy, but the city has stonewalled against that.
  • Making transportation improvements that benefit walkers and bicyclists, except with county, state or federal grants. The city simply will not spend any of its general funds on improving transportation safety.
  • Waiting until a roadway is completely repaved to reallocate roadway width to bicycle lanes or separated bikeways, or transit. Compounding this issue is that the city doesn’t share with the public the repaving projects that it intends to do, so the public has no chance to comment beforehand.
  • Lowering speed limits citywide. While it is true that spot reductions have little effect on travel speeds, there are a growing number of cities that have lowered speed limits citywide, with a significant reduction in speed.
  • Enforce traffic laws. The Sacramento Police Department has essentially stopped enforcing laws related to the safety of walkers and bicyclists. This of course is also true in many other places. Police don’t see traffic safety as an issue worthy of concern. Of course so much of law enforcement is used as pretext to oppress, and I’m not in favor of any of that, but if the police won’t even enforce failure to yield to people in the crosswalk, what use are they? We would all be much safer if traffic law enforcement were removed from the police, largely automated, and the money saved diverted to real community needs. Yes, defund the police.
  • Painting marked crosswalks at every intersection. Yes, I know that unmarked crosswalks are legal crossings, but most drivers either don’t know or don’t care, so marking crosswalks is critical.
  • Remove beg buttons. These buttons, which sometimes a walker must press to get a walk sign, and sometimes don’t need to press (this is called auto-recall) are a direct attempt to discriminate against people walking. The city, after much pressure from the public at the beginning of the pandemic, set five crossings to auto-recall, out of the thousands. Of course they didn’t change the signing, so people walking don’t know this. The city it being intentionally obstinate in its defense of this outmoded requirement.
  • Remove pedestrian prohibition signs unless that is a demonstrable safety reason for the prohibition. There are numerous signs all over the city that were placed solely to preference motor vehicle drivers over people walking. The default should be that every one is removed unless the city wishes to do a traffic study to justify them.
  • Install traffic diverters (mode filters) all over the city. These diverters, which allow bicyclists free travel but turn motor vehicle drivers aside, are the single most effective safety measure that city could implement. But the city has decided to take these off the menu of solutions, for no reason that it has ever been made public. The few that exist are in the central city, almost none in other neighborhoods. Another example of privileging the already privileged over lower income neighborhoods.
  • Charge for parking, eveCavrywhere. Residential neighborhoods, where there is usually open parking space, would be charged through permits for the cost of maintaining that portion of the street. Any place where parking is in short supply, market rates for parking should be charged. Giving away free parking is subsidizing drivers and throwing your tax money in the trash.

I could go on with this list for pages. In fact, I have: walking policies for SacCity, and many related posts. But the city is still not taking meaningful action on any of these items, so I will keep reposting. For as long as it takes. And it will probably take quite some while before the city gets over its culture of doing the least amount possible.

Caveat: The city has disinvested in lower income and high minority neighborhoods, probably for its entire history. The first steps should be taken in these neighborhoods, with input from the residents, of course, and not in higher income and non-minority neighborhoods which have always gotten more than their share.

why are bike lane gaps so important?

My last three posts have been about locations where sharrows replace bike lanes for one-block sections in the Sacramento central city: Sacramento’s worst possible place for sharrows; Sac kill those sharrows on I St; Sac kill those sharrows on H St. There may well be other such locations that did not come to mind. If so, please let me know so I can document and post on them. I’m not asking about locations that should have bike lanes, or where bike lanes should be upgraded to separated (protected) bikeways. There are simply too many of those locations for me to deal with.

So, why are bike lane gaps so important? Bike lanes are basically a promise to bicyclists that the city is providing a safe place to ride your bike. Yes, I know traditional bike lanes have serious safety issues (they are called door zone bike lanes, or DZBLs), but for the average rider, they are safer than no bike lane. But this promise is broken when there is a gap. For these gap sections, bicyclists who felt comfortable riding in a bike lane are suddenly left to deal with motor vehicle traffic in a location where neither the bicyclist nor drivers are sure how to behave. What does the average bicyclist then do? Decide never to ride on that street again. And if they have a scary experience, they may even decide not to ride again at all.

I’m a bicyclist with strong vehicular bicycling skills. I know where the safest place to ride is on every street, and I ride there no matter what motor vehicle drivers or law enforcement happens to think about it. But I am far, far from a typical Sacramento bicyclist. I am ‘strong and fearless’, though as I get older, I’m tending towards ‘enthused and confident’. The four types of bicyclists, or levels of comfort, developed in Portland but applicable to Sacramento, are shown in the graphic:

four types of bicyclists and levels of comfort diagram

The city should be designing bicycle facilities that work for all three categories of people who will bicycle. When there is a gap in a bike lane, the city has designed bicycle facilities that serve the ‘strong and fearless’, only 7% of potential bike riders. This is discriminatory. It is wrong. I suspect that with the resurgence of bicycling and the availability of e-bikes, the ‘no way, no how’ category has shrunk a bit.

The city must close bike lane gaps. Not off in the future when the street is repaved, or when a grant is obtained, but NOW. To do otherwise is to intentionally discourage bicycling and to risk people’s lives.

Sacramento’s worst possible place for sharrows

The third place where sharrows need to be eliminated in the central city Sacramento is I Street at the county jail. In the phot below, the right hand lane is a parking lane most of the time, except for commute rush hour, 4:00-6:00PM on weekdays (note the time sign in the ‘bikes may use full lane’ photo following), when it is a general purpose lane. When it is a parking lane, there are sharrows nearly covered up by parking, as you can see in the second photo. This is not a bike lane in any sense of the word, but drivers assume that it is and close pass anyone using that area to ride in. When it is a general purpose lane, there is high speed traffic approaching the Interstate 5 onramps, absolutely not an appropriate location for sharrows. The current trend in use of sharrows is 1) don’t use them at all; 2) if they are used, they should absolutely never be used over 35 mph, and rarely used over 25 mph. Though the posted speed limit of I Street is 25 mph (though it isn’t really posted anywhere), regular traffic speeds are over 35 mph, and during commute hours is over 45 mph except when congestion prevents that. So this is not any appropriate location for sharrows.

Of all the places where bicyclists are at risk of getting doored, this is the place. Everyone parking here has a family member or friend who is in jail. They are upset, they are depressed, they are often angry, they are not thinking about bicyclists and looking before they open their door. There is also a lot of turn-over here, so a lot of door opening. When I ride this area, I ride in the exact middle of the next lane over, taking the lane. But that is something that the average bicyclist will not do. So the sharrows leave them vulnerable to both close passing and dooring.

The city has placed a ‘bikes may use full lane’ sign (MUTCD R4-11), but is is up high against the background of a tree, where it would not likely be noticed by drivers or bicyclists. Of course bicyclists may use the full lane, with or without the sign, but again, most bicyclists will not do that. If signing is to have any meaning at all, the sign must be much bigger than it is, closer to 7th Street, and the message should also be marked on the pavement.

I Street west of 7th Street, part-time lane with sharrows
I St west of 7th St, part-time parking and general purpose lane with sharrows, Sacramento
I St west of 7th St, sharrows and parking in a part-time general purpose lane, Sacramento
I St west of 7th St, bikes may use full lane sign

I am not sure what the best solution is here. It is not to get rid of the parking; this is one location where on-street parking is justified. The right hand lane should be a parking only lane, however. There is no justification of traffic volume requiring another general purpose lane during commute times. That just encourages more driving and higher speeds, as drivers race each other for the on-ramps.

This is also a location where bicyclists separate into two destinations. Riders heading towards Sacramento Valley Station stay on the right so they can turn on 5th Street toward the station. Riders heading to Old Sacramento must move to the left hand side to avoid the high speed on-ramps. The left side bike lane, however, doesn’t even start until just before 5th Street, leaving no refuge for bicyclists trying to merge across traffic to the left side between 7th Street and 5th Street. I think there needs to be an intentional location for bicyclist to shift, at 7th Street or 6th Street or 5th Street. There would be a green bicycle box for waiting, and a signal with exclusive bicycle phase for bicyclists to safety transition from the right side to the left side. A bike lane would be present from that crossing point on I Street, without gaps.

Of course I Street needs to be reallocated so that it serves all users, and is not just a traffic sewer for drivers going to the freeway. It should be no more than two lanes at any location. Fewer lanes would slow traffic, as the prudent driver sets the speed rather than the egregious speeder. There should be a separated (protected) bikeway on either the left or right side, with a safe transition from one side to the other at some point.

Caveat: I post about issues in the central city because I live here, and see the problems every time I am out walking or bicycling. However, I strongly believe that the city should be focused on solving issues in lower income, disinvested neighborhoods, of which there are ample throughout the city. The central city has received more than its share of bike facilities.

Sac kill those sharrows on I St

Next sharrows location to address is I Street between 10th Street and 9th Street. The bike lane present to the east disappears in this block, with Cesar Chavez Plaza on the south and Old City Hall on the north, before picking up again west of 9th Street. Not having my tape measure out (and I’d have to measure late night when there is no traffic), it isn’t clear why this one block does not have a bike lane. It may be that the curb extension is too wide, or it may be that the general purpose (car) lanes are not configured correctly. If lanes, then it is an easy problem to fix, just re-stripe the lanes and add a bike lane. If the curb extension, then that would require a bit of infrastructure work. I fully support curb extensions, nearly all intersections should have them, but in some places the city has installed them incorrectly and caused issues for bicycle facilities. This is not, as many places are, a case for removing parking, but for designing the street correctly. Of course ultimately there should be no three-lane one-way traffic sewers in the city, and right of way should be reallocated to a separated (protected) bikeway and wider sidewalks.

I St westbound at 10th St, sharrows, Sacramento
I St westbound at 10th St, Sacramento

Caveat: I post about issues in the central city because I live here, and see the problems every time I am out walking or bicycling. However, I strongly believe that the city should be focused on solving issues in lower income, disinvested neighborhoods, of which there are ample throughout the city. The central city has received more than its share of bike facilities.

Sac kill those sharrows on H St

The block of H Street between 7th Street and 8th Street in downtown Sacramento has shadows instead of a bike lane. There is a bike lane in the preceding block, and in the block past, but not this block. Why? Because on-street parking has been preserved on this block in preference to bicycle facilities. The right lane lane is marked with a sharrow. Not a properly placed sharrow, but one in the door zone of the parking lane. When shadows are used, they should be placed in the center of the travel lane. But rare is the situation in which they should be used at all. Research indicates that sharrows are less safe than no markings are all, less safe than marked bike lanes.

So why is this parking here at all? No reason whatsoever. On the north side of this block is a County of Sacramento parking garage. There is even a pedestrian bridge between the parking garage and the Sacramento County administrative building on the south side of H Street, as seen in the photo.

I am certain that all of these cars belong to county employees or contractors. They should be parking in the garage, and this parking should be removed so that at least a marked bike lane can be placed in this block. Of course H Street should have a separated bikeway from 6th Street, Sacramento Valley Station, to 16th Street, where it becomes two-way. But a Continous painted bike lane is at least a first step.

There are a number of locations in the central city where bike lanes are dropped for a block in favor of parking and travel lanes. Every single one of these should be fixed either by the removal of parking or a general purpose lane.

Caveat: I post about issues in the central city because I live here, and see the problems every time I am out walking or bicycling. However, I strongly believe that the city should be focused on solving issues in lower income, disinvested neighborhoods, of which there are ample throughout the city. The central city has received more than its share of bike facilities.

Sacramento bike share update

There are a number of new white and green Lime bikes on the street in Sacramento. There are not the easy-to-steal white and green ones of a few months ago, some of which were promptly stolen and the others quickly pulled from service. Though they still seem to be called Gen 4 bikes, they now have a cable lock very similar to those used on scooters. I have seen more of these bikes downtown/midtown than elsewhere. See photo.

Lime bike cable lock

There continue to be red JUMP/Lime bikes on the street. I had the impression that there were fewer of these bikes than there used to be, but it may be that they are just being distributed differently. I’ve seen racks (the old SoBi/JUMP racks) full of these bikes, which had not had more than one or two bikes since the return of bike share. Lime does not make its GBFS (General Bikeshare Feed Specification) available to the public, nor does it have a map of bike share other than in the app, so it is difficult to say whether the bikes are being appropriately distributed/balanced.

While looking to see if there was a web map, I ran across an interesting ArcGIS Story Map from the City of Sacramento, Shared-Rideables in Sacramento. It was created in January 2022, and has not been updated, but is quite interesting.

Lime still seems to be failing to track and pick up dead bikes. By dead, I mean that the battery has run down to the point that it no longer powers the GPS unit, so Lime loses track of where these bike are. Several months ago there were a number of these bikes, reported to both Lime and the city, but not picked up after three weeks. Lime promised to me and to the city to do better. However, recently there were two bikes parked on the pathway from Sacramento Valley Station to the platforms for more than five days. Bike parked anywhere other than in very visible location on the street network do not get picked up for significant periods of time.

I used a Lime bike (white and green) Saturday without incident, returning from a trip. But on my outbound trip, using Lime/JUMP bikes, when I was on a tight schedule, I had no luck finding a bike that worked properly. The first one was stuck in first gear. The second had no pedal assist. The third had a jammed seat post that could not be adjusted. I managed to make the train on time, but barely. The bikes are simply not being maintained as they should be. I have noticed that if I report a problem, though the app, the bike is still there days later, and still rentable by another victim.

When reporting a bike problem, the app provides a limited number of issues (below), and no longer provides a text field for entering detail. The diagram says pedals, but there is no indication here or anywhere whether than means a problem with the pedals or cranks, or means problem with the pedal assist.

Lime app, problem report screen

One feature that was added to the app a few months ago that I really like is that the user can select scooters only, or bikes only, or both, for map display.

The app seems to show whether the bike in question is one of the new white and green ones or the older red Lime/JUMP bikes with the fabric covered locking cable. I’ve said before and will say again that it was a mistake for JUMP to drop the U-bar lock mechanism used on the SoBi and early JUMP bikes. So far as I know, a properly locked bike with U- bar was never was stolen.

Sacramento and sidewalks

The draft City of Sacramento Climate Action Plan (CAAP) section MEASURE TR-1: Improve Active Transportation Infrastructure to Achieve 6% Active Transportation Mode Share by 2030 and 12% by 2045, includes the performance indicator “Deploy 20,000 feet of new/repaired pedestrian infrastructure by 2030”. The final CAAP will become part of the city’s 2040 General Plan.

This is less than four miles of sidewalk repair. The city has approximately 2300 miles of sidewalk. At this rate, 8 years to repair 4 miles of sidewalk, it would take 4600 years to address the sidewalks in the city. What does the city intend instead? That private property owners repair sidewalks, even though the sidewalks and the land they sit on belong to the city (in most cases, though some wider sidewalks in the central city are a mix of city and private). From the city’s Sidewalks, Curbs & Gutters page:

Q: Isn’t it the City’s responsibility to maintain the sidewalk? Isn’t it public property?

A: The sidewalk is in the City’s right-of-way. However, California Streets and Highways Code sections 5610 through 5618 allow cities throughout California to require property owners to maintain the sidewalks in front of their property. Sacramento City Code section 12.32 sets forth the City’s procedures under these sections.  Sacramento is not the only city to require sidewalk repairs to be the property owner’s responsibility. However, curb and gutter maintenance is the City’s responsibility. As the property owner may bear civil liability for a person suffering personal injury or property damage caused by a defective sidewalk: it is in the property owners best interest to maintain the sidewalk and reduce the risk of a lawsuit.

Note the word ‘allows’. Nothing requires that the city shift the burden of sidewalk maintenance to private property owners. The city has simply decided to do so, so that it may shift responsibility of a critical part of the transportation infrastructure off the city and onto adjacent property owners (so that it may spend more on roadway capacity expansion, in case you were wondering). Though it would make sense to require property owners to repair sidewalk damage from root heaving due to trees on private property, it is ridiculous (and criminal, in my opinion) for the city to demand that private property owners repair sidewalks when the trees are in the city-owned sidewalk buffer area. This is the sort of action one would expect in a dictatorship, forcing citizens to take on individual responsibility for city actions.

See previous posts: Walkable Sacramento #4: sidewalks and whose responsibility are sidewalks?.

public restrooms are a transportation issue

Car drivers can zip between places with restrooms. Bicyclists, to a lesser degree. Transit users and walkers, not at all. This is a transportation issue. If people cannot find restrooms, they can’t make their way through the city. They can’t afford to wait at a transit stop for a transfer. People with urinary issues (count me among them) have to plan carefully around not just their movement, but around restroom access. A city without public restrooms is a city that biases transportation against walkers and transit users, and in favor of vehicle drivers. Access is denied to an entire class of citizens.

In Sacramento, public restrooms are scarce. Cesar Chavez Plaza downtown has a Portland Loo type restroom, but it took years to get it done. So far as I know, there are no plans for additional locations.

Cesar Chavez Plaza restroom Portland Loo model

Roosevelt Park downtown has a new restroom, replacing the old one. There are two single-use, all-gender units, which is the current trend and probably much better than the older multi-user, gendered restrooms.

Roosevelt Park new restroom

The restroom in Fremont Park, right across the street as I type, has been closed for years, and despite the sign, is never open during events. Porta-potties are used for events at this park.

Fremont Park restroom closed

I have not traveled to all the city parks to see which restrooms are open, which are open but with limited hours, and which are closed, but my impression is that about half the park restrooms in the city are closed. The city has a GIS map of park restrooms, but no indication of whether the restrooms are actually open or not: https://data.cityofsacramento.org/datasets/b9e7fa6d1d104833b3f04268d7f682dc_0/explore. Park restrooms are valuable for walkers, but very few are located on transit routes.

There are no public restrooms at transit hubs. No restrooms where people are waiting for the next train or next bus. The next bus, at transfer points for low frequency routes, can be quite a long wait, up to 45 minutes assuming the buses are on schedule. Even at Sacramento Valley Station, where a number of modes converge, you can only use the restroom by showing an Amtrak train ticket. Using light rail or bus, or just walking or bicycling, you are out of luck. (Note: Many people assume that Amtrak or Capitol Corridor owns the train station, but it is owned and managed by the city.)

Some light rail stations and a few bus stops have restrooms for the transit operators, but not for the public.

The city should:

  • re-open or replace all park restrooms, within two years
  • install public restrooms at every city park which does not currently have them; this would include Muir Children’s Park, Grant Park, Winn Park, and several others
  • install a public restroom at the bus layover point on L St & 14th St
  • install a public restroom at the 16th St light rail station (where the Gold Line and Blue Line diverge, and the most used transfer point)
  • install a public restroom at 7th St & Capitol Ave light rail station (where the Blue Line, Gold Line and Green Line diverge; the 8th St & Capitol Ave stop is a block away)
  • identify locations throughout the city where walkers and transit users congregate, and install public restrooms there

You might wonder why I’m asking the city to install transit restrooms rather than SacRT. The reason is that I see it as the responsibility of the city to provide restrooms everywhere they are needed, not of the transit agency, though of course the projects could be joint projects.

keep Sacramento N St narrowed

Note: As is not unusual, I had forgotten that I’d written about N St before: N Street bike route to cycle track, 2015. Seven years have passed, the city has taken no action.

The construction for the Capitol annex project has narrowed N St to two lanes eastbound, from 10th St to 14th St, and parking has been removed from the south side to shift the lanes over. Now is the time for the City of Sacramento to implement its long-delayed (if not deep-sixed) plans for re-allocating space on N St. There have been ongoing utility projects over the last few years that have narrowed N St to two or even just one lane. At no time did that create significant congestion, during the pandemic or before the pandemic. I live two blocks from N St, and both travel along it and cross it frequently. I’ve never seen more than momentary congestion, in 11 years. What that means is that N St, in its three-lane configuration, has grossly excess capacity for motor vehicles.

While the street has been narrowed is the time to redesign the street so that it has no more than two general purpose lanes, and has a curb-protected or parking-protected bikeway. Probably on the left. This is in fact the perfect setting for a separated bikeway, five blocks from 10th St to 15th St with no intersecting streets from the north side, which is Capitol Park.

It is true that the sidewalk on the north side of N St is a designated bikeway, so bicyclists may use the sidewalk to avoid riding in the street. But bicyclists on the sidewalk are often in conflict with people walking on the sidewalk. The sidewalk has pretty continuous use by walkers, particularly during the lunch time – walk time for state workers, but a lot of people also include a circuit of the Capitol Park on their runs and walks. This conflict is easy to solve: create a safe, welcoming, protected (separated) bikeway on the street. And do it now!

On N St eastbound, the leftmost lane is a designated left turn lane at 10th St, which is what makes possible the two-lane configuration beyond 10th St. As a temporary measure, this works well, and forcing turns off three lane streets is a good solution for so many overbuilt arterials roads in Sacramento, but here it is only temporary, and would be obviated by the conversion of all of N St from 3rd St to 15th St. N St becomes a two-lane street at 15th St, and then becomes a two-way street at 21st St. N St from 15th St to 21 St would probably be a good candidate for a separated bikeway as well, but with paint bike lanes existing, would be a lower priority.

Below is a StreetMix sketch of what N St might look like. Note that the width of the street and the elements are estimated, not measured. I don’t believe parking is needed on both sides, but the diagram shows it for people who think it is necessary. Left side is north, Capitol Park in this case, and right side is south, mostly state buildings.

N St Sacramento between 3rd St and 15th St

As a reminder, I feel strongly, and it is backed up by evidence:

  1. Three-lane streets are significantly less safe than two-lane streets, primarily for the muli-lane threat (one vehicle stops for walkers and the others do not). They are also a clear sign of poor land use planning, which puts residents and the things they need to reach (jobs, stores, recreation and entertainment, medical, etc.) far away. Narrowing all such roadways in the city from three to two, or less, would increase safety, increase livability, and encourage people to make different choices about where they live and visit. Maps of collisions (vehicle vs. vehicle, vehicle vs. walker, vehicle vs. bicyclist) align almost perfectly with overbuilt arterials.
  2. One-way streets are significantly less safe than two-way streets, for the same multi-lane threat, and because there isn’t any friction to slow drivers. However, I think that the only valid argument for one-way streets is to accommodate separated bikeways, bus lanes, or rail transit. That may be true of N St.

And, sorry, can’t resist, get rid of the worthless palm trees while they are at it. We need shade trees, not poles.

Lime fails on bike share

Below is a photo of a Lime/JUMP bike that has been abandoned for three weeks now, parked on my street, P Street, between 13th St and 12th St. It has been reported to the city, twice, and to Lime, three times. And it is still there. Of course the battery has depleted so that GPS no longer works. But Lime knows the last reported location of the bike, before it died.

Let me be clear and blunt. Lime does not give a shit.

This kind of neglect will continue until: 1) the city (and SACOG) holds Lime accountable for managing the bike share fleet, 2) the city or the region gets a real bike share operator, or 3) the city or the region changes to a publicly owned system. The third option is probably the best, because then the city and/or region can manage the bike share system as part of the transportation network, and SacRT can take on some responsibility for the bike share system as a first mile/last mile solution with transit.