Central City Mobility: 5th St & Hwy 50

For other posts on the City of Sacramento Central City Mobility Projects, see category: Central City Mobility Project.

I had earlier expressed concern and lack of information about where the 5th Street one-way to two-way conversion will be handled where 5th Street passes under Hwy 50. (Yes, I know, that this is technically not Hwy 50, but everyone thinks it is, so…)

The following diagram was provided the the city and design firm (pdf). The configuration looks workable, and it probably not any less safe than the current mess. The merging of the two on-ramps into one narrower entrance will probably help to slow traffic entering the freeway, making 5th Street a bit safer. Same with the narrowing of the off-ramp. The curb line will need to be moved in a few locations to accommodate the entire street width with bike lanes, but the curbs here are already quite deteriorated, so that work would be needed in any case. It is not clear from the diagram whether the missing sidewalks in the block between Broadway and X Street will be corrected.

Central City Mobility update

Note: Info on 9th Street and 10th Street added below.

For other posts on the City of Sacramento Central City Mobility Projects, see category: Central City Mobility Project. I’m not sure how interested readers are in my minor updates, but I think it is fascinating to see how the city is repurposing street right-of-way, solving problems (or not), and what is being prioritized in the overall project. I’ve not seen any signs of construction on P and Q streets, other than the ADA ramp work that has been going on for several weeks.

Turn Wedge

The project page has a diagram that I had not exactly seen anywhere before, the corner wedge, below.

Central City Mobility Project diagram turn wedge
Central City Mobility Project diagram turn wedge

I saw a location marked for a turn wedge yesterday, at 21st St and O Street, southwest corner, below. This is a little bit like a corner of a protected intersection.

Central City Mobility Project marking for turn wedge at 21st Street and O Street

5th Street Two-Way Conversion

I looked at the length of 5th Street, from Broadway to I Street. I still have no insight into what will be done under Hwy 50 where there is a one-way block that is closely tied to the freeway onramps. I have requested clarification from the city but they have not answered yet. I’ll update when I hear.

Signal bases have been installed for new signals from W Street to N Street, but not north of there. Active work was going on at N Street. At R Street, it looks like the existing pedestrian flashing light will be duplicated for the other direction. This is not a full signal, nor a user-activated signal, but always on.

Between Broadway and X Street, 5th Street is two-way, four lanes, with sharrows marked (and very faded) in the outside lane. Sharrows are no longer considered valid bikeway markings, so presumably there will be marked bike lanes here. There are three very-wide blocks for 5th Street, from N Street to L Street, and from J Street to I Street. From N to L, there are two through lanes and one or two left-turn lanes, plus parking and bike lanes. From J to I, there are two through lanes and two left-turn lanes, plus parking left and right and a bike lane on the right.

On the west side of the intersection of 5th Street and I Street, there is a crossing prohibition. I hope that the city removes this prohibition as part of the project. In most cases, freeways onramps and off-ramps being an exception, crossing prohibitions are an attempt by the transportation agency to prioritize motor vehicle volume and speed over all other considerations. They are morally wrong, and should be legally wrong.

5th Street north of N Street, very wide street

I Street Separated Bikeway (and lane reduction)

Some work has started on the I Street separated bikeway, which will run from 21st Street to 12th Street (see the importance of I Street for why it should continue west). Most corner ramps were already ADA compliant, but the few that were not have either been upgraded or are in progress. Fabric covers have been set up over drain inlets, and temporary no parking signs line the street, so I assume repaving will occur soon. I don’t see any indication of whether the separated bikeway will be on the right side or left side of the street. I Street does not have SacRT fixed route bus service, which engenders left side bikeways, though there is some commuter bus service on the street.

The project map indicates that I Street will be “lane reduction and separated bikeway”, not parking protected separated bikeway, so this will be a different configuration than 19th Street and 21st Street.

I will be interested to see if the city will address the lack of sidewalk on the south side of I Street between 16th and 15th, where the city installed a loading dock for Memorial Auditorium in place of the former sidewalk. I strongly believe that removal of sidewalks, as was done here, are criminal (Sac permanently closes sidewalk).

19th Street Repaving

It looks at though 19th Street is not going to be completely repaved in the way 21st Street was, rather, it is getting spot repaving. I don’t know whether there will be an overlay so that the new marking are on a fresh blank canvas.

9th & 10th Street Parking Protected Separated Bikeway

The 10th street parking protected separated bikeway will be extended from Broadway to Q Street. The block of Q Street to P Street has a buffered bike lane, outboard of parking in the south half, and without parking in the north half, and since that block has recently been changed, it will likely stay that way. There is a buffered bike lane from Q Street to L Street, and then a parking protected separated bikeway of variable quality from L Street to I Street. There is no bus service on 10th Street, so the right side configuration will probably be maintained throughout.

10th Street is relatively wide under Hwy 50, so no special treatment here will be needed.

On 10th Street there are ADA ramp upgrades at several locations, and several more haven’t started yet. The street has a lower rate of ADA compliance than many central city streets. There is no indication of roadwork yet.

The 9th Street parking protected separated bikeway is being extended south from L Street to Q Street. There is no indication of any sort of work here yet. Most corners already have compliant ADA ramps. There is construction on the east side of 9th (right side southbound) between L Street and Capitol Mall, and on the west side (right side southbound) between N Street and O Street, and between P Street and Q Street. All of these construction projects will probably be going on for quite some time, and this may be the last street to be modified. SacRT Bus Route 51 runs on 9th Street south of Q Street to Broadway, which is outside this project scope, but presumably argues for keeping the left side bikeway configuration throughout.

Central City Mobility: 19th & O curb extensions

More information on the curb extensions (bulb outs) being installed on the northeast and southeast corners of the intersection of 19th Street and O Street, as part of the Central City Mobility Project. I questioned this location for curb extensions because 19th Street with have a parking protected separated bikeways on the left side (southbound) of 19th Street. (Central City Mobility update)

I received a response from the engineering firm for the project:

This is in response to your inquiry as to compatibility of the subject intersection revisions and parking protected bike lane. The design does account for the bulb outs at the intersection. Unfortunately, due to the space restrictions resulting from the bulb outs, it won’t be possible to provide parking protected all the way around the bulb outs. However, we are providing a transition of the bike lane at the intersection. Please take a look at the following striping design for the intersection. North is to the right with 19th Street running left to right. Hopefully this will give you a better feel for the plan:

Any reader of this blog will know that I love curb extensions. What confuses me is why this location would have been selected by the city over many other potential locations. Perhaps some of the reason it that the crossing at O Street has a moderately high walker count, but does not otherwise have a traffic signal or pedestrian signaling such as a RRFB. It is possible that the city thought these four corner curb extensions to be the most practical way of increasing safety for walkers and bicyclists crossing at this point.

The design of bringing the separated bikeway out adjacent to the general purpose travel lane, as a bike lane, is not ideal but not particularly unsafe. In fact some bicyclists prefer this design, because it increases the visibility of bicyclists by motor vehicle drivers, so that they are not ‘hidden’ behind parked cars. Though daylighting of the intersection approach can accomplish the same objective.

I would like to see green skip paint continuing through the intersection in the bike lane. These are often painted as discontinuous green rectangles with sharrows stenciled on top, called green-backed sharrows. The sharrows are out of favor with most bicyclists and some traffic engineers, I think this is a valid use of them. The main purpose of green paint (it has no legal meaning) is to increase driver awareness of bicycle facilities by highlighting conflict points, and this is definitely a conflict point.

A number of related posts are in the category: Central City Mobility Project.

Central City Mobility: 5th St conversion

One of the elements of the Central City Mobility Project is the conversion of 5th Street from a one-way, two-lane street, to a two-way, one-lane each direction street. Some work is underway: wiring and signal bases have been installed for the signals necessary for two way traffic at the existing signal locations. Looking at the bases, photo below, I’m guessing that there will be new signal poles and mast arms, not re-use of the existing signals equipment. That seems like a waste of money to me, but the city loves to spend money on new signals, and signal controllers.

I am not sure that many of the current signal locations are even needed. After the conversion, 5th Street will be a lower speed and probably lower volume street. Four-way stops at some major cross streets (such as T Street) might work just fine. Again, the city loves to spend money on signals, and already has unneeded signals at a number of locations (too many traffic signals?).

5th St and T St new signal base
5th St and T St new signal base

The Central City Mobility Project map shows the 5th Street conversion as extending from Broadway to I Street. The block between Broadway and X Street is already two-way, as are the two blocks between L Street and J Street (the DOCO underpass). It is also two-way north of I Street.

I wonder what, if anything, will be done for the block between X Street and W Street, under the Hwy 50 freeway. This is a very complex block, with a freeway onramp west of 5th Street and a freeway offramp west of 5th Street. The onramp and off-ramp have separate signal phases from X Street and W Street. Traffic westbound onto the ramp, if it makes the green light, is already traveling at freeway speeds, about 65 mph as it crosses 5th Street. Similarly, but not as egregious, the off-ramp traffic, if it makes the green light, is traveling a bit below freeway speeds. I am really not sure how this complex situation can be made safe for bicyclists. Northbound bicyclists only have to deal with drivers running the red light at 5th Street from W Street, but southbound bicyclists would have to deal with multiple turning vehicle movements. In general, the only way to make complex situations like this safe is to have exclusive bicycle phases in which only bicyclists and walkers are moving, no vehicle movement or turns are permitted. But the city is very unlikely to select that safe alternative because it would lengthen the signal cycles and therefore slow motor vehicle traffic to some degree. The city doesn’t want to slow motor vehicle traffic.

The diagram below, from Google Maps, indicates the complexity of this block, but the reality on the ground is even worse.

Google Maps of 5th St and Hwy 50 intersection
Google Maps of 5th St and Hwy 50 intersection

the importance of I Street

I have written before about the two one-block sections of I Street where the bike lane is replaced by sparrows. I won’t repeat here, but please read why are bike lane gaps so important?, Sacramento’s worst possible place for sharrows, Sac kill those sharrows on I St.

So the neglect of the Central City Mobility Project for fixing these two blocks of I Street is disturbing. Of the people riding on I Street anywhere west of 16 Street, probably 50% are going to Sacramento Valley Station. But if you spend time on I Street looking for bicyclists, you won’t see many. The average bicyclist won’t ride on I Street. They are uncomfortable with the volume and speed of motor vehicle traffic, but more importantly, they are scared to death of these two one-block sections with only sharrows. So they drive to, or have someone drop them off at, the station. Sacramento Valley Station is the most important transit hub in the city, in the county, and in Northern California outside of the Bay Area, yet the city has neglected access to the station.

The TIRCP grant for improvements at Sacramento Valley Station may improve access from the station on H Street, but again, that is not a near term project, and it is not clear how effective it will be. Probably 80% of the riders on H Street are coming from the station. (Sac kill those sharrows on H St, H St bicycle fixes)

My observation of bicyclist numbers and destinations is based on observation and talking to some riders. It would be nice if the data were available, but I don’t have it, and apparently the city doesn’t have it, or at least has never shared it publicly. I know that the city purchased cell phone data several years ago that would have allowed them to see bicyclist patterns, but so far as I know, they only used it for motor vehicle drivers patterns.

I St shadows between 10th St and 9th St, Sacramento
I St shadows between 10th St and 9th St, Sacramento

SacCity ADA ramps and Central City Mobility

I now know why all the of initial ADA ramp projects were on 21st Street. That is the first street being repaved as part of the Central City Mobility Project. 21st has been identified in the project for separated bikeways. Since there is a bus route on 21st (SacRT Route 62), I assume that the bus stops will be on the right hand side northbound, and the bikeway on the left hand side. The design shown on the project webpage shows a parking-protected separated bikeway on the left, along with a buffer zone (to protect against car doors opening). This seems to be the standard that the city has adopted, and side so far the city is placing separated bikeways only on roadways that also have bus service, presumably this design will be used in every case.

Another diagram indicates that there will be vertical delineators (K-71) in the buffers, but there are no details about the frequency. There’s are the delineators that are run over and destroyed by vehicle drivers on a regular basis, and these will suffer the same fate. The larger diameter delineators (NOT bollards, the city is incorrect in calling vertical plastic a bollard; bollards are made of metal or concrete, not plastic) that are now installed on part of J Street are not specified here. Though these don’t provide any more actual physical protection, they seem to raise doubts among drivers and get run over less often.

diagram of separated bikeway

There were several curb islands along 21st Street on the left hand side. All but one have been removed. The remaining one at 21st Street and Capitol Ave may just be an oversight, but if not, it is in the middle of what is expected to be the separated bikeway.

21st St at Capitol Ave SW corner curb islands

The fourteen blocks of 21st Street from W Street to H Street has been stripped down about two inches, for repaving. The restriping after paving will include the separated bikeway.

The project webpage has a diagram for the transition of a separated bikeway on the left side of 19th Street southbound to the right side of 19th Street south of W Street, which is a two-way street. However, it does not have a diagram for the transition of this 21st Street separated bikeway at the north end, where 21st Street becomes a two-way street at I Street. This is already a hazardous intersection due to the double left-turn lane from 21st Street to I Street westbound.

Separated bikeways are only as safe as their intersection treatments, and the transition from and to separated bikeways to regular bike lanes are critically important. I hope that the city has a good design for 21St Street and H Street, otherwise bicyclists will be placed in more danger than existing conditions. The solution is of course bicycle signal faces that allow bicyclists to move when other traffic is held, but the city has been reluctant to use these.

Read More »

AB 825 (Bryan) Safe Passage for People on Bikes

Assembly Bill 825 been introduced to the California legislature by Issac Bryan. The bill would allow bicyclists to use sidewalks where safe street bicyclist facilities have not been provide by the transportation agency. Class 1 separated paths, Class 2 bike lanes and Class 4 separated bikeways are considered safe facilities. Note that Class 3 bike routes, which are only signing and sometimes sharrows, are not considered safe under this bill. It would limit speed on sidewalks to 10 mph and require that bicyclists yield to walkers. The bill passed Assembly Committee on Transportation last week and will go to Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

Take at look at the CalBike Support AB 825 for Safe Passage for People on Bikes page for more information, including a link to email your assembly member.

I posted two day ago about bicycling on sidewalk codes in Sacramento county. The county and all the cities prohibit biking on sidewalks unless they are recognized in the bicycle plan as being bike facilities. There are very, very few such designations. The City of Sacramento takes the reverse approach, that it is legal except where signed against, and there are currently no locations signed against.

Again, I’ll say that I don’t like bicycling on sidewalks, and I don’t do it, but I completely understand why others do. The are making the best decision they can to keep themselves safe from traffic violence. This bill recognizes that reality.

bicycling on sidewalks

The release yesterday of the report Arrested Mobility: Barriers to Walking, Biking, and E-Scooter Use in Black Communities in the United States demonstrating that tickets for riding on the sidewalk are one of the ways in which laws and law enforcement discriminate against black bicyclists, and Latinx bicyclists as well.

Let me say that I am not in favor of bicyclists on sidewalks, but the conflict between bicyclists and walkers is often exaggerated, and bicyclists are making the best decision they perceive to keep themselves safe from traffic violence. I don’t do it, but I understand why other people do.

So what is the situation in the Sacramento region?

City of Sacramento code 10.76.010 Riding bicycles on sidewalks prohibits bicycling on sidewalks only where signed and where in-street facilities are provided. The code says:

  •  A. No person shall ride a bicycle on a sidewalk where a sign is posted indicating that bicycling is prohibited. The city manager shall designate sidewalks where such signs are posted upon a finding that:
    • 1. The sidewalk abuts a road that is designated a “Low Stress Bikeway” using the criteria for the Facility Selection Guidelines in the City of Sacramento Bicycle Master Plan; and
    • 2. There is either a demonstrated or probable conflict between pedestrians and bicycles. This may be shown by information including, but not limited to: 311 reports, incident data, or estimated high pedestrian activity determined by counts or adjacent land uses and densities.
  • B. Subsection A of this section does not apply to the following persons:
    • 1. City employees acting within the course and scope of employment, including but not limited to:
      • a. Peace officers, as defined in California Penal Code section 830.
      • b. Emergency medical personnel as designated by the fire chief of the city.
      • c. Parking enforcement officers.
    • 2. Children under the age of 18 years old and an accompanying adult.
  • C. Where bicycling on a sidewalk is permitted, the following apply:
    • 1. Bicyclists must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians by slowing down, stopping, or dismounting, as needed.
    • 2. Before passing a pedestrian traveling in the same direction, bicyclists must give the pedestrian an audible warning.
  • D. The city manager or designee shall report to the city council annually regarding the impacts of sections 10.76.010 and 10.76.030. (Ord. 2019-007 § 2; Ord. 2017-0033 § 1; Ord. 2016-0024 § 1; prior code § 25.05.070)

There are some designated bike routes on sidewalks in the City of Sacramento, which were designated before this code came into effect and are still valid. N Street between 8th Street and 15th Street, and the area through the convention center/performance center between 13th Street and 14th Street.

SABA has a summary of sidewalk riding rules, on Sharing the Road page, scroll down to ‘Is it legal to ride on the sidewalk? This page may be out of date.

Note that the County of Sacramento, Elk Grove, and Rancho Cordova code sections are identical, and the Folsom and Galt code sections are identical, examples of mindless copying of code from other locales.

I do not have any information on whether these codes are being enforced in a discriminatory way, but given the almost universal pattern of law enforcement oppression of people of color, I’d not be the least surprised.

On the positive side, AB-825 Vehicles: bicycling on sidewalks (Bryan) has been introduced which would prohibit sidewalk prohibitions except where there are high quality bicycle facilities available on the street,  invalidating all of these code sections except, perhaps, the City of Sacramento. The relevant paragraph is: Notwithstanding paragraph (1), a local authority shall not prohibit the operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk adjacent to a highway or corridor that does not include a Class I, Class II, or Class IV bikeway, as defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highway Code.

I hope readers will support this legislation. The bill passed the Assembly Committee on Transportation on March 20, 2023, and was referred to Assembly Committee on Appropriations, but not yet scheduled. See also Streetsblog CA Traffic Safety Bills Pass First Committee.

If passed, the legislation might well cause cities and counties to accelerate projects to add safe bicycling facilities to streets, in order to reduce sidewalk riding. One can hope.

sidewalk-level bikeways

Given the issues raised by the need for wider bikeways to accommodate wider devices and passing, the topic of my bike lane widths post, I am starting to think more and more about sidewalk-level bikeways, where the bikeway is at the same level as the sidewalk, and not at street level. The street-edge curb provides a good separation between motor vehicles and bicyclists and walkers (not perfect, drivers do ‘accidentally’ or intentional cross curbs). I am concerned that as street-level bikeways become wider, there will be more and more motor vehicle intrusions.

Here are are two diagrams from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) Pedestrian Design Guide (2022), page 28. The first uses a tactile divider between the sidewalk and bikeway, the second a buffer similar to the regular sidewalk buffer, but with reduced width due to the greater separation from motor vehicle traffic as compared to regular sidewalks. Note that the street classification system that PBOT uses is interesting, but probably more than is needed in Sacramento for the Street Design Standards update.

bike lane widths

I just came across the NACTO publication Designing for Small Things With Wheels, released February 2023. I’m still digesting the publication, which is available online for download. Already it has been eye-opening for me, a person who used to keep up with bikeway designs, but hasn’t paid much attention recently.

The working paper’s basic premise is that bikeways must be designed for the modern complement of devices, with widely varying widths, and also that bikeways must be designed so that people can safely and easily pass each other. Bike lanes have gradually evolved from 4 feet to 5 feet to 6 feet, but at least in Sacramento and the region, have not gone beyond that. But the working paper indicates that we need to start with 8 feet, to accommodate cargo bikes which are becoming much more common in the region, and go up from there. A chart from the working paper is below (page 11).

chart for bikeway width, NACTO Designing for Small Things with Wheels
chart for bikeway width, NACTO Designing for Small Things with Wheels

Given that I believe that motor vehicle design speeds over 30 mph require separate bikeways to keep riders of all ages and abilities safe, this means future separated bikeways should be a minimum of 8 feet. However, bikeways this wide encourage motor vehicle drivers to use them for travel, and to park in them, ‘for just a moment’ or longer. My take is that this means we must create bikeways that are at the sidewalk level, or if street level, that are completely protected by hard infrastructure such as curbs. Paint and vertical delineators (soft hit posts) will not do it. So, I need to throw out all the previous designs that I’ve suggested for streets with protected bikeways. I also need to give serious consideration to sidewalk-level bikeways that place a curb between any motor vehicle use and users of small wheels. Where does that leave parking protected bikeways that use parked cars as the buffer, at least when the parked cars are there? I’m not sure. Like I said, this is eye-opening and I’ll need to do a lot more thinking and research.

What I still do think is that bike facilities necessary depend on street design speeds (which are not currently but should be the same as posted speeds)

  • 20 mph or less – no bicycle facilities needed
  • 21 to 30 mph – standard bike lanes (Class 2 in California)
  • above 30 mph – separated bikeways (Class 4 in California)

Yes, this does affect what I was thinking about writing for bicycle facilities in my series on the City of Sacramento update of Street Design Standards.