how do we get more red light cameras?

I live close to Fremont Park in Sacramento’s central city. I walk through the park every day I’m in town, often multiple times. That means I’m crossing through the bounding intersections of P Street & 15th Street, Q Street & 15th Street, Q Street & 16th Street, and P Street and 16th Street, multiple times a day. I also spend a lot of time at Naked Lounge on the southeast corner of Q Street and 15th Street, and some time at Karma Brew on the northwest corner of P Street and 16th Street. That gives me a front row seat to watching the behavior of drivers at these intersections. On nearly every signal cycle, I seem a driver running the red light at each of these intersections. This is not a the exception, it is the rule. By running the red light, I don’t mean entering the intersection on yellow and finishing on red, I mean entering the intersection on red. I mean drivers that are intentionally endangering themselves, other drivers, bicyclists, and walkers. Every signal cycle.

Though I’m an able-bodied and aware walker, Fremont Park is also used by a lot of homeless individuals, families using the playground, people sitting on the benches and reading, people lying on the grass and enjoying the sun (finally) and enjoying the shade (now), people participating in a number of organized recreation activities such as yoga, and of course the festivals such as Chalk It Up. This is a place that should be safe to get to for everyone. It is not currently.

I wrote about a crash at P Street and 15th Street. I’ve written multiple times about red light cameras, pandemic of red light running, red-light-running bullies, and SacCity red light cameras and crashes.

Let me state up front that I am NOT in favor of the enforcement of traffic laws by armed police officers. I have seen first-hand the way in which traffic stops are used to harass and oppress people of color and low income. I have read and seen innumerable accounts of officers murdering the people they stop on pretext. Armed law enforcement is the problem, not the solution. On the other hand, I am strongly in favor of automated enforcement. It is my theory that most serious traffic violations are by a small number of egregious drivers. Automated enforcement can ticket these drivers, which will change the behavior of some of them, but not of many of them who are high income drivers of high end vehicles. It does, however, allow law enforcement to identify repeat offenders and hold them accountable with vehicle confiscation and drivers license suspension.

I want there to be red light enforcement cameras installed on at least one of the four intersections at Fremont Park. My observations indicate that the intersection of Q Street and 15th Street is the worst. I looked on the city’s Red Light Running Program page to see if there was a mechanism for submitting requests. No. I looked at the city’s 311 app to see if there was a place to submit a request. Not really. The closest I could find was to select Streets > Traffic Investigation, and then Signals (see screenshots below). I’ll update this when I get a response (though these days most 311 reports get no response at all).

The other way of request that might be effective is to directly contact city council members.

Walkable City Book Club

A local transportation advocate Tom has started a discussion group/book club for the book by Jeff Speck, Walkable City: how downtown can save America, one step at a time. The third meeting of the group will be this Wednesday, May 17, 6:00PM at Lefty’s Taproom, 5610 Elvas Ave, Sacramento, CA 95819. The meetings will likely be on the second Wednesday of the month, same time and location, but his meeting will be the third Wednesday. You may just show up, and you may also send me your email address (to and I will get you added to the announcement list. Lefty’s has beer, wine, and food, but you are not obligated to buy anything. We meet outside.

The group has been going through the book part by part, and this meeting will focus on Part 3: Get the Parking Right. If you can read ahead of time, great, but you can also just show up. The group is a variable number of people and a variety of backgrounds and interests, so you will fit in.

This second edition, ten years after the first, has additional information since that time. Sometimes Jeff amplifies what he said before, or brings things up to date with what has happened in the last ten years. He makes up for his prior lack of emphasis on equity. And if a few cases, he simply say – I was wrong! If you have a choice, get the second edition, which contains all of the first, plus new info. But if you have the old, don’t worry, because we won’t get to the new for a while.

If you don’t have a copy of the book, Sacramento Public Library has three copies. The original edition, 2012, is on the shelf at Central and Carmichael branches. The second edition, 2022, is checked out as of today (probably a book club member!). For the discussion of the parts, which are little changed from the first edition, either will serve you. You can order a copy from your local bookstore ($20). My local bookstore, Capital Books, does not have it in stock but can get it in two days. Amazon has a Kindle edition, if you prefer digital over a physical book ($12.99). But you don’t have to have your own copy, nor even have read the part to be discussed. Your presence is welcome in any case.

Walkable City is a seminal work in transportation urbanism. This book, and his Walkable City Rules, are must-reads for anyone who cares about their city, and livability, safety, and fiscal responsibility. Even if you can’t make the book club meetings, I highly recommend you read it!

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.

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update on SacCity ADA ramps

Note: I discovered that I have often used ‘detectible’, but should have been using ‘dectectable’ for detectable warning strips.

This is an update to the update on work being done on corner ADA ramps in the Sacramento central city, apparently as part of the Central City Mobility Project.

So far as I have seen, curb extensions are not part of this project.

There are now a number of locations where the concrete ramp is being cut so that the detectable warning strip can be installed, but the curbs are not being touched. See below for an example.

Q-St & 16th-St, SW corner, ADA ramp construction
Q-St & 16th-St, SW corner, ADA ramp construction

One of the corners I have been monitoring, 21st St and O St northeast corner, is complete, but with temporary patches that make the ramps useable, though ironically still blocked by folding barricades and caution tape, which absolutely does not meet ADA guidelines for contruction signing and safety. This seems to be the pattern with the city, trying to make things better, but not paying attenteion to the details. I don’t know when the asphalt will be restored and the corner opened. Maybe the contractor is waiting until all the corners are ready before patching, though that would be stupid.

21st-St & O-St, NE corner, completed corner with ADA ramps
21st-St & O-St, NE corner, completed corner with ADA ramps

I am still not able to make sense of the asphalt cuts that are being done on the corners where the curb will be or has been modified. I’m guess that there was a standard cut design, implemented everywhere, no matter what the actual project.

Walking around the central city, it appear that most of the corners which did not have ADA-compliant ramps will have them when the project is done, but some may not. I don’t know what the criteria is for which corners are being done, and which are being done at a higher level of replacing the curbs and widening the ramps. Many of the existing ramps are narrow, with edging curbs, which was apparently the design at the time they were placed, but the new corners are a different design, with a sloping area between the two ramps, similar to the diagram below, from the 2020 Department of Utilities Standard Specifications: Transportation drawings, not from the 2009 Department of Public Works Street Design Standards, which contain no ADA diagrams. I think the detectable warning strip width is at least 60 inches on the new installations, which is an improvement. The 48 inch width does not allow two people to stand on the strip. Corners with new curb extensions seem to have 72 inch strips.

SacCity T-76 Curb Ramp Dual Combination Planter diagram

update on half-measure corners

There has been construction on several of the corners I had previously mentioned (half-measure corners?), with 21st Street and O Street being the most advanced. It seems that I was wrong about curb islands being put in – there is no evidence of such construction. I don’t know why the asphalt cutting implied that. When more of these are complete, I’ll post again.

What seems to be going on is simple updates to place ADA-compliant curb ramp with detectable warning strips. Of course any improvement to curb ramps helps everyone, disabled and otherwise, and I’m not criticizing that. Rather, wondering why when the city is changing these corners, they did not take the opportunity to do true curb extensions. The ADA ramp and detectable warning in place for O Street is wider, than previous ramps and strips, looks to be more than four feet rather than the prior narrow ones. If all the ramps end up wider, that will be a plus.

This work is probably part of the city’s Central City Mobility Project. The project detail mentions ‘turn wedges’. Maybe the wedges will be added later, or maybe these will be at different locations than the ones I’ve looked at. The page does not specifically mention ADA ramp improvements.

21st St & O St, northeast corner, ADA ramp construction, partially complete
21st St & O St, northeast corner, ADA ramp construction, partially complete

I had mentioned in the previous post curb extensions being extended to serve as bus boarding areas. I am not aware of any of these in Sacramento, but San Francisco has many. Many earlier posts have mentioned bus boarding islands, but this is for a street without bike lanes (yet), which allows the bus to stop in-lane and people to board directly. Notice that the extension allows for a bus shelter without constraining the sidewalk width for walkers. This should be the standard for Sacramento for all streets with bus routes but not bike lanes.

curb extension and bus boarding extension, San Francisco, Leavenworth & Sutter
curb extension and bus boarding extension, San Francisco, Leavenworth & Sutter

complete streets failure

Summary: Complete streets concept is a failure because it doesn’t address frequent safe crossings. It leaves streets dominated by motor vehicle traffic while not necessarily increasing safety or welcoming design for walkers and bicyclists.

A recent post on Strong Towns (Ager Road: Where Complete Streets Fell Short) shows a street that was converted to a ‘complete street’, and won awards, but is actually less safe and less pleasant than what was there before. A fatality occurred shortly after the conversion, perhaps as a result of the conversion increasing vehicle speeds, perhaps not, but the conversion did nothing to reduce the likelihood.

From the post: “This is a stroad in disguise,” remarked Strong Towns Director of Community Action Edward Erfurt when examining Ager Road in Hyattsville, Maryland. And a Twitter post below.

My response:

The complete streets concept is largely a failure, everywhere it is implemented. I’m sure the original intentions were good, but every complete street project I’ve seen affirms the primacy of motor vehicles over other modes. The greatest failure of all is not what happens along the street, but that the concept does not even address the need for frequent safe crossings of the roadway. No wonder traffic engineers have embraced the concept – it allows them to continue motor vehicle dominance and accept traffic violence.

Dan Allison

So you can see the present ‘complete street’ more clearly:

Google Street View of Agar Rd, referenced on Strong Towns
Google Street View of Agar Rd, referenced on Strong Towns

The complete Streets concept is all about travel ALONG streets. Though it recognizes that crossings of streets are important, and encourages designs that make crossing safer and more welcoming, it does NOT address the frequency of safe crossings. The Complete Streets Coalition, part of Smart Growth America, does not require that complete streets policies include anything about the frequency of safe crossings. And so nearly all polices do not address that. The Caltrans policy, which applies only to state highways but is often applied to other streets, does not mention the frequency of safe crossings.

Traffic planners and engineers have embraced the Complete Streets concept, and tout policies and implementation. But what do we really end up with in most cases? Just more motor vehicle dominated streets, which is what most traffic planners and engineers want anyway, and claiming a complete street isolates them from criticism of the roads being designed and built, while making it more likely that they will be a federal, state, or regional grant for their project. Very few projects are awarded grants these days unless they claim to be a complete streets project. That is good, but the bar is set so low for what can be called a complete street, that the result is just more car infrastructure.

The project shown in the Strong Towns post checks off the following elements:

  • sidewalk, check
  • bike lane, check
  • green paint, check
  • general purpose lane(s), check
  • fence to prevent walkers from crossing any place other than the signalized intersection, check (I put this here with tongue in cheek)

What it does not check:

  • narrow the travel lanes to calm traffic
  • reduce the speed limit or actual speed through design
  • remove slip lanes (ask any bicyclist how they feel about bike lanes that cross high speed slip lanes)
  • reduce the corner radius at driveways
  • install or maintain street trees to calm traffic and provide shade for walkers
  • widen sidewalk buffers to ensure healthy trees and vegetation
  • create a pleasant walking environment
  • provide wayfinding to the nearby Metro station

The next time you hear a planner or engineer mention ‘complete streets’, hold on to your wallet (because, after all, it is your tax dollars that fund ineffective projects), and look around you to identify the traffic violence that will remain or even be increased.

The first step in designing a safe and welcoming streets is top ensure that there are safe and welcoming sidewalks and crossings of the street. Everything else comes after that, if at all. Adding bicyclist facilities that are neither safe nor welcoming, and reducing the the environment for walkers in trade, is going the wrong direction, and will lead to less walking and more traffic violence.

half-measure corners?

Summary: The city should not install curb islands at corners, as it is currently doing, but rather install much safer and more effective true curb extensions, even if fewer can be installed now. Temporary installations can be used at other corners.

The City of Sacramento is currently re-doing a number of intersection corners in midtown. Most of these corners are along 21st Street, so far as I’ve noticed, but some are on other streets, and there well may be other locations I’ve not noticed yet. Last week crews were out saw cutting asphalt at corners, in preparation for new concrete work. The existing corner concrete and ramps have been removed from at least two corners, and at the 21St Street and O Street corner there is form work for whatever is going to replace the old corners.

The first photo is of the saw cuts at P Street & 19th Street. The cuts don’t really stand out, but they do indicate the areas that will be changed.

19th St & P St, SW corner, asphalt cuts for corners changes
19th St & P St, SW corner, asphalt cuts for corners changes

It appears from the saw cuts that what is going to be constructed is something similar to the existing northwest and northeast corners. Northwest is shown below. I am not sure what to call these. They are not in the city’s street design standards, and almost the only place where I’ve seen them is Sacramento. I looked at several other cities to see if these were in their street designs, and they were not. So, just to call them something, I’m going to call them ‘curb islands’. The City of Los Angeles calls these floating curb extensions, but apparently their intended use is with bike lanes, not with gutters.

19th St & P St, northwest corner, corner islands
19th St & P St, northwest corner, corner islands
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sidewalk buffer widths

One of the elements of street design is the width of sidewalk buffers, and how these are presented in design standards. The sidewalk buffer is the area between the curb and the sidewalk. The city calls sidewalk buffers ‘planting strips’, and this is often how they are used, but it is not the only use, and in more urban areas, there are often multiple uses of the sidewalk buffer.

I did a sampling of sidewalk buffer widths in the central city, and a few other parts of Sacramento. I am not claiming any insight into the overall pattern. The city does not have a publicly available database or GIS layer of sidewalk locations and widths, let alone locations and widths of the buffers. I have heard rumors that they are developing one, but I have been hearing that rumor for the last ten years, so I’ve become doubtful.

Typical buffer widths in the central city range from six feet to nine feet, with seven feet being the most common. With huge mature trees, the narrower buffers are too narrow of the trees, and the sidewalks have had to be modified. The photo below shows an example, and these situations are everywhere.

sidewalk narrowed for tree roots, Q St near 14th St
sidewalk narrowed for tree roots, Q St near 14th St
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does SacCity care about blocking crosswalks?

In the city’s 311 website and app, the following 10 options are listed under Parking: Enforcement Request:

  • Blocking Alley
  • Blocking Driveway
  • Commercial Vehicle in Residential Zone
  • Parked Beyond Posted Time
  • Parked in Disabled Space Without Placard
  • Parked On Unpaved Surface
  • Parked without Permit
  • Red Zone
  • White Zone
  • Other

Blocking a crosswalk is not listed. Is this a mere oversight? I doubt it. I have reported dozens of vehicles parked blocking crosswalks, and not a single one has resulted in a citation. Apparently the city does not consider this a citable violation. One time I actually waited at the crosswalk where a vehicle was parked in violation. The parking officer drove up, noticed the vehicle blocking the crosswalk, and drove away. The 311 request was marked closed with the note that the vehicle was no longer there. But of course it was, and the parking officer knew that it was.

California Vehicle Code (CVC) Division 11: Rules of the Road, Chapter 5: Pedestrians’ Rights and Duties, paragraph 21970 states:

(a) No person may stop a vehicle unnecessarily in a manner that causes the vehicle to block a marked or unmarked crosswalk or sidewalk.

In addition, paragraph 22500 states:

A person shall not stop, park, or leave standing any vehicle whether attended or unattended, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a peace officer or official traffic control device, in any of the following places:

(b) On a crosswalk, except that a bus engaged as a common carrier or a taxicab may stop in an unmarked crosswalk to load or unload passengers when authorized by the legislative body of a city pursuant to an ordinance.

The city should do two things: 1) add ‘Blocking Crosswalk’ to the 311 website and app; and 2) actually enforce this CVC.

This is yet another example of the city’s bias toward motor vehicle drivers and against people walking. Please join me in emailing the city’s Parking Services at, and requesting that the city add this violation to the 311 website and app, and that violations be cited when reported or observed.

If you would like some copy and paste text:

I request that the City of Sacramento Parking Services:

  1. Add ‘Blocking Crosswalk’ to the list of parking violations in the 311 website and app. This is a violation of CVC 21970 and CVC 22500.
  2. Issue citations to vehicles blocking crosswalks, in order to protect the safety of walkers using crosswalk.

SacCity sidewalk responsibility

Before delving into street design, I must come back to the question of whose responsibility it is to maintain sidewalks. I’ve talked about this before, Sacramento and sidewalks, but it bears repeating. It also deserves a citizen movement to force the city to change policy.

photo of deteriorated sidewalk, 24th St near Capitol Ave
deteriorated sidewalk, 24th St near Capitol Ave, Sacramento

Take a look at the city’s Sidewalks, Curbs & Gutters page. Unless you are a confirmed windshield perspectives, cars-first and cars-only person, I think it will strike you as strange.

Start with the opening paragraph, which tells a lie. “Within the City of Sacramento, there are approximately 2,300 miles of sidewalk. Sacramento City Code, section 12.32, and California Streets & Highway Code 5610 requires that the maintenance and repair of public sidewalks be the responsibility of the property owner.” Streets and Highways code does NOT require that maintenance be the responsibility of the property owner. It simple allows a city to try to make it the responsibility of the property owner. Not all cities do that. But Sacramento has decided that shifting responsibility for transportation infrastructure in the public right-of-way to property owners fits the model of car dominance that is essentially city policy.

Let me offer some paragraphs, with the only change being replacement of ‘sidewalk’ with ‘street’.

“…requires that the maintenance and repair of public streets be the responsibility of the property owner.If the property owner does not take action in one of the above three ways, the City will make repairs under default and the cost will be collected from the property owner. Unpaid collection will ultimately lead to a lien on the property.”

“As the property owner may bear civil liability for a person suffering personal injury or property damage caused by a defective street: it is in the property owners best interest to maintain the street and reduce the risk of a lawsuit.”

“City ordinance requires property owners to take responsibility for street repairs, regardless of whether or not the tree’s roots causing damage is City owned.”

“An owner shall maintain and repair any defective street fronting such owner’s lot, lots or portion of a lot. Where a defective street is caused in whole or in part by a tree root or roots, the owner shall nevertheless have the duty to repair the street.

Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? And it is absurd. Sidewalks are an integral part of the transportation system in the city. In fact, for people with disabilities who use mobility devices, they are the ONLY way of travel in the city. So trying to force responsibility for sidewalks onto property owners is a violation of at least the intent of ADA regulations, and perhaps the actual legal force of ADA regulations.

Beyond the arguments of fairness in sidewalk policies, there is the real issue that it simply does not work. There are broken sidewalks all over the central city, and the further out one goes, the worse they are. There are sidewalk defects that have been there the entire 12 years I’ve lived in the central city. There is a clear pattern that sidewalks in front of residential property are much more likely to get repaired than in front of commercial properties, reflecting a bias in enforcment.

Some lower income neighborhoods have such poor sidewalks (not to mention narrow sidewalks of 3-4 feet) that everyone walks in the street instead. If the city’s bias against walkers and the disabled is clear, its bias against lower income neighborhoods is glaring.

Even if the city’s policy on sidewalk repair were morally right, which it clearly is not, it is a failure to serve citizens of the city. And it is as clear a statement of bias in favor the drivers of motor vehicles as one can find. It is time for it to end.