Another classic mistake by the City of Sacramento. Re-striping was just done on several blocks of N Street. Eastbound on N Street 22nd Street, this is what it looks like.
Take a close look. Extend the dashed line forward, and you’ll see the taper, from a regular bike lane adjacent to a parking lane, to just a bike lane. Look even closer. See where the no parking sign is? A vehicle can park that close to the intersection, completely blocking the bike lane, and in fact blocking part of the general purpose lane. Yesterday, when I rode by, but neglected to take a photo, there was a large pedestrian-killer pickup truck parked right up to the no parking sign, and it was actually covering up three of the dash marks. Riding a bicycle in the bike lane and expecting it to continue? In Sacramento, that is not a reasonable expectation.
I would hope that the striping crew, whether city or contractor (not sure which this was) would notice the problem and stop painting until this was clarified. But it is not really the responsibility of the stripers. This design was signed off on by a ‘professional’ engineer employed by the city. This is the quality of people the city employs.
Westbound on N Street, it is not as bad since the no parking sign is further from the intersection. See below.
It is still a poor design, but nowhere near as dangerous.
As I’ve said before (traffic calming in the central city), these median islands, when placed in this way, as a widening of the center line only at intersections, are a hazard to bicyclists, though they do provide some safety for pedestrians. The best traffic calming measure, and the one that should be used by the city, is traffic diverters.
I recently attended a meeting of SacTRU (Sacramento Transit Riders Union) and heard complaints about the bus stops along J Street between 19th Street and 29th Street, in the section where a separated bikeway (cycletrack, protected bike lane) was installed. I have heard these concerns before, so let me talk about them. Two SacRT routes run along this section of J Street, Bus 30 and Bus 38.
The concerns are two:
The bus stops are too widely spaced.
The bus stops are very difficult for disabled people (and bus operators) to use because the bus no longer stops at the curb, but rather in the street.
Actually, there are TOO MANY bus stops in this section of 10-1/2 blocks, from 19th Street to nearly 29th Street where the separated bikeway ends. Five bus stops, two of them only one block apart. In a central city setting like midtown, bus stops should be no closer than three blocks apart (about 1/4 mile), and preferably more, like four to six blocks. Why? Because every stop slows the bus significantly, not only the deceleration to the stop and acceleration from the stop, but dwell time. Buses in some areas like this actually spend more time stopped than moving, and as a result, the speed of the route is often below 10 mph. The following five photos show the five bus stops. It is significant that there are too many stops, because solutions to issue 2 are not inexpensive.
The second issue is real. Bus operators can have a hard time deploying ramps to the street, particularly when the street is strongly crowned as parts or J Street are. A disabled passenger needing the bus ramp, which might be a wheelchair user or someone with a disability making stepping up to and down from the bus difficult, have to wait in the bikeway to board, not appreciated by the rider or by bicyclists. After debarking, the person must travel along the bikeway to the nearest driveway or corner curb ramp, again, not appreciated by the rider or bicyclists.
So, what is the solution? Bus boarding islands, which have been implemented in many cities. The first photo below is from Seattle. Riders have an large area to wait for the bus, the bus ramp is easy to deploy, and there is a safe crossing to the sidewalk at the end of the island. A slight disadvantage for the rider is that they must ramp down off the island and then back up to the sidewalk.
The diagram shows an alternative configuration, where the bikeway humps up over the crosswalk, but the route from platform to sidewalk for bus riders is level. This is probably safer for both riders and bicyclists.
There are two significant challenges for these bus boarding islands. First is that installing them may require addressing drainage, which can greatly increase the cost of the installation. If three of the five bus stop photos, you can see drainage inlets, so this would be an issue on J Street.
The second is that by placing the bus boarding island where the bus stop now is, buses then stop in the travel lane rather than pulling out into the bus stop. The positive of this is that they don’t then have to negotiate their way back into traffic, which can be challenging and lead to significant delays to the bus schedule. The negative is that private vehicle drivers will complain about the slight delay to their drive from having to wait behind the bus. The convenience and safety for the many people on the bus outweighs the slight inconvenience for private vehicle drivers, but there will be complaints. Timed points on the route, where the bus would stop to wait if it is ahead of schedule, should not be in the travel lane, but that is not true for any of these stops.
To solve the boarding issue on J Street would take a cooperative project with SacRT and the city, and funding from both sides. The number of bus stops should be reduced, probably to three, so that fewer bus boarding islands are needed. This should be carefully planned so that they don’t need to be changed. It is possible to install temporary bus islands, as Oakland and other cities have done in a few places, so if the stop doesn’t turn out to be the best location, it can be moved without great expense.
This is a followup to J St bikeway. If you are a Twitter person, you may have noticed discussions the last few days, started by Jennifer Donlon Wyant of the city, about new delineator posts being installed on the J Street separated bikeway. See also the ‘Battle of the Bollards’ page. Though as Jennifer points out, these are not bollards.
Below are photos of the three types of vertical delineators. I’m calling them, respectively, fat delineators (first two photos), rubbery delineators (second two photos), and turtle delineators (fifth photo). The bumps are often called turtles (except in Texas where they are called armadillos). As you can see, despite the fresh installation, at least one of the rubbery posts has already been hit several times and is marked with tire rubber. However, it does not seem to be damaged in the way a regular plastic post would be. The delineator is much more flexible, and perhaps more able to take being hit by reckless drivers.
The fat delineators are much more visible than the rubbery delineators, and probably about as visible at the turtle delineators.
Time will tell which of these works best. Of course none of these provide complete protection from errant drivers, but the theory is that parked cars provide much of the protection. Probably true during the times of day when the parking is in heavy use, but not at other times of day. In the previous post, I recommended that the block sections without driveways, about half the blocks in this stretch of J Street, be protected with concrete curbing. Jennifer points out that this is an attempt to solve or mitigate the problem with relatively minor expenditures, whereas concrete is more expensive. The bikeway itself was an attempt to improve bicyclist safety and comfort with relatively minor expenditures, as part of a repaving project.
Next post I’ll have some information about the bus stops along J Street.
The J Street separated bikeway has problems, as has been highlighted by Streets are Better and many others. Separated bikeways are also called protected bike lanes and cycle-tracks, but in California the official term is separate bikeways.
The City of Sacramento placed a separated bikeway on J Street from 19th Street to 29th Street as part of a repaving and roadway reallocation project called the J Street Safety Project in 2018. This was the second such project in Sacramento, the first being portions of P and Q Street downtown, but it was the first in the heavy retail, parking, and traffic environment of J Street.
The theory of these parking-protected bikeways is that the row of parked cars protects bicyclists from moving cars, and this is true in the length of the block (but not at intersections, which are a separate issue), when there are parked cars. But some times of day there are not parked cars, and throughout the day as cars come and go (particularly on a retail corridor), protection is lacking.
It is true that bikeways don’t need strong protection from PARKed cars, but they do need protection from PARKing cars and delivery vehicles, and bikeway intrusion.
Vertical delineators and pavement markings were used to set off the bikeway, with a sign at the beginning of each block segment showing the new allocation. These vertical delineators are also called bollards and soft-hit posts, with soft-hit meaning that they won’t damage cars when drivers hit them. The first photo below shows the 27th to 28th section. It initially had 14 delineators place, but only three are remaining. The other blocks have fared a little bit better, but overall about half the delineators are gone. The second photo shows the 25th to 26th section sign that has been run over by a driver.
Some of the vertical delineators are being run over by people parking, some by delivery vehicles parking on top of them, and some by drivers going down the bikeway itself. And probably some just for sport. I don’t know which of these causes are most common.
There are several solutions:
One: Put the delineators closer together so as to make it more obvious that vehicles are not supposed to cross them.
Two: Add bollards which either are, or at least look to be, more substantial. The photo below is from a somewhat different setting in Oakland, with more substantial bollards. Reading blogs and Twitter, these seem to be successful in some cities and some settings, but not in others.
Three: More substantial separators such as planter boxes.
Four: Partial hard curbs or medians. The photo shows a median at the start of a bikeway section. It reduces the number of signs flattened by drivers and signals to drivers that there is something different about this block.
Five: Continuous hard physical curb or median. It is hard to find good photos of these, probably because in the past they haven’t been seen as necessary. There are a lot of photos of hard medians adjacent to moving traffic, and adjacent to two-way cycle-tracks, and alongside raised bike lanes that are at or close to sidewalk level. But the graphic below gives the general idea.
Of course hard curbs or medians are more expensive, but last 20-30 years whereas delineators or bollards may need to be replaced every year, so I think they are a good investment.
A major issue with all separate bikeways is the presence of driveways. In fact streets with a high density of driveways should not have this design. Below at the blocks of the bikeway, with information about driveways.
partially separated; driveways not changeable
2 changeable driveways
driveway not changeable
2 changeable driveways
1 maybe changeable
partially separated; 1 driveway changeable
The changeable driveways will be the topic of a separate post, but the basic idea is that parking lots that have access to the alleyway do not need access to the main street, so in this case, parking lots with access to Jazz Alley do not need access to J Street.
Place hard medians at the beginning of each block, to protect the signs, and better signify to drivers this is a different place. For the locations where there are bus stops (19th, 22nd, 25th, 27th, 28th), the median would be moved down the block a bit. Note that this is too high a frequency of bus stops, but that is an issue for another post.
Place more substantial bollards, and at a closer spacing.
Place a continuous hard median on one of the four blocks without driveways, the same width at the painted buffers present now. This would be a pilot to test the installation, determine costs, and document benefits. If the pilot is successful, the other three blocks with no driveways should receive the same treatment.
Start negotiation between the city and the owners of parcels that are used solely as parking lots, to close J Street driveways and use Jazz Alley access. Some of these parcels will be redeveloped into more productive uses anyway, but that may take longer than desired.
This afternoon I was walking along P Street, not riding my bicycle, when I saw this Amazon delivery van parked in the separated bikeway (cycletrack) just past 13th Street.
When I asked the driver why he was in the bike lane, he said there was nowhere else to park. But in fact there is a cross-hatched, implied no-parking, area just behind the photo on 14th Street, not more than 30 feet from where the van is parked. I can’t show you an aerial of this because the parking has been reconfigured since the last historical Google Earth imagery without leaves on trees, but tomorrow I’ll take a ground photo and add it here. There were also several empty parking spots on 13th Street both north and south of P Street, but apparently this was too far for the driver to walk.
Once making several deliveries, the driver finally left, traveling down the separated bikeway all the way to 13th Street. I reported the parking violation to the city’s 311 app, but of course the van was gone before they could respond. However, I think it is important for everyone to report these violations, otherwise the city can claim it was not aware of the situation.
This is the Amazon attitude, that our deliveries are more important than public safety, and if we actually get caught, the ticket is a small price for our way of doing business, which is raking in the big bucks. So, please think about this photo the next time your order from Amazon. I am not saying Amazon is the only guilty party, other delivery services do similar things, though Amazon seems to be the most brazen. And it is partly the city’s fault. When they repaved and restriped P Street to create the separated bikeway, they could have created delivery spots on both the 15th-14th block and the 14th-13th block, but they did not.
2021-03-12: Adding photo better showing context for the illegal Amazon parking. On the right is the separated bikeway that was being blocked by the Amazon driver. On the left is the crosshatched area that sets off diagonal parking on 14th Street. This morning it was being used by an exempt vehicle, perhaps CADA, but when the Amazon van was there, this was empty and available for delivery.
Following on to the benefits of leading pedestrian interval (LPI) signals for walkers, more LPIs, these signals can also benefit bicyclists.
I routinely see bicyclists proceeding on the pedestrian signal, before the traffic signal has turned green, at every location with a LPI. And that’s what I do. Technically it is not legal to do so, so I would like to see state law changed so that it clearly is legal. Even though unlikely to be enforced, there is no reason to give law enforcement a pretext to harass bicyclists.
The permission should be for bicyclists proceeding straight, not for bicyclists turning. Though a turning bicyclist presents a tiny fraction of the danger to walkers of a motor vehicle driver, I still don’t want to see walkers using the LPI to feel intimidated by bicyclists.
When the stop as yield at stop signs, and the stop and proceed when safe at stop lights, is eventually passed in California (this is called the Idaho stop law, though it is now in several other states and being considered in more), this proceed on LPI will become moot. However, being somewhat cynical (or very), I suspect that CHP will succeed in deep-sixing any such change in law for a number of years.
The simpler step forward of permitted bicyclists to proceed straight on LPI should not be controversial with anyone, and could be passed and implemented this this legislative session.
The section of 9th Street in Sacramento, between K Street and L Street, finally has an acceptable walking and bicycling pathway around the construction on both sides of the street. It looks as though the construction on the west side of 9th is getting closers to completion, so the sidewalk blockage on that side may disappear, but the east side construction is just beginning.
The pathway is about 12 feet wide, as originally promised, so that is taken care of. There are cones down the middle, the purpose of which I’m not clear about since there is no indication of directional or mode separation, but they do no harm. The signing and barricades on both the north side and south side are still lacking, the barricades not meeting ADA detectability requirements, and the signing less than ideal.
Two days ago the fencing had been pushed out into the pathway area. I’m not sure if this was a one-time occurrence, or will keep happening. The next day it was back in the right place.
After my moving the cone out of the bikeway on the approach at K Street several times, it seems to be staying out of the way.
This safe pathway for walkers and bicyclists is the direct result of citizen complaints, mine and several others. If not for these complaints, the city and the construction contractor would not have done anything. So, please report violations of ADA accommodation through the city’s 311 system, and if that doesn’t result in change, complain to your city council member. Though the city is working on new policy intended to address these failures, I suspect that indifference is so embedded in city staff that it will take a long while to see proactive solutions, and we will need to continue to report and complain for some while.
As promised in my previous post, Sac Vision Zero flaws, here is a limited analysis of high injury network intersections in Sacramento. I used bicycle crashes for 2014 through 2018 from the SWITRS crash database, and matched these to intersections of arterials and collectors in the city. It is known that most crashes occur at or near intersections, not in between. Of the 1112 crashes in this time period, 763 occurred at intersections, or 69% (for all crash types, the city said it is 78%). I selected eight intersections to highlight, which had 4, 5, or 7 crashes at the intersection or within 120 feet of the intersection, meaning on the approach or departure from the intersection. The other 590 intersections had 3, 2, 1, or no crashes. I did not analyze the crashes for fatality or serious injury, but that would be a useful.
The map below shows the Sacramento Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors, in red, and the top eight crash intersections with a bicycle symbol. The number to the right is crashes, and the location is labeled with cross streets. This is also available as a pdf.
Of the eight intersections, one is part of the Florin corridor, at 24th Street and Florin Road. The other seven are not.
I ask that the city revise its Vision Zero program to include high injury intersections. The number might be as many as 10, and selection should include the same equity criteria used to select the corridors. That means that the three central city locations might not be selected, or might be lower on the priority list, and that is good. The challenge of the Stockton Blvd & Fruitridge Road intersection is that it is on the city/county boundary, so complete treatment of the intersection would require some cooperation with the county. But with seven bicycle crashes in the time period, it is a very important intersection.
A strong advantage to giving high injury intersections recognition and attention is that they could receive near-term safety improvements that require only reallocation of roadway width and new paint. Full safety improvements probably would require redesign of the intersection.
Again, I fully support the city’s Vision Zero efforts, and want to see them be the best they can be. That means including high injury intersections.
Addition 2021-03-02: Someone asked how the bicycle collision locations relate to disadvantaged communities. Below, a map with CalEnviroScreen 3 2018-06 (CES) layer, with red end being higher pollution, green being lower, and weighted with income. CES is not the only measure of disadvantage, but it is one commonly used.
Edit: Added graphics for El Camino – Grove intersection and Broadway – Stockton intersection, excerpted from the Sacramento Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors document.
The Sacramento city council will be considering the new Sacramento Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors document at the council meeting on Tuesday, February 15. It is item 11 on the consent agenda, so will not be discussed unless a council member pulls it from the consent agenda.
I have taken a look at the document, though the one included with the with the agenda is a flat file, not searchable, and with low resolution graphics, making it hard to use. When a high resolution and searchable version becomes available, I’ll link to it.
The document continues the pattern established in the 2018 Vision Zero Action Plan of focusing on corridors and not on intersections. The five segments presented as the top five are segments of El Camino Avenue, Marysville Road, Broadway/Stockton Blvd, Stockton Blvd south, and Florin Road. I believe that this exclusive focus on corridors is a mistake. Nearly all other vision zero communities have a dual focus on corridors and intersections, but Sacramento does not.
The Vision Zero Action Plan acknowledges on page 11 that 78% of collisions occur at intersections, but then seems to ignore this fact in pursuit of corridor projects. Of course if a corridor is done correctly, the intersections will be fixed as part of the project. The issue is that these corridor projects will cost millions of dollars and will require seeking state and federal grants to accomplish. The costs are El Camino $16,450,000, Marysville $12,850,000, Broadway/Stockton $8,750,000, Stockton South $9,500,000, and Florin $11,900,000. And these are only for the most important fixes; less important or more expensive fixes are somewhere off in the distant future. But a focus on the high injury intersections within the corridor could yield significant safety benefit at much lower cost, perhaps within the range of general fund expenditures.
This focus on corridors leads to some flaws in the corridor plans. On El Camino, the plan misses that there is a dropped bike lane at eastbound at Grove Avenue and therefore does not recommend the countermeasure Extend Bike Lane to Intersection. At the Broadway/Stockton intersection, the plan does not recommend the countermeasure Bike Conflict Zone Markings for Broadway eastbound and westbound approaching Stockton, and seems to completely drop the bike lane on Stockton northbound approaching, even though a bike lane is already present there.
Re-striping of lanes at intersections and green paint could make many intersections a great deal safer without requiring expensive intersection reconstruction and new signals. I recently wrote about Dropped bike lanes, using Broadway/Stockton as an example. Paint could fix a lot of the problems here.
The concerns expressed here are with bicycle facilities. I actually think pedestrian (walker) facilities are more important, but it will take a lot more time to look closely at those.
The bicycle-related countermeasures recommended in the Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors are:
Bike Conflict Zone Markings: Green pavement within a bike lane to increase visibility of bicyclists and to reinforce bike priority. The green pavement is used as a spot treatment in conflict areas such as driveways.
Class II Bike Lanes: Five to seven foot wide designated lanes for ‘bicyclists adjacent to vehicle travel lanes, delineated with pavement markings.
Close Bike Lane Gap: Closing gaps between bike lanes increases the amount of dedicated facilities bicyclists can use, reducing mixing of bicyclists and drivers and Increasing network connectivity and visibility of bicyclists m the roadway.
Extend Bike Lane to Intersection: In locations where a bike lane is dropped due to the addition of a right tum pocket the intersection approach may be re-striped to allow for bicyclists to move to the left side of right-turning vehicles ahead of reaching the intersection.
Provide Green Time For Bikes: Provide or prolong the green phase when bicyclists are present to provide additional time for bicyclist to clear the intersection. Can occur automatically in the signal phasing or when prompted with bike detection. Topography should be considered in clearance time.
Remove Right Turn Slip Lane: Closing a free-flow right-turn slip lane can help slow right turning drivers, eliminates an uncontrolled crossing for pedestrians, and shortens pedestrian crossing distances. The space reclaimed in closing the slip lane can be reused as pedestrian widen sidewalks, enhance curb ramps, more space for street furniture.
Separated/Buffered Bikeway: Designated bike lanes, separated from vehicle traffic by a physical barrier usually bollards, landscaping, or parked cars. These facilities can increase safety by decreasing opportunities for crashing with overtaking vehicles, and reducing the risk of dooring.
Slow Green Wave: A series of traffic signals, coordinated to allow for slower vehicle travel speeds through several intersections along a corridor. Coordinating signals for slower travel speeds gives bicyclists and pedestrians mare time to cross safely and encourages drivers to travel at slower speeds.
I support the Vision Zero concept and city actions to support this, but I want to make sure that both are the best they can be. I hope to look in the near future at the pedestrian elements of the Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors, the Vision Zero School Safety Study, and the high-injury intersections in Sacramento that have been missed through a focus on corridors.
I went by the Slow & Active Streets again today. Ali Doerr Westbrook and Katie Valenzuela had a table set up on 26th Street at K Street to inform the public, and giving out Valentine’s goodie and bike network maps.
Since Friday, the signs have been moved out into the street, rather than on the side. I spent some time watching traffic, and this placement does seem more effective. I saw people starting to turn onto the routes and then not, and also drivers going less than a block to homes.
An unexpected feature was that the traffic signals on 26th Street had been set to flashing red along 26th and the cross streets. I was surprised because it is rare that the city changes traffic signal operations for anything.
I heard from people that the street had been very active yesterday on a warm sunny day, but there weren’t a lot of people out today. More bicyclists than walkers. Everyone seems very happy to see this program in effect.
One driver stopped while I was taking a photo, to ask what I thought. He then mentioned that he lived on O Street, and was very happy to see this traffic calming, as he said many drivers went way to fast on O Street, coming off 21st Street (which is a one-way street with higher traffic speeds even though posted 25 mph).