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.

Land Park open (car free) roads?

With the exciting news that the closure of a part of JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park will remain permanently closed to private vehicles. This closure was made to provide safe open space during the pandemic, and is only a small portion of the roads in the park. Most of the people who live in San Francisco support this closure to cars (opening to walkers and bicyclists), and most of the people who visit the park from elsewhere (which includes me) also support.

People have started talking about Land Park in Sacramento. I was certainly not the first. This has been an ongoing conversation among advocates for walking and bicycling for years, but it never turned into a movement. Maybe today is the day.

Below is my (modest) proposal for closing some of the roads in Land Park to private vehicles (pdf). There is a small existing closure, of the roadway in from the southeast corner of the park. It has gates that are permeable to bicyclists.

My proposal closes about 53% of the roads in the park, but leaves open roads that access important points such as Fairytale Town and the golf course (if that is important). It also leaves open an east-west route through the park, with ample parking along the roadside, for those who need vehicle access. People who drive are most likely to access the park from Riverside Drive, Land Park Drive, and Freeport Blvd; all those access points remain open.

Of course the use of the term ‘closed to cars’ is really an inversion. Roads that are closed to private vehicles are by nature open to walkers and bicyclists, and so are really ‘open’ to people.

So, what do you think? Constructive comments are always welcome.

improving 15th & Q

I live in downtown Sacramento, and walk through the 15th Street & Q Street intersection almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day. On the southeast corner is my favorite coffee shop, Naked Lounge (I drink tea, not coffee, but they have a good selection). I often sit outside watching people and traffic, so I am very familiar with this intersection. Fremont Park is on the northeast corner, and again, I walk through the park pretty much every day. Let me say up front that this is not a high injury intersection that must be fixed soon. There are so many more dangerous intersections in the city to address first, and so many locations where poor engineering and disinvestment and discrimination has left walkers and bicyclists at great risk. But I can start here because I think about it so much.

A photo of the intersection. The trees on the northwest corner obscure the corner and part of what I’m going to talk about. The sidewalk, curb, ramps, and parking on the southwest corner are all new, as this was reconstructed along with the 1430Q apartments and ground floor retail. The other corners have not changed recently. 15th Street is a three-lane one-way street (it should be reduced to two lanes and bike facilities added), and Q Street is a two-lane one-way street with bike lane on the left side. The northwest, northeast, and southeast corners have small radii, meaning tight corners. The southwest has a high radii corner, meaning loose corners. This is new.

15th Street & Q Street, Sacramento

The wide radius corner on the southwest must have been someone’s idea of necessary for trucks turning from Q Street eastbound onto 15th Street southbound. But notice the northeast corner, which is just as likely to have such turning movements, has a small radius corner, and I’ve never seen a problem with trucks turning there.

Three of the corners do not have curb extensions. On the southwest corner, there is a curb and sidewalk extension along 15th Street, running about half way to the alley. Curb extensions (also called bulbouts) extend the curb and sidewalk out over the parking lane, slow drivers due to perceived friction, and shorten crossing distances for people walking. They are a known and frequently implemented safety solution. You can see curb extensions at a number of locations in the central city, though strangely, only about half the reconstructions install them. The extensions also create more sidewalk waiting or queueing space for walkers, important on busy pedestrians intersections such as this.

The southwest corner gets a lot of deliveries, both for the businesses below and the apartments above. The southeast corner has fewer deliveries. Delivery use should be considered in any change that is made at and near this intersection. On 15th Street, there are green 15 minute parking spots, one on the east, primarily for the coffee shop, and two on the west. On Q Street, there is one green spot on the south, along with about two white curb spots. There are no delivery (white curb) zones on the southeast corner. Green limited time parking and white commercial loading zone markings are relatively rare in Sacramento.

While having tea this afternoon, I saw a driver on 15th Street run a red light and almost collide with a Sacramento Fire Department truck turning from Q Street onto 15th Street. Lights, siren, loud horn, makes no difference to some drivers. I see a lot of close calls at this intersection, but have never witnessed a collision. A person sitting nearby mentioned that she works at another coffee shop on J Street, and sees collisons fairly regularly. Those who claim the solution to street safety is solely redesigning streets to slow traffic ignore that there are also drivers who won’t drive safely no matter what. There is nothing about street design that can prevent someone from running a red light, except of course not having a traffic signal there at all (too many traffic signals?).

To make this intersection safer for everyone (walkers, bicyclists, motorists), these changes could be implemented:

  • Paint high visibility crosswalks on the north and south legs of the intersection, similar to what the west and east legs already have. Sacramento is nearly unique in using these split crosswalk patterns, but they are probably as safe as any other high visibility pattern, which are often called Zebra crosswalks.
  • Create red curb offsets for each of the four corners, in the upstream direction. For 15th Street southbound, that means removing the last parking spot before the intersection on the west and east sides. For Q Street eastbound, that means removing the last parking spot before the intersection on the north and south sides. There is already an offset on the north side, and a small offset on the south, but it should be longer. You will notice in the photo above that there is a car stopped illegally in this area on the south side.
  • Immediately install temporary curb extensions on all corners. These extensions would fill the parking lane. Vertical delineators (posts or bollards) and paint (tan or purple is often used) set off this area. Why temporary? Temporary is low cost, and allows observation of how the installations are used by walkers, bicyclists, and drivers. The corner radius actually needed can be determined before any permanent installation.
  • Observe the temporary extensions, and then design permanent extensions with hard curbs and sidewalks. The permanent extensions must consider bike facilities on both Q Street and 15th Street. Q Street up through 14th St has a parking protected separated bikeway on the left side, and it is assumed that this will be continued to the east. 15th Street should have a parking protected separated bikeway on one side or the other, and the city will have to determine which side before installing permanent extensions. The curb and sidewalk extension on the west side of 15th Street south of Q Street may indicate the city has already made that decision, or it may be an oversight.

The photos below show crosswalks and offset locations for the intersection.

walking policies for SacCity

Where two previous posts come together (Reset for SacATC and don’t forget the little things) is suggested policies for the City of Sacramento that support walking for many reasons: to protect vulnerable users from drivers, to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and thereby greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), to create a walking-first city where everyone feels safe to walk, and to support infill housing that is the next most important action to reduce GHGs. I’ll make a brief suggestion for a policy that would implement each walking idea.

These are the policies that the Sacramento Active Transportation Commission (SacATC) should be addressing, and then making recommendations to the city council. I’ll be blunt: if SacATC is not addressing these issues, then why does it exist?

The ideas presented are, not in any priority order (numbers for reference only):

1. Mark crosswalks at every intersection. Except in purely residential neighborhoods, these should be zebra design.
Policy: The city will mark (paint) every crosswalk in the city. The standard will be zebra or continental markings (the solid bars), but parallel lines are acceptable at purely residential intersections. Implementation within one year.
Considerations: Yes, this will be expensive to install and to maintain. But the safety benefit makes this a great investment. Since the DMV fails to ensure that drivers understand that every intersection has crosswalks whether marked or not, it is incumbent on the city to mark crosswalks.

2. Daylight intersections by removing parking from within 15 feet of every crosswalk, at least on the near side (far side is a lesser safety benefit)
Policy: Marked parking spots will be removed from within 20 feet of an intersection on the near side. Unmarked parking will be converted to no parking with red curb offsets of 20 feet. The resulting area may be used for shared rideables parking. Where a curb extension is present, parking need not be removed. Implementation within two years.
Considerations: This increases visibility at every intersection by making walkers more visible to motorists (and bicyclists), and making vehicles more visible to people walking. Near side means the first crosswalk at every intersection in the direction of travel. Removal of parking on the far side confers little safety benefit.

3. Re-program traffic signals to create leading pedestrian intervals, everywhere.
Policy: Every traffic signal with a pedestrian signal head will be programmed to offer a leading pedestrian interval (LPI) of at least three seconds. Implementation within one year.
Considerations: The greatest risk walkers face at intersections is right-turning drivers who do not yield to people in the crosswalk. The LPI gives walkers a head start so that they are visible to drivers while the traffic light is still red. State law will soon be changed to allow bicyclists to also use the LPI.

4. Remove or properly label every pedestrian push button. Don’t make walkers play the guessing game. Except at very low use intersections, pedestrian signals should be on auto-recall.
Policy: Every pedestrian push button will either be removed or labeled with its function. Implementation within one year.
Considerations: The presence of push buttons without indication of whether they are necessary to push is a case of clear discrimination against people walking. The city has refused to change signage to indicate whether the push button activates a signal change, triggers an audible warning only, or does nothing at all. In the long run, all pedestrian signals everywhere should be on auto-recall, meaning no push is needed, but this correctly labeling the button is the first step.

5. Remove pedestrian prohibitions which serve traffic flow rather than safety of walkers. This is the majority of them.
Policy: The city will study every instance of a pedestrian prohibition to determine if the prohibition is necessary to ensure safety for people walking. Traffic flow will not be used to justify a prohibition. Each location where the study determines there is no safety benefit for walkers will be removed, crosswalks marked, and appropriate pedestrian signal heads installed. Implementation within three years.
Considerations: Most, though not all, of these pedestrian prohibitions were installed to promote the flow of traffic, not to protect walkers. Studies will result in the removal of most.

6. Install traffic diverters (modal filters) on about one-quarter of all streets, at no less than 1/8 mile intervals. This discourages through-traffic on most streets, and discourages longer driving trips, while being permeable to bicyclists and walkers.
Policy: At every location in the city where a grid street system or alternate travel streets are available, the city will install traffic diverters (modal filters) which require motor vehicles to turn off current street. The interval should be no less than 1/8 mile. This will not apply to designated collector or arterial streets. Implementation within for years.
Considerations: Diverters discourage drivers from traveling long distances on streets which should be low traffic, and they also slow traffic. Diverters are the most effective traffic calming device available. Despite the clear effectiveness of the existing diverters, the city has decided not to install any more. This policy would reverse that unofficial policy. Where a grid street system exists, diverters are completely appropriate. Unfortunately the winding streets and lack of connectivity in the sprawling parts of the city make these impractical.

7. Charge for all street parking, everywhere, even in residential neighborhoods.
Policy: End all free street parking. Charge residents a reasonable fee for a parking permit that covers the cost of maintaining the portion of the street that contains the parking. Set fees for paid parking in such a way that there is always at least one open parking spot on every block. Implement within one year.
Considerations: The city has done much better at managing paid parking, raising rates to more closely reflect (though not fully cover) the actual costs to the city. But outside of paid parking areas, drivers are getting a free ride, which encourages ownership and use of vehicles, contributing to VMT. In residential areas, it is not unusual for a single residence to own multiple vehicles, some of which are rarely used and just take up space that could better be used for other purposes.

8. Reduce speed limits to 20 mph, citywide and all at once, on every street that is not an arterial or collector street.
Policy: The speed limit on all streets that are not collectors or arterials will be reduced to 20 mph. Implementation within six months.
Considerations: The benefits to walkers and bicyclists (and drivers) of lower speeds are well known, reducing the severity of crashes and reducing the likelihood of crashes due to more reaction time. The ’20 is plenty’ movement is becoming widespread. Some argue that changing speed limits without changing roadway design is pointless, but my philosophy is “Yes, and…” – we should be redesigning roadways, but while that work is in progress, we can save lives now by reducing speed limits. It will take some while to change speed limit signs, so simply blocking out the existing 25 number would be acceptable in the interim.

9. Ensure that every construction project that reconstructs sidewalks also installs curb extensions (bulb-outs) where there is a parking lane present. This is not uniformly happening.
Policy: Curb extensions will be required on every corner which is reconstructed for any purpose. Street faces on corners where a bicycle lane is present but parking lane is not present will be excepted. Curb extensions will be designed so as to not interfere with bicycle lanes, and existing or planned separated bikeways. Implementation immediately.

Considerations: Curb extensions, also called bulb-outs, significantly increase safety by shortening crossing distances and by increasing visibility between walkers and drivers. The entity making the change to the sidewalk/corner would be responsible to the extension, though where drainage issues exist, the city might help with partial funding to move or enhance drainage. There are many instances in the city where curb extensions should be installed as part of construction projects, but are not being.

10. Create interim curb extensions with paint and flexible posts.
Policy: At any intersection where a pedestrian fatality or severe injury has occurred within the last ten years, temporary curb extensions created with paint and vertical delineators will be installed. Implementation within one year. Temporary curb extensions will be replaced by permanent concrete curb extensions within ten years.
Considerations: This policy would allow the ‘quick fix’ of curb extensions at relatively low cost, but eventually create curb extensions at all hazardous intersections, city-wide.

11. Take on responsibility for maintaining sidewalks, since they are an integral part of the transportation network.
Policy: The city accepts maintenance responsibility for all sidewalks that are within the public right-of-way. The city will develop a plan for bringing all sidewalks to a state of good repair, with implementation first in low-income neighborhoods.
Considerations: State law allows the city to shirk its responsibility for maintaining sidewalks by shifting the burden unfairly onto adjacent property owners. The result is poorly maintained sidewalks that do not serve the needs of anyone waking or rolling, but particularly discriminate against people with mobility limitations. Some sidewalks are not within the public right-of-way, but this is uncommon.

12. Buy every employee of Public Works and Community Development a copy of Walkable City Rules (Jeff Speck), and hold sessions to develop a new city mission that prioritizes walkers (and bicyclists and transit riders) over private vehicles.
Policy: Buy the books! Implementation immediately. Hold sessions within six months. Develop new mission within one year.
Considerations: Every city employee should be responsible for doing their part to make the city a walkable place where people are safe and welcomed on every street. City employees and politicians have in the past created a car-dominated city where it is unsafe to walk and bicycle, and now is the time to set a new vision and way forward. Note that this does not address the issue that people don’t feel safe walking in some locations, and this is a critically important issue that the city should also address.

don’t forget the little things

The City of Sacramento is going to consider some big, transformative projects Tuesday evening. That’s great. But let’s not forget all the small things they could be doing, but aren’t:

  • Mark crosswalks at every intersection. Except in purely residential neighborhoods, these should be zebra design.
  • Daylight intersections by removing parking from within 15 feet of every crosswalk, at least on the near side (far side is a lesser safety benefit)
  • Re-program traffic signals to create leading pedestrian intervals, everywhere.
  • Remove or properly label every pedestrian push button. Don’t make walkers play the guessing game. Except at very low use intersections, pedestrian signals should be on auto-recall.
  • Remove pedestrian prohibitions which serve traffic flow rather than safety of walkers. This is the majority of them.
  • Install traffic diverters (modal filters) on about one-quarter of all streets, at no less than 1/8 mile intervals. This discourages through-traffic on most streets, and discourages longer driving trips, while being permeable to bicyclists and walkers.
  • Charge for all street parking, everywhere, even in residential neighborhoods.
  • Reduce speed limits to 20 mph, citywide and all at once, on every street that is not an arterial or collector street.
  • Ensure that every construction project that reconstructs sidewalks also installs curb extensions (bulb-outs) where there is a parking lane present. This is not uniformly happening.
  • Create interim curb extensions with paint and flexible posts.
  • Take on responsibility for maintaining sidewalks, since they are an integral part of the transportation network.
  • Buy every employee of Public Works and Community Development a copy of Walkable City Rules (Jeff Speck), and hold sessions to develop a new city mission that prioritizes walkers (and bicyclists and transit riders) over private vehicles.

Sacramento transportation decision time

The City of Sacramento is holding a city council workshop on Tuesday, February 8, 5:00PM. The purpose of the workshop is to gather input to help the city realign its transportation policies and project with its climate change objectives (they are far, far from in alignment now).

Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates (SABA) with partners has created a petition you can sign to support a more effective and equitable transportation system. The petition and background information are at https://sites.google.com/sacbike.org/cleansac/home.

In its final report, the Mayors’ Commission on Climate Change recommended that to achieve its climate goals, Sacramento must prioritize the use of active transportation, public transit, and shared mobility services, and then electrify remaining vehicles. Reducing vehicle miles traveled by prioritizing walking, biking, rolling, and transit is the most effective way to reduce emissions in Sacramento.

We are asking the Sacramento City Council to:

1. Build a Comprehensive Active Transportation Network.
Commit to and take action to build a seamless, low-stress network of active transportation corridors, for the central city and connections into and out of the city. An infrastructure that supports safe walking, biking and rolling should include the following elements: separated bikeways, secure bicycle parking, adequate lighting, widened sidewalks, traffic calming, and other speed reduction measures.

2. Commit Funding.
Prioritize and set aside funding within the city budget for an active transportation program. Set aside the necessary matching funds to qualify for the federal and state infrastructure programs this year and in future years. Deliberately seek additional funding and financing through grants, state and federal programs, and other revenue sources.

3. Adopt Policy Guidance to Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled.
All land use decisions should require consideration of reducing vehicle miles traveled when new projects and modifications to existing projects are evaluated by staff and reviewed and approved by City Commissions and Council.

4. Focus on Equity.
Prioritize a consistent focus on equity for project timing and funding.

5. Engage the Community.
Engage the community and regional experts in developing an active transportation program that works for everyone.

6. Ensure Adequate Staffing.
Ensure adequate staffing and resources to develop and administer the program, including the funding/financing aspect.

I’ll comment first on the petition. It is good, but does not go far enough in my opinion. Two improvements I would make:

1. Build a Comprehensive Active Transportation Network. Add short-term bicycle parking everywhere, and secure long-term bicycle parking at all retail and job centers. Recognize bike share as an integral part of the transportation system, including funding it in low-income neighborhoods.

2. Commit Funding. The city should pursue grants and other funding sources, but must also invest significant budget resources to transportation. The city provides the required match for grants, but almost no other funding. The result is that city funds are spent as a match on large projects, and small projects that could otherwise use the funding and have an immediate impact on safety and equity, are neglected. It is rare for cities to rely almost entirely on grant funding, as the Sacramento does for it active transportation and complete streets projects. Sacramento is an outlier.

The city’s page is at http://www.cityofsacramento.org/Public-Works/Transportation/Planning-Projects/Climate-and-Transportation. The major graphic is below, though note that the workshop date has been changed to February 8, 5:00pm.

One of the major programs being proposed to council is a network of bikeway superhighways, shown on the map below. The concept of bicycle superhighways comes recently from Milan, though other European cities have long had such facilities.

The bikeway superhighways part of the proposal seems to be the flagship of the program, so I’ll make a few comments on that.

In the north, the Niños Parkway must be extended over Interstate 80 into the commercial centers to the north. Otherwise, it fails to connect residents to jobs, and falls short at mitigating the major barrier to travel represented by the freeway.

In the south, the 24th St and MLK corridors must be extended south at least to Florin Rd, if not further. Otherwise the residential areas north and south of Florin Rd are isolated from the job opportunities to the north.

Within the bikeways superhighways portion of the city page, there is a statement: 6. Complete the existing bikeway network within 4 miles of the Central City by closing gaps in the network and calming traffic. I do not deny that this might have the greatest impact in reducing VMT (vehicle miles traveled), and since I live in the central city, I’d be a beneficiary. However, this conflicts with the equity goals stated on this page, and throughout city policy. This is the area that has always received the greatest city investment, in infrastructure and in maintenance. The rest of the city to the north and south has largely been neglected. In my view, it is time to turn this on its head. Only projects and investments in low-income areas, or which demonstrably serve to connect low-income neighborhoods to jobs and regional amenities, should be funded. Period. We have a century of disinvestment in low-income areas, greatly accelerated by the urban renewal fiasco of the 1950-1970s. Now is the time to start undoing that damage.

The term ‘congestion relief’ should be removed from the city page, and city documents. Congestion relief is always taken to mean making it easier to drive. Congestion in fact is always a natural check on overuse of motor vehicles, and by reducing traffic speeds, makes it safer for bicyclists. And probably walkers as well, but the research on that is not as clear.

I hope you’ll get involved. SacMoves, the coalition of transportation and air quality advocacy groups, will be discussing the city proposal in depth, and there may be more information to share before the city workshop.

where are the curb extensions?

There has been a tremendous amount of infill building, much of it housing, in midtown Sacramento and even downtown. This is a wonderful thing. As part of the construction projects, sidewalks and curbs are often torn up and replaced. In some instances, the replacement is done the right way, with wider sidewalks, directional curb ramps (two to a corner, not diagonal), and curb extensions. But in at least half the replacements, but curb extensions are missing.

15th Street at K Street, missing curb extension, Sacramento

The photo above shows the new sidewalks and curb ramps at the southeast corner of the SAFE Convention Center, at 15th Street and K Street. That much is good, and a big improvement over what was there before.

However, the curb extension on 15th Street is missing. The purpose of curb extension is to slow traffic speeds, to shorten the crossing distance, and to increase visibility between drivers and walkers. But it is missing here. Once the convention center really opens, this will be a very busy crossing for pedestrians, and is already receiving increased use from the performing arts center.

What gives, Sacramento? Every reconstructed corner should have curb extensions. Yes, they must be designed appropriately so they only block the parking lane and not a bike lane, but in this case, there is no bike lane.

Katie’s Mid-Year Budget Request Sign-On

Katie Valenzuela, Sacramento councilmember for District 4, posted a request for people to sign on to ideas for a mid-year budget adjustment to include several transportation and livability issues, at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc2klsRgKrTcY4Ndoh7OWpz9CdwS_-Vb5rZvrrqG9Td75Z1Ig/viewform.


“In the year I’ve been in office, I’ve heard from thousands of people regarding their concerns and ideas about needed improvements in their neighborhoods. When I bring these community concerns to staff, I hear a lot of support and empathy for the issues raised, but it is often followed by a somber realization: there isn’t a sufficient budget to provide these services.

While I understand the limitations of the City budget, I also believe there are basic services any City should provide:

  • Streetlights, particularly in older neighborhoods that lack sufficient lighting to promote safety for all road users.
  • Sidewalk repair, the costs for which we put onto property owners during the 2008 recession. Sidewalks are a public good everyone uses and should be maintained by the City.
  • Public Restrooms to serve everyone in our city, particularly at parks. This should also include porta potties near large encampments.
  • Road and traffic safety improvements, particularly targeting streets and intersections where there are repeated collisions or injuries.
  • Public garbage cans and collection to help mitigate litter.

These needs aren’t unique to District 4, but are issues I’ve also observed citywide. As we approach the midyear and future budgets, I urge you to join me in asking that we consider the quality-of-life improvements the community is asking for and appropriate funds for these purposes.”


These five items are all transportation issues to some degree or another.

Streetlights: Many people will not walk at night when there is insufficient lighting. They feel unsafe. Many intersections are poorly lit for people walking, providing light for drivers but not for people in crosswalks.

Sidewalk repair: The lower the income level of a neighborhood, which is strongly but not complete correlated with people of color, the poorer the sidewalks. This is an ongoing problem in north Sacramento and south Sacramento, but exists other places. When the city claims it has not responsibility for maintaining sidewalks, but does maintain roadways, it is sending a clear message that drivers are more important than walkers. This must change. The first step is not to start fixing sidewalks, but to change city code so that the city is responsible for maintaining sidewalks, not adjacent property owners. There may be situations in which a tree on private property damages a public sidewalk, but most of the damage from trees occurs by city owned trees in the sidewalk buffer area. In fact, the worst sidewalks are often adjacent to city-owned property, where the ordinance requiring property owner repair apparently doesn’t apply. (In the interests of transparency, if one wishes to see truly horrible sidewalks, visit the City of Los Angeles. Makes Sacramento look like a walking paradise.)

broken sidewalk on V Street, Sacramento

Public restrooms: Any person who is walking is likely to be making a slower trip than a driver, and more likely to need to use a restroom during their trip. Walkers are also more likely to chain destinations, and therefore need a restroom during a longer trip, while drivers often make shorter individual trips to single destinations. The city has resisted making public restrooms available, partially in an effort to make unhoused people unwelcome. One new restroom was built in Cesar Chavez Plaza, and some parks have restrooms available for some hours, but many park restrooms remain locked. For example, the one in Fremont Park has been locked up for two years now.

Traffic safety improvements: This one is obvious. What is not obvious is that the city has an unwritten policy that it will only make major street changes with federal, state, and regional grants, not out of the general budget. A few things are done as part of routine maintenance, when a street is repaved and re-striped, but this is a tiny fraction of what is needed. Improvements to high-injury intersections and corridors should be a funded part of the city budget, not dependent upon grants from outside.

Public garbage cans: Again, people walking are likely to generate things that need to be trashed or recycled. For example, walk to your local coffee shop and then continue on your journey, you end up with an empty cup to dispose of. People driving simply throw it on the floor, or out the window in many cases. And if they throw it on the floor, it is likely to be thrown on the ground the next time the vehicle is parked. I know this because this is the pattern for people who commute in from the suburbs and park in the central city. I’ve observed it hundreds of times. It is true that in areas with active business improvement districts, there are more public garbage cans, but that leaves many areas of the city out, which are just as deserving of the service.

The city discriminates against people walking (and bicycling). These budget items would be a first step towards redressing that.

I will say that the greatest need for these improvements is not in District 4, which has often received more attention from the city than any district other than District 1. Sacramento has had and continues to have a serious equity failing, spending more money on repair and improvements in higher income areas.

assault by an entitled driver

This morning I was nearly hit and then assaulted by the driver of an SUV in Sacramento. I was crossing 14th St at the south side of P St at about 7:30AM. The driver had stopped before the crosswalk, so I proceeded across, but the driver lurched forward and nearly hit me. I had to jump back to avoid being hit, and slapped the side of his vehicle to get his attention. I proceeded across the crosswalk and onto the sidewalk. The driver leapt out of this vehicle and came after me, screaming that if I ever touched his car again, he would hurt me. I don’t remember the exact words, but they were violent words. He kept saying “I didn’t see you”, not in an apologetic manner, but in a way that implied it was my fault that he didn’t see me. After yelling a number of more threats, he shoved me. This is assault.

A bystander took photos of the driver and his vehicle, seen below. The bystander used the same term that I often used, ‘entitled drivers’. She was more than happy to provide the photos to me, and expressed hope that I would file charges. I have submitted an incident report to Sacramento PD.

the vehicle: GMC Yukon, grey, license M546BO
the driver, on left, white middle aged male

I notice when walkers and bicyclist post photo of vehicles driven by offending drivers, they often blank out the license number. I’m not sure why. Maybe it is fear of retaliation, worse violence from the driver. But here you go: the license plate was CA M546BO. It is a strange license number.

Back to the entitled. Many drivers feel that they own the road, and it is the responsibility of others to get out of their way. This applies particularly to walkers and bicyclists, but it even applies to other drivers. The excuse often offered is “I didn’t see them”. I think this is often fabricated after the fact to justify what would otherwise not be justifiable, which is an intention or willingness to harm others. But in some case it is true. They didn’t see because they didn’t look. Many drivers are looking at their phones or their large in-dash information displays. In this case, the driver was looking only to the right to see traffic on one-way P Street. He probably never looked left at all. But it is the legal responsibility of drivers to look and to see. If they are not willing to do that, as is true of this driver, they should not hold a license to drive. This driver, in part because he has a large, expensive vehicle, felt entitled to be driving on the street without paying attention, particularly at a crosswalk where walkers have the right of way.

This is the people we share the streets with. And the people about whom traffic ‘safety’ agencies such as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) continue to claim that road safety is a shared responsibility. Bullshit. Drivers kill people, walkers and bicyclists (with extremely rare exceptions) do not.

This is also a street design issue. One way streets are safer to cross for walkers because you only need to look in one direction, left or right. However, for people on cross streets, they are much more dangerous because many (most?) drivers never look the other direction for people in the crosswalk or bicycling.

I hope your day is going better.