the blindness of bikes vs parking people

I am getting so, so tired of people on Twitter, bicycling advocates, who see bikes and bikes only as the solution to everything.

These are people who believe that it is always best to remove on-street parking in favor of bike lanes, whether regular or separated bikeways. In fact, they are always looking for roads on which to install bike facilities and remove parking, because they get off on the idea of removing all parking. A lot of advocates want bike lanes on every street.

Well, I disagree.

If there is a situation where existing or future bicycling use should be accommodated, and the only way of doing do it is to remove parking, then I’m in agreement. But that is often not the case. On any street with more than two lanes, it is almost always better to remove a travel lane (called general purpose lanes) than to remove parking.

Parking does (at least) two things:

  1. Calms traffic by creating perceived friction, which slows drivers down. It is moving vehicles, quite often moving well over the posted speed limit, that are a hazard to bicyclists, and everyone else. It is not parked cars (not ignoring the issue of door-zone bike lanes).
  2. Provides places for customers to park who so far have not shifted to walking and bicycling, or who are in that rare situation of needing a car for disability reasons or items being picked up/dropped off.

Sure, we need less parking than we have, but no parking is not the solution. If there is no on-street parking, then it increases the demand for surface parking lots, which are the worst possible land use in cities, or for structured parking (parking decks) which are the most expensive type of parking to build, and almost always require taxpayer subsidy. Both of these also produce almost zero property tax and sales tax.

I’m also in favor of managed parking, so that it is never free, and costs enough so that there will always be some empty spaces available, and that drivers are paying market value for parking, and for the cost of the pavement and maintenance they are using. I’m also in favor of designated passenger drop-off/pick-up curbs and unloading/loading curbs for commercial use. We do have too much parking, and way too much free parking. We should have less.

For those who I haven’t convinced, or have made angry (no doubt), please read The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup, and Walkable City by Jeff Speck. Both recommend retaining parking, but managing it better, in most situations. And removing it when there is really a good justification. Donald Shoup has conducted more research on parking than anyone, and Jeff Speck has designed more projects to improve walkability and livability than most.

Lastly, let me say I hate cars and hate most car drivers. The world would be a better place if we had about 5% of the cars we have now. The world would be a better place if almost all people walked or bicycled for almost all trips, and used transit for the few others. But I think it is dangerous to just remove all parking without looking at the situation on the ground, which includes all modes and everything that is adjacent to the street, including businesses.

wide lanes on Freeport

Another post to criticize the City of Sacramento’s Freeport Blvd Transportation Plan. See Freeport Blvd category for earlier posts.

The city has designed Freeport with four lanes, each 11-feet wide. NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) and FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) recommends 10-foot lanes for urban areas. The city says 11-feet is necessary for buses and commercial vehicles, and insists on that width in all designs for arterials and collector streets (otherwise known as stroads), or which Freeport is one.

The diagram below, from the plan document, shows the 11-foot lanes. Even if one assumes that the outside lane (called number 2 lane in engineering parlance) needs 11 feet to handle buses and commercial vehicles, the inside lane (called number 1) does not need to be any more than 10 feet, and in fact could probably be 9 feet. The widest common vehicles are 6.5 feet wide, and most 6 feet, so 9-10 feet is plenty. The city is wasting two to four feet of roadway width on extra-wide lanes. That wasted width could instead be used for sidewalks and trees shading sidewalks.

The center median is 20 feet wide, for unknown reasons. Maybe to accommodate left hand turn lanes, perhaps pedestrian refuge medians, or trees. Trees certainly need 8 plus feet, but not 20 feet. But even an 11-foot lane plus 6 feet for a refuge median is only 17 feet, but the city has designed 20 feet. Maybe to accommodate the double left hand turn lanes southbound at Fruitridge Rd? Double left hand turn lanes have no place in an urban setting like Freeport, they just increase the crosswalk distance and engender greater hazards for everyone, including drivers. It is almost as though the city is trying to waste roadways width.

Note that the sidewalks would be as narrow as 5 feet in some locations, and never wider than 9 feet or 11 feet. Note that there are no trees adjacent to the sidewalk. The next post will be about trees.

The city’s blockheaded insistence on 11-foot lanes means that they have designed a roadway which will encourage higher speeds, which are hazardous to everyone, walkers, bicyclists, and drivers. Why? Because the city’s primary design criteria is to maintain vehicle volume (VMT) and speed. This is not what the community wants, as is made clear in the workshops and surveys the city did. The city ignored community input because it did not match their preconceived notions about what kind of roadway they wanted.

City of Sac blind adherence to ADT

Another post on the Freeport Blvd Transportation Plan. See the category Freeport Blvd for other posts.

“We are designing for the traffic we have, not for the traffic we want.”

Ali Doerr Westbrook, Chair of Sacramento Active Transportation Commission

I could stop at that, but perhaps you’d like some more detail. This comment was made during the Sacramento Active Transportation Commission (SacATC) meeting on January 18, 2023. The context was the admission by the two city planners, Leslie Mancebo and Jennifer Donlon Wyant, that the city eliminated the possibility of a road diet (roadway reallocation) before even starting planning for Freeport Blvd. The reason expressed is that the ADT (Average Daily Traffic count) is above 20,000 for Freeport, and that requires more than two lanes (one each direction). Interestingly, ADT counts for various locations along Freeport are nowhere to be found in the plan or appendices. In a different location on the City of Sacramento website, Traffic Counts, the ADT for various locations along Freeport Blvd, rarely exceed 20,000, and have not exceeded 20,000 since 2011. There is no indication that the city even did new traffic counts in preparation for this planning effort. So far as can be determined, they just decided to not consider a road diet from four lanes to two lanes, or two+one lanes, 3/2 configuration) because they wanted to prioritize motor vehicle traffic over all other uses of the roadway.

The city planners also acknowledged that a road diet was a prominent request of the community during the planning process. But, community input be damned, the city is going to serve car drivers before anyone else.

A reduction of lanes from four to two is the single most important traffic calming effort that can be made on a roadway. That does not mean it is the appropriate solution for Freeport Blvd, or for all of Freeport Blvd in the planning area. What is does mean is the that city should have considered it in the planning process.

Back to Ali’s comment. The city is planning for a roadway configuration that should have already been in place years ago, before the city over-widened the roadway, and in several cases narrowed sidewalks to accommodate the widening. They are not planning for a roadway which would reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) or increase safety and access for those outside cars. The city’s responsibility, under the Mayors Commission on Climate Change report, is to reduce VMT in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), not to maintain VMT at current levels. But this Freeport plan is a plan to guarantee current VMT for at least 30 years in the future, which is about the length of time before the city will be able to reconstruct the roadway again, and correct the mistakes they made this time around.

The intent of the city in this plan is made very clear in the common design principles: “10. Maintained necessary travel lanes, turn lanes, and parking: Maintaining travel lanes and turn lanes ensures that drivers traveling along the corridor will not be compromised, and preserving parking spaces where 5 the utilization is higher so it serves better adjoining businesses.” Though this is the last item in the list of ten, it is clear that this is the highest priority for the city.

The refusal to consider a road diet/lane reduction/roadway reallocation is a fatal flaw in this plan. The effort should be sent back to staff to re-do. It should not be adopted by city council. If the city council does not reject this kind of flawed planning, city staff will continue to make the same mistake, again and again and again.

I’ll post on some of the other flaws in the plan, but this is the most important, not just because it misses the best opportunity for traffic calming, but because it retains roadway width for the exclusive use of motor vehicles that could be better used for walking, bicycling, trees, and even parking for businesses.

Added graphic below, which I had not noticed in the plan, that documents vehicular counts on sections of Freeport Blvd. Is it suspicious that half of the plan area is ‘just’ over the city’s criteria of 20,000 ADT? Remember, the plan itself and the city’s traffic counts website do not indicate this level of ADT.

Freeport Blvd Transportation Plan

The City of Sacramento has released the final draft Freeport Blvd Transportation Plan. Appendix F Design Layouts is a key part of the document. This post reflects my original comments (Freeport Boulevard Emerging Design Concepts) and the new plan. The city’s plan page is at http://www.cityofsacramento.org/Public-Works/Transportation/Planning-Projects/Freeport-Blvd-Corridor. The plan is on the Active Transportation Commission agenda for January 20, 2023, and will go to the city council within the next two months.

The ten common design elements on page 21 (24 of the pdf) include: “10. Maintained necessary travel lanes, turn lanes, and parking: Maintaining travel lanes and turn lanes ensures that drivers traveling along the corridor will not be compromised, and preserving parking spaces where 5 the utilization is higher so it serves better adjoining businesses.” This is statement is contrary to all walkability, bikeability and vision zero goals. It should be removed from the document, and removed from planning goals. It is offensive. It means that no matter what other improvements to the corridor will be made, cars and motor vehicle drivers will be preferenced over all others.

The ten common design elements do not mention trees. Trees are an integral part of the walking experience, as well as providing climate and heat island benefits. They should be prominently recognized throughout the document, but they are not. The phrase ‘existing trees’ occurs many time in the document, but nowhere are ‘proposed trees’ identified.

Frequent driveways along much of this section present hazards to walkers and bicyclists, and handicap the design of safe streets. It is clear that the city did not consider reduction or narrowing of driveways to address this hazard. If you look at the design layouts (Appendix F), the number of gaps in the bikeway, shown as dashed green, is remarkable. Each of these is a driveway. Again, this is a clear indication that the city intended to maintain the car-dominated character of this street.

All crosswalks at intersections should contain all three or four legs (three for T-intersections). The design leaves many intersections with only one crosswalk over Freeport Blvd, meaning pedestrians must cross three streets in order to reach some destinations, rather than just one. Though not mentioned in the plan, this often means installing pedestrian crossing prohibition signs and barriers. These should be outlawed, not encouraged.

North Section

pages 25-26 (28-29 in the pdf)

The intersection of Sutterville Road to the east with Freeport Blvd is shown with a two-lane roundabout. Two lane roundabouts have almost none of the traffic calming and safety benefits of one lane roundabouts, in fact they should not even be called roundabouts, with the implication that they have safety benefits. This roundabout should be redesigned to a single-lane. Traffic levels on Freeport to the north certainly do not justify two lanes, in fact Freeport become single lane each direction a short distance to the north at 13th Avenue.

The dedicated right turn lane on Freeport Blvd southbound at Sutterville Road to the west is not needed and presents an unnecessary hazard to bicyclists. Dedicated right turn lanes should be eliminated from this plan, and from all city roadways. They are rarely justified by traffic volume, create conflicts for bicyclists, and widen roadways and therefore crossing distances for walkers. They also encourage drivers to make right hand turns without looking for people walking.

There should be a crosswalk on the north side of the Freeport-Sutterville intersection. There is no justification for leaving it out, unless an attempt to discourage walkers from accessing the park.

South Section

pages 27-31 (30-34 in the pdf)

The offset crosswalks with median refuge at Oregon Drive and Potrero Way/Virginia Way are a good design, but there is no reason to not provide crosswalks on the other leg of the intersection.

The median gap at Arica Way, with dedicated left turn lanes, is not needed. Arica Way is a low volume street that is a good candidate for right in/right out treatment. The shopping center access can be provided for northbound traffic.

At the intersection of Fruitridge Blvd and Freeport, there should be no dedicated right turn lanes. They create a hazard for bicyclists, that cannot be mitigated by pavement marking, and they lengthen the crossing distance for walkers. In this location, where center refuge medians are not proposed, this is particularly egregious. The dual left turn lanes southbound on Freeport are a hazard to bicyclists and motor vehicles, and should be reduced to a single left turn lane. This intersection, due to long crossing distances, should provide center refuge medians on both the north and south crosswalks.

Northgate Blvd Transportation Plan

The City of Sacramento has released the final draft Northgate Blvd Transportation Plan. Appendix F Layout Designs is a key part of the plan. This post reflects my original comments (Northgate Boulevard Emerging Design Concepts) and the new plan. The city’s plan page is at http://www.cityofsacramento.org/Public-Works/Transportation/Planning-Projects/NorthgateMobility. The plan is on the Active Transportation Commission agenda for January 20, 2023, and will go to the city council within the next two months.

Travel Lanes

The most important aspect to the plan is that travel lanes (general purpose lanes) have been reduced from two each direction to one each direction. A reduction of lanes and narrowing of lanes (from 12 feet or more to 11 feet) is probably the single most effective action for calming traffic. When there is a single lane, the prudent driver who is traveling at or near the speed limit controls the behavior of other drivers, many of which would be traveling at excessive and incredibly dangerous speeds.

Trees?

Of the 10 common design elements on page 20 (23 of the pdf), none are about trees. Yet the lack of trees and shade for walking was a major issue in community input. The city has a tendency to minimize trees in transportation planning, because they are a detail beneath the interest of traffic engineers, and the city doesn’t want responsibility for maintaining street trees. Trees are often treated on the standard timeline of it is either a) too soon to address that (which was the response to early plans lack of attention to trees), or b) decisions already made so it is too late to address that (which will be the answer on trees now). Yet trees are a critical element of walkability, and walkability is a critical element of economic vitality. No trees, no walkers, no economic vitality.

On page 26 (29 of the pdf), the proposed cross-section does not show any trees within the public right-of-way, only on private property. Sidewalks are shown as eight feet, which is great, but without trees, many fewer people will walk there than if there were trees for shade. The wide-open viewshed also encourages higher speed driving, counteracting efforts to reduce speed.

Driveways?

One of the unfortunate aspects of the corridor is the prevalence of driveways. In most cases, each and every business has its own driveway or driveways, and its own parking. That is a characteristic of how the area developed, and in some ways it is a strength, because many small businesses make for a more vibrant economy (not to mention higher property tax and sales tax income). But crossing driveways are also the biggest impediment to a safe and welcoming walk, and to bicycling.

The city seems to have decided that it is not worthwhile addressing the number of curb cuts for driveways. The plan acknowledges wide and number driveways, but offers no solution.

Page 28 (31 of the pdf) shows a diagram for Wilson Avenue intersection. In just this short section, three properties are shown as having double in-out driveways for a single business. Not only is this unnecessary interruption of the sidewalk, but an interruption of the bikeway (green color in the diagram).

I believe the city should proactively reduce driveways by eliminating all double in-out driveways. It could be left to the property owner or business to decide if they want to have one in driveway and one out driveway, or a wider in-out driveway, though clearly one in-out is better for walkers and bicyclists.

more Sac failure to properly mark/sign ADA for construction

Note: This post was developed in October 2022 but not posted at that time due to an oversight. It is still useful.

There is a new construction project at N St & 14th St in the Sacramento central city, opposite Capitol Park. The project, called Cypress, is a CADA project for multi-family housing, but I do not know the lead construction company. The site has been fenced along N St and 14th St (address is 1330 N St), and across Neighbors Alley. Along N St, the sidewalk is closed at the project, and the crosswalk over 14th St is closed at the southeast corner. Along 14th St, the crosswalk over N St is closed at the north side, and the sidewalk is closed at a property south of the alley.

As is usual for a project permitted by the City of Sacramento, either the traffic control plan was written to allow violation of ADA, or the company has not followed the plan. Or both.

The photos below show the failures.

construction barrier not ADA at 14th St crosswalk
14th St at N St crosswalk, southeast corner, construction barrier not ADA

At this location, the barrier is not ADA compliant. The bottom bar must be no more than six inches from the ground, at bottom, so that it is detectable by a person using a cane. The barrier footing is a trip hazard for both unsighted and sighted persons.

construction barrier not ADA at N St crosswalk
N St croswalk at 14th St, construction barrier not ADA

The situation is the same for the crosswalk over N St at 14th St (Capitol Park is behind the camera), an non-ADA compliant barrier and trip hazard.

N St, construction fence blocking sidewalk, no detectable barrier
N St closed sidewalk, not detectable

Along N St at the construction project, chain link fence is used. There is a sign, but there is no ADA-compliant detectable barrier. The fence is angled, making it doubly difficult for anyone vision limitations. A concrete block fence post holder is likely the first thing a person would encounter, a trip hazard.

sidewalk closed signing and barrier for N St sidewalk
N St sidewalk at 13th St, signing and barrier

At least there is advance warning of the sidewalk closed ahead, as required by ADA, but the barrier on which the sign is mounted is problematic. It does not have a detectable warning, and the base provides a trip hazard for both unsighted and sighted people. A barrier is actually not required at this location, just the sign, but if there barrier is there, it must be ADA complaint.

14th St sidewalk closure, sign but no detectable barrier
14th St sidewalk closure, no detectable barrier

Where the 14th St sidewalk is closed, there is a sign, but there is no detectable barrier. Chain link fence is not a detectable barrier. The fence post base again presents a trip hazard.

14th St at O St no advance warning of closed sidewalk
14th St at O St, probably no advance warning of closure

At the northwest corner of 14th St and O St, there does not seem to be any advance warning of the closure ahead. The sign in the photo belongs to the construction project on the south side of O St, not to this project. It is out of place, and has clearly been backed over by a motor vehicle driver. It is of a different type than the other signing and barricades for Cypress project, so is unlikely to belong to it.

The barriers being used are meant for roadway projects, where they communicate with drivers and do not present trip hazards. They are not meant to be used on sidewalks and crosswalks.

Posting on the failure of construction projects to properly sign and provide ADA detectable barriers, and to accommodate walkers and bicyclists, must seem to readers like beating a dead horse. I’ve posted on such instances a number of times, and have made hundreds of reports to the city 311 system about such failures. Sometimes they get fixed, sometimes not, but usually not until I and others have reported them multiple times. Interestingly, almost all state projects are now compliant from the beginning, whether because they woke up to do the right thing or because of the public’s repeated reports, I’m not sure. The projects approved by the city are almost never compliant.

So, yes, I am beating a dead horse, and that dead horse is the City of Sacramento. And it is beginning to smell.

I am not at all opposed to construction projects, particularly the ones adding housing to the central city. In fact, I’m overjoyed to see housing being put back into the central city, after so much was erased by the city and state earlier on. But construction can be done right, if the city requires it and the construction companies follow through.

See construction zone solutions for background information, and search for other posts tagged with construction.

SacATC meeting Jan 19 with report, Northgate, Freeport

Update: The letter on the status of walking/biking was deferred to the next meeting, where a modified letter will be considered and hopefully passed. The Freeport and Northgate Transportation Plans were forwarded to council. I spoke in favor of Northgate and against Freeport, for reasons I will detail in the near future. The applications for planning grants were supported.

The Sacramento Active Transportation Commission (SacATC) is meeting online Thursday, January 18, 2023, 6:00PM to about 8:00PM, via Zoom. See http://sacramento.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=21 for agenda and eComment.

The three main topics are:

A read of the subcommittee report, formatted as a letter to the mayor since the commission is advisory to the council, is good and should be supported. I particularly like the emphasis on completing the construction detour policy, since city staff otherwise do not care about the safety of walkers and bicyclists in navigating construction projects that close or change sidewalks and bikeways. Two items missing are bike/scooter share, and Vision Zero. These two items may or may not fall under the purview of SacATC, however, the city is not making information available to the public on these efforts, so it seems to fall to SacATC to do so.

In general, the Northgate and Freeport plans are an immense improvement over existing conditions, so meet needs of the moment, but it is less clear they are going to meet the needs of the future, which will be much less private motor vehicle driving, and more walking, bicycling and transit. If time is available to look at the plans more closely, I’ll add posts.

Sacramento disdains walkers

The City of Sacramento, both the city government and many people who live here, have a picture of a pretty good place to live, and work, and play. And that is true, to some degree. Good climate (except middle of summer), a wealth of trees, interesting and useful businesses (at least in midtown), mostly flat (for bicyclists), two rivers and the confluence, moderately friendly people. But the transportation network sucks.

Heavy rain of course brings out the flaws in the transportation system. Flooded roadways that at the least make it hard to get places, and at worst kill people. Trees and tree debris blocking both sidewalks and bike lanes. Light rail that runs late or not at all, buses behind schedule. All of those are important issues. But this post is about flooded ADA ramps.

flooded ADA ramp, Q St at 13th St
flooded ADA ramp, Q St at 13th St

The above photo is a mild case, as it does not make the ADA ramp and connecting sidewalks impassible. It just means wet feet for people who can’t jump the puddle, or wet wheels for people with mobility devices. You might think that this is a problem created by the storms. But look closer. The ADA ramp was built so that it is LOWER than the drain inlet. This puddle will remain until it evaporates, and if the rain continues, it will be there for quite some while. There are two explanations, and I don’t know which is correct. 1) The ramp and drain inlet was designed by an incompetent engineer; or 2) ramp and drain inlet were not built as designed, meaning that the construction inspector did not notice or did not care that it was not installed as designed. In either case, it is the fault of the city.

You might think that this is an unusual circumstance, but if you walk and notice, about half the ADA ramps in the city have this same problem. Why is this so common? Because the city doesn’t care. The engineer doesn’t care, or the inspector doesn’t care. Every one of these situations expresses the city’s disdain for walkers, and users of mobility devices.

I started with a mild example, but to present a much worse example:

flooded ADA ramp and sidewalk, 3rd St at O St
flooded ADA ramp and sidewalk, 3rd St at O St

This puddle won’t disappear for at least a week, even without additional rain. This is not a problem of a plugged drain inlet. The ramp and sidewalk was designed to be BELOW the gutter level along the street.

I have reported this location multiple times to the city, over the years. It has never been fixed. When I submit a 311 report, it is marked as complete without anything being done. Which is not untypical for the city, most of my 311 reports are ignored, marked as complete without anything being done.

Does this bother you? Get in touch with your city council member, provide photos and stories about how this impacts you and the people you know. Ask council members to hold city staff responsible for their incompetence and lack of care. If the city manager can’t fix these problems, it is time for a new city manager. If Public Works can’t fix this problem, it is time for a new head of Public Works. Anything else is not acceptable.

Measure A fails, and mapping

Measure A, the transportation sales tax for Sacramento County, failed spectacularly, 44% yes and 55% no. Advocates for a better, safer, more equitable transportation, and better investment of our transportation dollars, celebrate this failure. Final election results were released on December 8, 2022.

Sacramento County Measure A 2022 results

More analysis of the results and significance to come, but for now, some maps.

Sacramento County Elections provided a map of the Measure A results.

Sacramento County Elections, Measure A 2022 map

Sacramento Bee provided a similar though not identical map.

SacBee Measure A 2022 map

Both these maps indicate whether a precinct voted yes or no, but no indication of the number of voters or the proportion of the vote yes or no. There is a movement towards better election reporting maps, called ‘Land Doesn’t Vote, People Vote’. A few references are U.S. election maps are wildly misleading, so this designer fixed themElection graphics 2020: Land (still) doesn’t vote, and Land Doesn’t Vote, People Do: This Electoral Map Tells the Real Story, but you can find many more.

Below is my first attempt at producing a better map for Measure A. Click on the graphic for a linked pdf, which allows you to zoom in on specific areas. What’s different? I used a range of colors, from red (no) to green (yes) votes (ArcGIS: graduated colors, equal interval, 10 classes). You can see there is much more subtle detail. There were a few precincts which voted entirely no or entirely yes, but very few. Most were somewhere in between. For elections (other than the antique federal electoral college), votes count, precincts do not.

The map still over-emphasizes precincts with large area and few voters (some precincts have as few as one person who actually voted). If you look (unfocus your eyes), you would think that there were almost no ‘yes’ votes in the county, but that is not accurate.

The data I used, modified from the Sacramento County Elections data, is here.

Measure A 2022 mp by Dan Allison, graduated colors

Some of the other map alternatives, which are better, require ArcGIS techniques and skills that I’m just looking into, so I expect I’ll have better maps soon. Stay tuned!

Sac region does well on ATP grants

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) adopted the staff recommendations for funding Active Tranportation Program (ATP) grant applications. The Sacramento region did well, with seven grants awarded. Sacramento County received two, City of Sacramento two, Rancho Cordova one, West Sacramento one, and Placerville one. More detailed descriptions of these projects will be available on the CTC ATP or Caltrans websites.

CTC ATP awards for Sacramento region

The SACOG announcements will be made later, and there may be additional projects awarded that did not make the state-level cutoff of 89/100.