Hmm. 16th St traffic calming

A new traffic calming feature has showed up on 16th Street approaching R Street in midtown Sacramento. Paint and flex posts have been placed between the travel lanes. Advance yield lines (‘sharks teeth’) were also painted, showing where drivers should stop when yielding to pedestrians.

16th St lane channelization

I’m not sure what to think of this. Certainly this is a problematic intersection. Cars stopped for the light rail gates between R Street and Q Street often stop throughout the intersection, blocking both the north and south crosswalks over 16th Street, as well as the intersection itself, preventing vehicles along R Street from proceeding while the traffic is stopped. As with all multilane streets, but particularly high speed, one-way arterials, drivers in one lane may stop for a walker while the others will not. I see this every day, and this intersection is worse than most. For reasons I don’t understand, traffic speeds on 16th Street northbound are noticeably higher than 15th Street southbound, even though the design of both streets in the same.

So, how’s it working. Well, I’ve so far only had the chance to observe it for 15 minutes. I’m not sure it is making much difference. About 10% of drivers stopped at or close to the advance yield lines. About 70% of drivers stopped at the forward edge of the flex posts, about 10% stopped over the crosswalk, and about 10% did not stop for people using the crosswalk. I saw three people nearly hit by drivers. This is not unusual, and it not worse than before, but it is not good.

Below is an example. The driver to the left stopped over the top of the crosswalk, even though it was clear that traffic ahead was stopped for the light rail gate, and there was no space to proceed into. The driver to the right stopped before the crosswalk, but not at the advance yield line. Not visible it the driver in the closest lane who did not stop at all because there was a space in that lane across the intersection.

walker using the crosswalk over 16th St at R St

While I appreciate the effort, I’m not sure if the results will be what is desired, which is the ability of walkers to safely cross the street.

In the long run, the reallocation of roadway on 16th Street to reduce the general purpose lanes from three to two will help this location a great deal, but I don’t know when that will happen. It could be years away.

With the new businesses on R Street to the east, and the street dining area on R Street to the west of 15th Street, this intersection has become quite busy with walkers, bicyclists, scooters, and motor vehicles. It does deserve attention.

Curb extensions 16th & N

Curb extensions, also called bulb-outs, have been installed on all four corners at the intersection of 16th Street and N Street in midtown Sacramento. The extensions are the width of the parking lanes along both these streets. N Street has bikes lanes, which are not restricted by the extensions, while 16th Street does not have bike lanes, and won’t until the street is reconstructed into a more complete street at some unknown point in the future.

The primary beneficiaries of curb extensions are pedestrians, who have a shorter distance to cross, with every crossing being about six feet less distance for every parking lane, so in this case, 12 feet less. There is also much better visibility of cars by walkers, and of walkers by car drivers. Sometimes they also provide an opportunity for beautification, with rainwater swales and/or planting, as can be seen in the photo.

Every street with parking lanes should have curb extensions, so almost every intersection, but implementation will be slow because they are moderately expensive to construct (curbs sidewalks, detectable warning strips, better located ped buttons), and sometimes require drainage changes and occasionally even utility relocation. These particular extensions are certainly not the first in Sacramento, in fact there are extensions on the west corners of the intersection of 16th and O, just to the south, but are notable for being installed in a high pedestrian use area along two heavily trafficked streets.