Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. – Ivan Illich, Energy and Equity
The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail through the American River Parkway is a major commuting route for bicyclists from the suburbs to downtown, with some reverse commuting as well. It is also a recreational trail, getting a lot of use from recreational bicyclists, walkers, and families on weekends. It is great that one trail can serve so many purposes. However, the trail is being managed by Sacramento Regional Parks as though it were just a recreational trail. The trail is part of the transportation network in the county, and it should be managed as such, of course in a way that is compatible with its purposes of recreation and natural area conservation.
To be specific:
- Directional signage to indicate entry and exit points and junctions with connecting trails is almost nonexistent. Mileage/time to destinations signage is non-existent.
- Park ranger and maintenance vehicles regularly drive on the trail, compressing the decomposed granite walking/running shoulders that have been constructed. These then erode and become muddy, and the vehicles track mud out onto the paved trail. Much of the maintenance work could be done by cargo bike, and much of the ranger patrol could be done by bicycle, which after all works just fine for the Sacramento PD and CHP bike officers. I have never seen a regional parks employee on a bike.
- When the trail is closed by flooding or fire, no information is provided about alternate routes. (see Parkway trail flood signing)
- Low spots on the trail are regularly flooded under moderate rain and flooding events, resulting a broken network. (see Parkway trail low points)
- The entire parkway has remained closed after the recent severe flooding episode, but regional parks has made no effort to inform the public about the sections where easy bypasses are available, such as levee top paths (which are sometimes paved and sometimes gravel, but usually passable). For example, it has been easy to ride from Guy West bridge along the levee, duck under the overpass at Howe Avenue by using paths down to and up from University Ave, and continue on to Watt Avenue, and beyond, but instead regional parks has said the parkway is closed and has not informed anyone of these alternate route. Parts of the trail were never flooded at all, yet remain closed.
- Sacramento Regional Parks receives $1 million annually from the Measure A transportation sales tax in order to maintain the trail. The Sacramento Bicycle Advisory Committee (SacBAC) has questioned how the money is being spent over the years, but has never received a satisfactory answer. It is possible the money is being well spent, and I’m sure the trail is expensive to maintain, but regional parks is not being transparent.
- There are almost no user facilities on the western end of the trail between Watt Avenue and Discovery Park. A drinking fountain at Howe Avenue was removed three years ago and never replaced. There are no bathrooms in this section, other than the smelly pit toilet at Watt Avenue and the almost unusable pit toilet near the Expo Parkway access point (which leaks waste into the waterway, no less). There are some benches or tables, but few and far between.
- Root humps regularly develop in the trail, which is natural given the riparian zone and large trees. So far as I can tell, the paint markings to flag these hazards are all made by trail users, not by regional parks. When things get really bad, they are repaired, but long after the point at which they become dangerous. The same issue exists with beaver burrow slumps, common in the section between Expo Parkway access and Sac Northern trail.
If Sacramento Regional Parks cannot manage the trail as part of the transportation network in the county, then perhaps it is time to pass along management of the trail (not the parkway) to another agency.
Please check the “Storm-Related Parks Update” on the Sacramento Regional Parks homepage.
A “green wave” is a traffic signal sequence set so that vehicles will encounter green lights for some distance, so long as they are traveling at the selected speed. A green wave can also be set for bicycle speeds, though it very rarely has been, and never in Sacramento.
To some degree, all signals are set this way, though the degree and distance of sequencing varies widely. Many of the east-west streets in the Sacramento grid have signals set for motor vehicles, and when traffic is not congested, it may be possible to go all the way across downtown and midtown on green lights, for example on J Street. Very few north-south streets are set this way, I can think of only the 15th & 16th couplet, and the 9th & 10th couplet. At intersections with the east-west couplets, these north-south couplets seem to have their green wave broken. Only if the grid spacing and the selected speed calculate out is it possible to have a green wave in all directions. Sadly, many signal sequences in the Sacramento region are set above the posted speed limit, encouraging drivers to speed so that they make all lights.
Two of the three lead projects in the Sacramento Bee’s Book of Dreams holiday effort are adaptive bicycles:
I’ve already made a donation to both, and I’d recommend that every bicyclist donate. Adaptive bikes are expensive because they have a large number of adjustments and features for the specific individual. The donations are to a fund managed by the Sacramento Region Community Foundation.
The Streetsblog family of blogs (NYC, LA, SF, and Capitol Hill) has Daily News posts, and for the NYC, The Weekly Carnage. I find these useful for picking up interesting information I’d otherwise miss. Though I probably only average one click per list, it is still useful. Maybe this would be useful for Sacramento. Please let me know if it is useful, and please pass along articles that you think I might miss. The only news sources that I regularly follow are the Sacramento Bee and The Sacramento News & Review, but even there I sometimes miss things.
Bicycle advocates chalk up successes of Bike Month (2012-05-17 SacBee)
Dutchman completes an emotional win (2012-05-21 SacBee)
Pedestrian hit while crossing Arden Arcade street dies of injuries (2012-05-17 SacBee)
Viewpoints: Not just about highways (2012-05-20 SacBee)
Registration Opens for Annual ‘Rex Ride’ (2012-05-18 SacBee)
City might relax business parking requirements (2012-05-18 Sacramento Business Journal)
Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen Preparing Fourth Annual Scavenger Hunt (2012-05-15 Sacramento Press)
Minivan hits girl on bike in Antelope area (2012-05-14 News 10)
Bikes and light rail are a natural complement to each other. Light rail covers the longer distances quickly, while bikes get you from your origin and to your destination, directly or via connecting bus service. I’ll post about buses later.
Bikes can be taken on all Sacramento RT Light Rail trains, without time restrictions. However, there is insufficient capacity on light rail for bicyclists, for two reasons:
1. The restriction on the number of bicycles per car of four does not reflect the current demand for bicycle space. This is a relict of a time when few bicyclists used light rail, and must be modified.
2. Passengers without bicycles occupy the end spots of the cars, seemingly in preference, precluding use by bicyclists. These bicyclists then cram their bikes into other spaces and inconvenience other passengers.