Sac Vision Zero flaws

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.

El Camino Ave & Grove Ave intersection
Broadway & Stockton Blvd intersection

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.

Parkway trail low points

There are two low spots on the American River Parkway trail (officially called the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail) that flood even under moderate rainfall or flood conditions. It may seem strange to bring these low spots up when just last week perhaps 90% of the trail was underwater. The trail is in a riparian area, and so will and should flood during major flood events. But the trail is also a major commuter route for hundreds people who work downtown and live to the east, as well as a few reverse commuters like myself. After the jump, details and solutions for these two problem spots.

Continue reading “Parkway trail low points”

city failure on Capitol Mall bike lane

Sacramento has nearly completed a reconstructed bridge over I-5 between 3rd Street and Tower Bridge. This is part of a project to provide access from and to Old Sacramento, but that part is not complete yet. The pavement is fresh, with bright white lines and green carpet bike lanes. But, the bike lane design is a failure. The eastbound bike lane is OK. A little strange because it varies in width, but acceptable. The westbound bike lane, though, is a hazard to bicyclists.

Below is a photo of the first problem, a bike lane to the right of a place where a right turn is permitted. This is at the entrance to the Old Sacramento access.The straight-and-right arrow indicates that the city expects heavy right turning traffic at this location.

While this design is in compliance with the law, using a dashed line to indicate that traffic from the general purpose lane and the bike lane should safely merge, the use of green paint here is the wrong message. Though green paint has no legal meaning, the general meaning taken is that this is the place for bicycles. So an average bicyclist will stay in the bike lane, not realizing that the safe manesuver is to merge into the general purpose lane. The result is a right hook danger that has been created by the design.

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Stay to the right of right turning cars? NO!

There are a lot of ways to solve this issue, but this is the worst possible solution. Creating a separate signal phase for bicyclists and right turning traffic is one solution. Dropping the bike lane in favor of green-back sharrows in the general purpose lane is another.

However, this problem spot is minor in comparison to what happens just on the other side of the intersection. Here, the bike lane suddenly ends and becomes a right turn only lane. There is no signing for bicyclists or motor vehicle drivers, no pavement markings, no indication of what biyclists should do. I’m a vehicular bicyclist and would not be in this bike lane fragment to begin with, but for the average bicyclist, this green paint is a clear message, “this is where you belong.” Whoops. Sorry. Turns out we needed the road for a right turn lane, and just got rid of the bike lane. Hope you are still alive, but if not, well it wasn’t our fault. But the thing is, it is the city’s fault. This is a mis-design, and the city should be sued the first time someone is injured at this location. It is not as though this was an existing location where the city did the best if could to squeeze in bike facilities. This is a new construction where things should have been done right. They were not.

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Bike lane ends suddenly – good luck!

There are several good solutions for this location, and the NACTO Guide to Urban Bicycling has several, but even the standard MUTCD design is better than this. Though you can’t see the turn lane due to the parked FedEx van (it was there for more than 10 minutes, double-parked, and I couldn’t wait any longer for the photo), there are no bike markings in the right turn lane at all. There is no “bicyclists may use full lane” sign. Maybe bicyclists are meant to fly over this right turn lane and return to earth at the bridge. Or maybe they are meant to die.

As I always warn people in bicyclist education classes, don’t get sucked in by paint. Paint doesn’t keep you safe. And in this particular case, paint creates a danger for you that would not exist if not for the paint. Negligent design, for sure.