In my neighborhood, about half the trees have lost all their leaves for the year, and the other half are still hanging on. If I listen closely, I can hear the tick of leaves hitting the ground.
So, how have the bike lanes been doing during leaf season? At least for the parts of the central city and east Sacramento that I ride in, acceptably OK. People are putting their leaf piles in the bike lanes much less often than in previous years. I’m not sure why. I haven’t noticed any city effort to educate about this, other than a vague “When possible, avoid placing piles in bike lanes.” on their Leaf Season page. But I really do believe there are less piles in the bike lanes. Maybe people are beginning to clue in. If only there were a similar improvement in trash cans in bike lanes.
A big concern was how the new separated bikeways (‘protected bike lanes’, ‘cycletracks’) on P and Q and 10th (and now 9th) would do. The city has not yet purchased a device for sweeping these bike facilities. Apparently the ‘the claw’, the loader that collects the leaf piles and moves them into dump trucks, can negotiate the bikeways, and this is how they have been kept clear. This is working pretty well, all except for one block, pictured below. This section of P Street between 15th and 14th has a large accumulation of leaves, and the leaves have developed into leaf slime, with is an incredibly slippery mush of decayed leaves. I am not sure what is different about this block, but it certainly is different. It needs to be cleaned now, and cleaned more frequently.
4. Sacramento, California The J Street Safety Project was designed to calm traffic, improve pedestrian crossings, provide parking-protected bikeways, and make the street more inviting for travel. They chose to add a parking-protected lane to allow people of all ages and levels to bike the grid, separated from moving traffic. Travel lanes were reduced from 3 to 2, encouraging slower vehicle speeds, decreasing pedestrian crossing lengths, and improving corridor safety. The project came out of the Central City Transportation Plan (Grid 3.0) in 2016, and is a marriage of street maintenance funding and transportation planning. They found that there was a need to calm traffic and improve pedestrian crossings, which was identified by the local businesses and residential community. The project improves pedestrian visibility by moving parking back from the intersection. It also benefits local businesses along the corridor by slowing traffic and increasing ease of crossing the corridor. So far they’ve built over 25 blocks of parking-protected bikeways this year, and have funding for another 22 blocks.
The City of Sacramento has created a demonstration separated bikeway on P Street (westbound) between 15th and 13th streets. Separated bikeways, also known as protected bike lanes and cycletracks, are becoming common in progressive cities, but this is the first in Sacramanto. Yesterday the city held a “ribbon cutting” on the facility, with Mayor Steinberg and Councilmember Hansen speaking and visibly excited. The demonstration will be there through Friday, then removed. The purpose of the demonstration is to show the public what a separated bikeway looks like and how it works, and gain community feedback on the project. The city wants to install parking protected separated bikeways on portions of P and Q streets, and a buffered separated bikeway on a portion of 10th St (map below), so the demonstration hopefully will lead to permanent installations.
I was amazed at how quickly drivers adapted to the parking change. Most of the spots were filled with properly parked cars, even though the parking didn’t open until after the morning rush on parking. I was also noted that when the project was already set up for the morning inbound rush hour, there was no congestion on P St. This is the type of project that benefits drivers, bicyclists, and even people parking.
On of the questions about these facilities is how they interact with transit. The demo was placed on the left (south side westbound) to avoid interacting with buses. However, Route 6 Land Park and Route 38 P/Q Streets are low frequency 60 minute routes that should not strongly influence street allocation. An easy solution to having both separated bikeways and bus stops on the same side of the street is bus boarding islands within the parking lane or buffer, so that the bikeway passes behind the island.
I encourage you to get out and see, and use, the demo, and then provide your feedback to the city. The city will host an Open House on October 9 from 5-7 p.m. at City Hall. If you can go, please do! I’m sure there will be people there complaining about loss of a lane, and loss of parking (though there is only a slight decrease), and about change in general, so the city needs to hear from enthusiasts (we want it NOW) and thoughtful ideas for how to improve projects and install in more places. More information is available on the CityExpress page, and the Downtown Bikeways Project page.