My last three posts have been about locations where sharrows replace bike lanes for one-block sections in the Sacramento central city: Sacramento’s worst possible place for sharrows; Sac kill those sharrows on I St; Sac kill those sharrows on H St. There may well be other such locations that did not come to mind. If so, please let me know so I can document and post on them. I’m not asking about locations that should have bike lanes, or where bike lanes should be upgraded to separated (protected) bikeways. There are simply too many of those locations for me to deal with.
So, why are bike lane gaps so important? Bike lanes are basically a promise to bicyclists that the city is providing a safe place to ride your bike. Yes, I know traditional bike lanes have serious safety issues (they are called door zone bike lanes, or DZBLs), but for the average rider, they are safer than no bike lane. But this promise is broken when there is a gap. For these gap sections, bicyclists who felt comfortable riding in a bike lane are suddenly left to deal with motor vehicle traffic in a location where neither the bicyclist nor drivers are sure how to behave. What does the average bicyclist then do? Decide never to ride on that street again. And if they have a scary experience, they may even decide not to ride again at all.
I’m a bicyclist with strong vehicular bicycling skills. I know where the safest place to ride is on every street, and I ride there no matter what motor vehicle drivers or law enforcement happens to think about it. But I am far, far from a typical Sacramento bicyclist. I am ‘strong and fearless’, though as I get older, I’m tending towards ‘enthused and confident’. The four types of bicyclists, or levels of comfort, developed in Portland but applicable to Sacramento, are shown in the graphic:
The city should be designing bicycle facilities that work for all three categories of people who will bicycle. When there is a gap in a bike lane, the city has designed bicycle facilities that serve the ‘strong and fearless’, only 7% of potential bike riders. This is discriminatory. It is wrong. I suspect that with the resurgence of bicycling and the availability of e-bikes, the ‘no way, no how’ category has shrunk a bit.
The city must close bike lane gaps. Not off in the future when the street is repaved, or when a grant is obtained, but NOW. To do otherwise is to intentionally discourage bicycling and to risk people’s lives.
Next sharrows location to address is I Street between 10th Street and 9th Street. The bike lane present to the east disappears in this block, with Cesar Chavez Plaza on the south and Old City Hall on the north, before picking up again west of 9th Street. Not having my tape measure out (and I’d have to measure late night when there is no traffic), it isn’t clear why this one block does not have a bike lane. It may be that the curb extension is too wide, or it may be that the general purpose (car) lanes are not configured correctly. If lanes, then it is an easy problem to fix, just re-stripe the lanes and add a bike lane. If the curb extension, then that would require a bit of infrastructure work. I fully support curb extensions, nearly all intersections should have them, but in some places the city has installed them incorrectly and caused issues for bicycle facilities. This is not, as many places are, a case for removing parking, but for designing the street correctly. Of course ultimately there should be no three-lane one-way traffic sewers in the city, and right of way should be reallocated to a separated (protected) bikeway and wider sidewalks.
Caveat: I post about issues in the central city because I live here, and see the problems every time I am out walking or bicycling. However, I strongly believe that the city should be focused on solving issues in lower income, disinvested neighborhoods, of which there are ample throughout the city. The central city has received more than its share of bike facilities.
The City of Sacramento adopted Vision Zero in 2017, and developed a Vision Zero Action Plan in 2018. The plan identified five high injury corridors for projects to slow traffic and increase safety for walkers and bicyclists. The city then developed a plan for these five corridors in 2021. The city has obtained grants for some of these corridors, and will apply for more. The city lowered speed limits in a number of schools zones (though street design, drop-off/pick-up procedures, and motorist behavior are the issues in most school zones, not speeding). The city also developed a public outreach education program, though there is no evidence of such programs having any effect on driver behavior (NHTSA and California OTS have thousands of programs with no demonstrated success). So far, so good.
The city has intentionally ignored high injury intersections, unless they are on one of these corridors. No grant applications have been made to fix intersections, though intersections are where most fatalities and severe injuries occur. No non-grant actions have been taken to fix high injury intersections.
The city has failed to set up a crash investigation team to determine causes and solutions for every fatality. The police department (or CHP if the crash occurs on a state highway) will do an investigation, and sometimes involve traffic engineers, but never involves planners, never involves experts in nonprofit organizations (who have as much if not more expertise than city staff), and never involves citizens who walk and bike.
The Vision Zero Task Force, which met in 2016 and 2017, has never met since. That means there is no community guidance for the Vision Zero program. City staff is making all the decisions on Vision Zero.
The city has ignored all the low cost options for reducing motor vehicle crashes. As just one example, the city has been asked to remove pedestrian beg buttons and create leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs) at all signalized intersections, but did only a small beg button set to auto-recall on five crosswalks, and have not increased the number of LPIs in years.
The city should create an effective crash investigation team, composed of law enforcement, city traffic engineers, city planners, nonprofit experts, and citizens who walk and bike, and perhaps a representative of the neighborhood association in which the crash occurred. The team should never be led by law enforcement, which has an anti-walker and anti-bicyclist windshield bias. It has been suggested that streets where fatalities have occurred be shut down until the investigation and resulting fixes are in place, which is an idea worth considering.
The city should identify the top five high injury intersections, and commit to significant changes to eliminate crashes at those intersections, within three years. And then move on to the next five. The corridor projects and intersection projects should be considered co-equal in city funded projects or grant applications.
The city Active Transportation Commission should take on a strong leadership role in advising the council on the Vision Zero program. It may also be appropriate to re-convene the task force to provide more detailed guidance to staff.
The city should implement a Vision Zero project to change all traffic signals in the entire city to auto-recall (with removal of the physical beg buttons as staffing allows) and leading pedestrian intervals.
The city should undertake a review of peer cities that have reduced speed limits city-wide, to determine whether to implement this change and how to learn from the experiences of other cities. If the review indicates that speeds can be reduced by as little as 3 mph by a reduction from 25 mph to 20 mph, the city should implement it city-wide. Similarly for higher speed streets.
With the removal of blockages to motor vehicle travel on Capitol Avenue, a few weeks ago, and R Street, recently, Sacramento no longer has any streets closed to motor vehicles for the purposes of encouraging outdoor dining. There are still a few locations with sidewalks diverted to the street for outdoor dining, and parking lanes dedicated to outdoor dining, but many fewer than there were.
The city says that the end of the closure (to cars) was the decision of the business owners. Did the city talk to them to find out what they needed? To negotiate with them? I doubt it.
The city, of course, says that they are working on a permit system for outdoor dining, but the discussion of the permit system that I’ve seen is that it will only be for sidewalk diversions and parking lane dining. The city does not envision ever closing a street (to cars) for dining again, ever, anywhere. Why wasn’t the permit system in place before these dining areas disappeared? I believe it is because the city slow walks (pun) everything that has to do with creating a more livable, less car dominated city. There are powerful forces, in Public Works in particular, but other places as well, that don’t believe in walking and bicycling, or public spaces, and will do everything they can to make sure those things don’t happen. The pandemic reversed this, temporarily, because there was such a strong demand from the public, but the city has now slid back into its anti-livability comfort zone.
The city (I think) went to the trouble and expense of installing bollard anchors along much of R Street, from 15th Street to 10th Street, and the cross streets, but seems unwilling to use them.
When I went by today to get a current photo of the street, I noticed that Iron Horse Tavern has blocked the sidewalk on the south side of R Street, leaving no alternate route or ADA accommodation. I suspect that this is one of the businesses here that thinks all its customers arrive by car, and they don’t need to serve anyone else. Please make their wishes come true, if you are a walker or bicyclist, and avoid this business.
I’m reviewing the City of Sacramento’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), preliminary draft. I’ll have several more posts on this, but what immediately comes through to me is that the plan doesn’t acknowledge what the city did wrong in the past to create such a carbon-intensive city.
So, let me help with that:
focusing the transportation network on continuously expanding capacity for motor vehicles, ignoring and more frequently being hostile to other modes; this has changed slightly, but is still the dominant approach
spending almost all funds on roadway capacity expansion (more lanes and interchanges) instead of maintaining what we have; every pothole is a policy failure
refusing to accept responsibility for sidewalks, which are a critical and core component of the transportation network
refusing to spend any general funds on transportation improvements, other than required matches, depending instead almost entirely on grant funding from the state and federal levels
providing free and below market rate parking throughout the city, which not only subsidizes but increases motor vehicle use
going all-in on motor vehicle electrification, while nearly ignoring electric bikes; there are no electric bike incentives, and no electric bike charging facilities
failing to update the outmoded 2006 pedestrian plan, and/or to combine it with the bicycle plan into an integrated active transportation plan
refusing to develop policy around transportation solutions, as though every project were unique and had nothing to do with other projects or with the overall pattern; the bicycle and pedestrian master plans are examples, laying out individual routes but not creating policy that determines what kind of facilities are appropriate for what kinds of streets and intersections
refusing to innovate and pilot new ideas, as every peer city has been doing; despite accepting the progressive NACTO guidelines, the city has actually not implemented anything that does not comply to the letter with the regressive MUTCD guidelines
Housing and Land Use
zoning which prevented multi-family and mixed use throughout most of the city; this has changed a little, and will change more with the 2040 General Plan, but the legacy of this will be with us for generations, and yes, the intent was largely racist; zoning of this sort makes everything further away, requiring more driving
setting development standards which make inefficient use of land, with setbacks and height limits, which again, spreads everything out
eliminating inclusionary zoning without creating a viable method of funding affordable housing through development impact fees or other mechanisms; for example, the city only contributed pittance $2.8M of the $40 or so that the newly opened Lavender Courtyard cost
supporting and celebrating large residential greenfield developments while ignoring infill development, and placing requirements on development that are easy for large developers and onerous for small developers; this has changed a bit, but not much
bending over backwards to promote and subsidize very large projects, such as the arena and Delta Shores, while paying no attention to small businesses; every empty storefront is as much a failure of the city as it is of that business
None of this is to say that the city is not doing some good things, or that it is not light years ahead of the county, and ahead of most of the cities in the region. But overcoming carbon addiction requires admitting that you have a problem, and largely created the problem, and can’t overcome the problem until you stop doing the wrong things.
I think it is important that the CAAP not only state what the city will do, but also what it will STOP doing.
Car drivers can zip between places with restrooms. Bicyclists, to a lesser degree. Transit users and walkers, not at all. This is a transportation issue. If people cannot find restrooms, they can’t make their way through the city. They can’t afford to wait at a transit stop for a transfer. People with urinary issues (count me among them) have to plan carefully around not just their movement, but around restroom access. A city without public restrooms is a city that biases transportation against walkers and transit users, and in favor of vehicle drivers. Access is denied to an entire class of citizens.
In Sacramento, public restrooms are scarce. Cesar Chavez Plaza downtown has a Portland Loo type restroom, but it took years to get it done. So far as I know, there are no plans for additional locations.
Roosevelt Park downtown has a new restroom, replacing the old one. There are two single-use, all-gender units, which is the current trend and probably much better than the older multi-user, gendered restrooms.
The restroom in Fremont Park, right across the street as I type, has been closed for years, and despite the sign, is never open during events. Porta-potties are used for events at this park.
I have not traveled to all the city parks to see which restrooms are open, which are open but with limited hours, and which are closed, but my impression is that about half the park restrooms in the city are closed. The city has a GIS map of park restrooms, but no indication of whether the restrooms are actually open or not: https://data.cityofsacramento.org/datasets/b9e7fa6d1d104833b3f04268d7f682dc_0/explore. Park restrooms are valuable for walkers, but very few are located on transit routes.
There are no public restrooms at transit hubs. No restrooms where people are waiting for the next train or next bus. The next bus, at transfer points for low frequency routes, can be quite a long wait, up to 45 minutes assuming the buses are on schedule. Even at Sacramento Valley Station, where a number of modes converge, you can only use the restroom by showing an Amtrak train ticket. Using light rail or bus, or just walking or bicycling, you are out of luck. (Note: Many people assume that Amtrak or Capitol Corridor owns the train station, but it is owned and managed by the city.)
Some light rail stations and a few bus stops have restrooms for the transit operators, but not for the public.
The city should:
re-open or replace all park restrooms, within two years
install public restrooms at every city park which does not currently have them; this would include Muir Children’s Park, Grant Park, Winn Park, and several others
install a public restroom at the bus layover point on L St & 14th St
install a public restroom at the 16th St light rail station (where the Gold Line and Blue Line diverge, and the most used transfer point)
install a public restroom at 7th St & Capitol Ave light rail station (where the Blue Line, Gold Line and Green Line diverge; the 8th St & Capitol Ave stop is a block away)
identify locations throughout the city where walkers and transit users congregate, and install public restrooms there
You might wonder why I’m asking the city to install transit restrooms rather than SacRT. The reason is that I see it as the responsibility of the city to provide restrooms everywhere they are needed, not of the transit agency, though of course the projects could be joint projects.
Note: As is not unusual, I had forgotten that I’d written about N St before: N Street bike route to cycle track, 2015. Seven years have passed, the city has taken no action.
The construction for the Capitol annex project has narrowed N St to two lanes eastbound, from 10th St to 14th St, and parking has been removed from the south side to shift the lanes over. Now is the time for the City of Sacramento to implement its long-delayed (if not deep-sixed) plans for re-allocating space on N St. There have been ongoing utility projects over the last few years that have narrowed N St to two or even just one lane. At no time did that create significant congestion, during the pandemic or before the pandemic. I live two blocks from N St, and both travel along it and cross it frequently. I’ve never seen more than momentary congestion, in 11 years. What that means is that N St, in its three-lane configuration, has grossly excess capacity for motor vehicles.
While the street has been narrowed is the time to redesign the street so that it has no more than two general purpose lanes, and has a curb-protected or parking-protected bikeway. Probably on the left. This is in fact the perfect setting for a separated bikeway, five blocks from 10th St to 15th St with no intersecting streets from the north side, which is Capitol Park.
It is true that the sidewalk on the north side of N St is a designated bikeway, so bicyclists may use the sidewalk to avoid riding in the street. But bicyclists on the sidewalk are often in conflict with people walking on the sidewalk. The sidewalk has pretty continuous use by walkers, particularly during the lunch time – walk time for state workers, but a lot of people also include a circuit of the Capitol Park on their runs and walks. This conflict is easy to solve: create a safe, welcoming, protected (separated) bikeway on the street. And do it now!
On N St eastbound, the leftmost lane is a designated left turn lane at 10th St, which is what makes possible the two-lane configuration beyond 10th St. As a temporary measure, this works well, and forcing turns off three lane streets is a good solution for so many overbuilt arterials roads in Sacramento, but here it is only temporary, and would be obviated by the conversion of all of N St from 3rd St to 15th St. N St becomes a two-lane street at 15th St, and then becomes a two-way street at 21st St. N St from 15th St to 21 St would probably be a good candidate for a separated bikeway as well, but with paint bike lanes existing, would be a lower priority.
Below is a StreetMix sketch of what N St might look like. Note that the width of the street and the elements are estimated, not measured. I don’t believe parking is needed on both sides, but the diagram shows it for people who think it is necessary. Left side is north, Capitol Park in this case, and right side is south, mostly state buildings.
As a reminder, I feel strongly, and it is backed up by evidence:
Three-lane streets are significantly less safe than two-lane streets, primarily for the muli-lane threat (one vehicle stops for walkers and the others do not). They are also a clear sign of poor land use planning, which puts residents and the things they need to reach (jobs, stores, recreation and entertainment, medical, etc.) far away. Narrowing all such roadways in the city from three to two, or less, would increase safety, increase livability, and encourage people to make different choices about where they live and visit. Maps of collisions (vehicle vs. vehicle, vehicle vs. walker, vehicle vs. bicyclist) align almost perfectly with overbuilt arterials.
One-way streets are significantly less safe than two-way streets, for the same multi-lane threat, and because there isn’t any friction to slow drivers. However, I think that the only valid argument for one-way streets is to accommodate separated bikeways, bus lanes, or rail transit. That may be true of N St.
And, sorry, can’t resist, get rid of the worthless palm trees while they are at it. We need shade trees, not poles.
City of Sacramento staff (Drew Hart) presented to the Sacramento Active Transportation Commission last Thursday on the Freeport Boulevard Emerging Design Concepts. The presentation slides are here. The city’s Freeport webpage has a lot of background material. A link to the virtual open house on April 28 (tomorrow!) is available. This project and the Northgate project are being supported by the same consultant, so you will notice similarities in the process and graphics.
The northern section, between Sutterville Road to the east and Sutterville Road to the west, should look exactly like the traffic-calmed, complete street to the north. This project on Freeport was successful. There is no reason for five lanes in this section. One lane northbound, one lane southbound, and one left turn lane southbound is all it needs. If traffic backs up at the Freeport and Sutterville Road to the east intersection, then shorten the signal cycle.
The emerging design document skips over the issue of whether four general purpose lanes are even needed. A concept should be presented that reduces general purpose lanes to two, and reallocates roadway width to other modes.
Dedicated right hand turn lanes should be removed everywhere. Dedicated left hand turn lanes should be provided only where traffic studies have shown a clear need, and should never reduce the roadway width for other uses.
Green lanes are shown behind protection for separated bikeways. Since the protection does or should prevent vehicle incursion, the paint is not needed.
Dedicated transit lanes should be considered. Though SacRT has not identified this as a high frequency route in the High Capacity Bus Service Study (Route 62 is 30-minute frequency), reconstruction of the roadway must consider the possibility of dedicated transit lanes and transit supporting infrastructure. Appendix A, available on the project webpage, provides a lot of detail about existing transit stops, which are mostly quite poor.
Some businesses along Freeport have multiple driveways, more than are justified by the amount of vehicle traffic access. Closure and narrowing of driveways should be considered. Since almost every business has parking fronting the street, no on-street parking is needed anywhere. This is poor urban design, but it is the nature of the corridor and could not be corrected without wholesale reconstruction of the corridor.
While separated bikeways are often a good solution, the frequency of driveways might make for poor quality infrastructure. Unless driveways can be closed or reconfigured, separated bikeways may not be the best solution.
Posted speed AND design speed should be considered for reduction. Posted speed is 30 mph from Sutterville Rd (to the east) to Arica Way, 35 mph from Arica Way to Fruitridge Rd, and 40 mph from Fruitridge Rd to Blair Ave. The section from Sutterville Rd (to the east) to Fruitridge Rd should be posted and designed for 25 mph, in recognition of the density of businesses and driveways. The section from Fruitridge to Blair Ave should be posted and designed for 30 mph, as it has a lower density of businesses and driveways, and is adjacent to the airport for a significant distance.
Prioritization of the modes for Sutterville (to the east) and Fruitridge Rd should be:
Prioritization of the modes for Fruitridge Rd to Blair Ave should be:
Crash/collision map of the Northgate Blvd corridor for pedestrians (walkers) and bicyclists. Data is from SWITRS for the years 2015-2019. (pdf)
Update: Added a crash/collision map at the bottom. Though prevention of pedestrian and bicyclist killed and severe injury is always a top priority, this is not a high risk corridor as compared to many arterials in the city.
City of Sacramento staff (Leslie Mancebo) presented to the Sacramento Active Transportation Commission last Thursday on the Northgate Boulevard Emerging Design Concepts. The presentation slides are here. The city’s Northgate webpage has a lot of background material. A link to the virtual open house on May 11 is available.
I rode Northgate Blvd yesterday to refresh my memory about the street, as I’d not gone that way in a while. So, some comments:
The section of Northgate from Rio Tierra to I-80 is a standard suburban arterial, with low quality development and a completely uninteresting place to be. Changes to the roadway may make it safer, but won’t make it any more interesting or economically successful. The city should not focus on this area. It is unpleasant, and not particularly safe, but leave it be.
The section of Northgate from Rio Tierra to Garden Hwy has serious issues, but I see it as a place that could be transformed into an interesting, welcoming, and vibrant place. The number of small businesses, each with a driveway, is a challenge, but also an opportunity. At least half of the businesses are locally owned. This is not the home of big box and chain stores like much of the suburbs. It IS a place where people could walk if provided a safe and encouraging environment, and there are multiple destinations used by local residents.
I think that this entire segment should have buffered and wide sidewalks. The bike facilities could provide some buffer, but the sidewalk buffer is critical because it allows street trees. This section desperately needs street trees! Of course to be successful, the buffer/planting strip needs to be at least six feet, and the sidewalk at least six feet, but eight-ten foot buffer and eight foot sidewalk would be better. I think that the walking mode should take precedence over all other modes, even bicycling and transit, so whatever right-of-way the buffer and sidewalk needs, it should get. Don’t compromise this away.
I realize this project is at the gathering community input stage. However, diagrams will be used, and I’d like to see the diagrams include significant improvement to the pedestrian environment, wide sidewalks buffered from other modes, with trees in the buffer.
The presentation resulted in a number of questions from commission members about bicycle facilities. One of the ideas that got support is a two-way separated bikeway (or cycletrack) to provide a connection between the Ninos multiple use trail and the American River Parkway multiple use trail (the ‘special section’ in the presentation). There was less agreement about bicycle facilities north of there. One of the ideas is separated bikeways (protected bike lanes). Though of course separated bikeways are the best solution overall, I’m not sure they make sense for the east side of the street. Separated bikeways work best when there are few or no driveways, but there is a huge numbers of driveways here. The west side of the street has far fewer driveways.
There are some opportunities on the corridor for reducing driveways, and certainly some of the driveways can be narrowed to reduce entry and exit speeds. But short of a wholesale revision of the area, most driveways will remain, so the street design must accommodate this fact.
Transit on the part of the corridor between Arden Way and San Juan Road is provided by SacRT Route 13 Natomas/Arden, with a 45 minute frequency on weekdays. The route has a fairly low ridership, but it is a long route of which the Northgate section is a small part.
Crash/collision map of the Northgate Blvd corridor for pedestrians (walkers) and bicyclists. Data is from SWITRS for the years 2015-2019. (pdf)
Take the information about fault below with a huge grain of salt. It is well known that law enforcement officers assume walkers and bicyclists to be at fault, without any serious investigation, and often on the sole word of the driver involved.
Northgate near Rosin Ct: killed, 60 yo male, unknown detail, no fault, no alcohol
Northgate near Ozark Cir: severe injury, 74 yo female, crossing, at fault, alcohol
Northgate at Wisconsin: severe injury, 36 yo female with two children, crossing, driver fault
Northgate at Peralta: severe injury, 48 yo, crossing Peralta, at fault (very unlikely)
Northgate near Winter Garden: severe injury, 49 yo male, left turn, at fault
Northgate at Bridgeford: killed, 47 yo male, crossing, at fault, alcohol or drug
Northgate at Harding: killed, 31 yo female, left turn, at fault
Northgate at Garden Hwy: severe injury, 40-44 yo male, broadside, at fault CVC 21453
The intersections of Northgate and San Juan Rd, West El Camino, and Garden Hwy/Jefferson Ave are particularly problematic because they are flared out to accommodate turning lanes, thereby lengthening crossing distances for walkers and creating a walker-hostile environment. Fixing these intersections would probably do more to improve the safety and feeling of this corridor than changes along the corridor.
Notice there is no overlap. One could optimistically say that the presence of red light cameras may be making drivers safer and reducing the crashes at these locations. But I doubt it. More likely, the city is just not prioritizing high injury intersections. Of course high injury intersections change over time, as traffic patterns change, and as the city redesigns intersections to be safer, so red light camera locations need not remain static.
I ask that the city install red light cameras at all the high injury intersections. I am not asking that the city move the existing cameras to the new locations. If someone thought a red light camera was necessary at an intersection, it probably still is, and should continue unless evidence indicates otherwise.
A lot of driver-apologists claim that red light cameras are not fair, that they are installed mostly to gain ticket revenue, and that they aren’t accurate anyway. Yes, some places have installed cameras for funding, but Sacramento is not one of them. Yes, sometimes the camera systems flag a vehicle that is not running a red light, but the photos are reviewed. Even if the city were making $1M a day on red light cameras, that would be just fine with me if it prevents one death. I value life more highly than do many drivers.
I worked in Citrus Heights for several years, which has a much higher percentage of traffic signals complemented by red light cameras. My perception is that it really did make a difference. I saw very little red light running in Citrus Heights. Other violations, sure, but not red light running.