The City of Sacramento Grid 2.0 project is requesting specific input on ways to improve the pedestrian experience in midtown/downtown. I encourage you to go there and add your pins. Dropping pins on a map, however, doesn’t allow some more general comments that I think are very important, and perhaps just as important as any of […]

I fractured a bone in my right foot on July 7 while backpacking along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Granite Chief Wilderness. I initially thought it was a tendon problem, because I’d had some discomfort with the tendon before, however, in stepping on the outside edge of my foot on a rock, the pain level increased manifold. I walked out on it. On Friday, I went into the doctor, got an x-ray, and now have a lower leg cast. What does this have to do with transportation? Well, I’m now getting around with a knee scooter, rather than walking or bicycling.

It has been interesting, and here is my take on it so far. The knee scooter has small wheels, about eight inches, so it is less stable than a bicycle, or a wheelchair. Because it is somewhat unstable, I use a lot of energy maintaining balance. Though I’ve noticed, now that I’m paying more attention to people using wheelchairs, that the unpowered ones are not all that stable either. But it does move along quickly, faster than walking though not as fast as bicycling.

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Sacramento Press is sponsoring a live chat with Jeff Speck, the author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step At A Time. The live chat is tomorrow, January 3, at 12:30PM. The offline chat is already going on, if you want to check it out. I am currently reading the book, in the Kindle version, but am only part way through.

Many of the online comments so far have focused on creating a livable city, and it is wonderful to see so many positive ideas and accurate identification of challenges. Intelligent conversation like this is rare in the Sacramento news blogs. I’ll make some comments specifically on the walkability safety aspects. I’ve written about this before, but it is worth writing about again and again, because the problems still exist.

Traffic sewers: Multiple lane and one way streets are traffic sewers. This epithet is used to describe streets designed to flush traffic in and out of employment centers (and to homes in the suburbs) twice a day. They serve no other reasonable purpose, and they make a place very much less walkable. Three (or more) lane roadways are incompatible with walkability. They encourage high speed traffic, and provide too long a crossing distance to pedestrians to be comfortable with. They don’t meet the “8-80” criteria, of being safe and comfortable for people of all ages.Solutions:

  1. Therefore, I think that all three-lane roadways in Sacramento must be narrowed to two lanes. If a true refuge median is provided between two directions of travel, at least three feet wide, so that a person can cross each direction of traffic separately, then roadways with a total of four lanes are acceptable. If not, then only a total of two lanes. Six lane or more roadways, common in the northern and southern suburbs of the City of Sacramento, are not acceptable.
  2. One way streets also encourage high speed travel. I think that all of our one way streets should be converted to two way streets. This can be done over time as streets are repaved, it is not as high a priority as the narrowing of streets, above.

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I’ve only lived in midtown a while, but from the first it was clear to me that here was a walker and bicyclist paradise, at least in comparison to where I’d lived before, Carson City, and where I work, Citrus Heights. It still seems a bicyclist paradise to me, but I’m seeing the dark side for pedestrians. This may be a recent development, or perhaps I’ve just become more aware of the reality. Though I bike more than I walk, I’m certainly a pedestrian too, and there are a large number of pedestrians in midtown.

Many drivers in midtown are aggressive towards pedestrians. At times I think this is mostly commuters who live elsewhere and just work here, but at times I’m sure it includes the people who live here as well. Driver behavior I see on a daily basis:

  • Speeding: drivers exceed the posted speed limit, especially on the one-way streets
  • Failure to yield: drivers do not yield to pedestrians in marked and unmarked crosswalks; this is a violation of the law
  • Failure to stop: drivers do not stop in additional lanes when one driver has stopped; this is a violation of the law
  • Aggressiveness: drivers do not yield to pedestrians waiting to use marked and unmarked crosswalks; this is a violation of human decency

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