13th & J intersection

I want to acknowledge Enzo of Streets Are Better for reminding me of this intersection and provoking me to write now in more detail. Two previous posts change the signal at J St and 13th St and J & 13th needs a pedestrian scramble were briefer and did not cover all the issues.

The intersection of 13th Street and J Street in downtown Sacramento is a mess for walkers and bicyclists, largely due to poor decisions that the city has made. The setting is below, with a historical view selected for no leaves on the deciduous trees. On the southeast corner is the convention center, which is under construction now, and the southeast corner is fenced off. On the southwest corner is the Sheraton Grand Hotel. On the northwest corner is a major downtown parking garage, managed by Ace Parking. On the northeast corner is another parking garage managed by Parking.com.

intersection of 13th Street & J Street, downtown Sacramento

In the days before construction on the convention center started and the Sheraton shut down due to the pandemic, this was one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the central city. The crossing of 7th Street at K Street/DOCO Center, L Street at 11th Street and 10th Street when the legislature is in session, Capitol Mall at Tower Bridge, and a few others are up there, but this one is certainly in the top 10. The city rarely collects pedestrian data, so I do not know what the ranking or volume is.

When the convention center is completed and open, and the Sheraton opens at full scale, this will again become a very busy pedestrian intersection. So you would think that the city would design this intersection and signals to prioritize people walking, but you’d be wrong.

The crossing of J Street on the west leg of the intersection requires pushing the ped button. There are a number of pedestrian signals in the central city that do not require pushing the button, and these are called auto-recall, meaning they automatically change on a cycle. Not this one! I just observed a number of walkers crossing here, and only about 5% of them initially realized they had to push the button. When I mentioned that the signal would never change unless they pushed it, they were surprised, and not happy. When the ped head signal does come on, it has a white hand of 5 seconds, and a countdown of 9 seconds for a total of 14 seconds. There are three lanes of motor vehicle traffic here, lanes about 12 feet wide, for 36 feet. The MUTCD recommended crossing speed is 3.5 feet/second, so 36 feet should be a minimum of 10 seconds, but this assumes that people can leave the curb immediately, not true when the activation button is set well back, and there is pedestrian congestion. In that case, the crossing speed should be 3.0 feet/second. If you want to read about the contortions traffic engineers go through to make walk cycles as short as possible, read pedestrian crossing questions and answers.

The traffic signal for J Street will remain green unless there is a vehicle waiting on 13th Street or someone pushes the ped button to cross. The ped signal to cross 13th Street goes through a white hand, countdown, brief pause, and then back to the next cycle. Without a cross-traffic vehicle or button push, the traffic signal will never cycle. Ever.

crosswalk over J Street at 13th Street

An additional problem is that sometimes the signal controller will just skip the crossing J Street part of the cycle, even when the button is pushed. Since I’m mostly on my bicycle rather than on foot here, I haven’t quite pinned down the behavior. I don’t know if it depends on time of day, or traffic volume, or is just random, but I can affirm that it happens, and not infrequently. So even after the walker presses the button, they may have to wait through another full cycle before they get the walk.

On the southeast corner, the convention center construction has closed the corner and sidewalks. In this situation, there should be a barricade and warning signs on the opposite corner, so J Street south side eastbound and 13th Street east side southbound. A fully sighted person can of course see the barrier and fence across the street, but the point of ADA requirements is to communicate to everyone, not just the sighted. Below is what is looks like, followed by what it should look like. Remember, this is a city project, not a private development, but the city apparently holds itself to lower standards than it holds private developers.

closed crosswalk over 13th Street at J Street
proper barricade and signing for a closed crosswalk, O Street at 8th Street

The east leg crosswalk also suffers from traffic flow design. The walk sign for this crosswalk comes on at the same time as the southbound green signal comes on, bringing drivers into immediate conflict with walkers in the crosswalk. There is no leading pedestrian interval (LPI) to let the walkers get a head start. At this time the crosswalk is closed, but as soon as it is reopened, the conflicts will be immediate, as they have been for years.

Solutions?

  1. Immediately institute auto-recall on the crossing of J Street, and remove the buttons. These are not modern audible buttons, they are antiques.
  2. Immediately institute a leading pedestrian interval on the crossing of J Street, to increase protection from left and right turning drivers.
  3. Immediately lengthen the pedestrian phase for the crossing of J Street to a minimum of 20 seconds.
  4. When then southeast corner of the intersection is re-opened, with completion of the convention center construction, implement an exclusive pedestrian phase for this intersection, in which there is no movement by motor vehicles during the walk cycle, and walkers can cross in any direction including diagonally. If any intersection in Sacramento deserves this treatment, this is it.
  5. Traffic calm J Street to reduce speeds. The most important step is to reduce general purpose lanes to two, and create some sort of bicycle facility. I’m not sure of the best design, as the valet/unloading/loading are for Sheraton Grand may make this challenging.
  6. Get rid of any City of Sacramento Public Works employee who believes the purpose of central city streets is to favor suburban commuters (the J Street traffic) over walkers, bicyclist, and local residents.

I have made at least seven 311 reports on the signal problems at this intersection, asking that it be changed. The only change that I’ve been able to notice is that they lengthened the pedestrian phase for crossing 13th Street, and shortened it for crossing J Street. I just gave up after a while.

Bicyclists

That covers most of the pedestrian problems at this intersection. How about bicyclists? 13th Street is a major bicycle route in downtown, being the only north-south street that crosses through Capitol Park and is not an arterial street, often with heavy traffic and higher speeds. There are bike lanes on much though not all of 13th Street to the south J Street, and there are bike lanes on most blocks to the north, except the half block approaching this intersection. Here, the bike lane has been sacrificed to create a turn lane. There is a required left turn lane and an optional turn lane, but no bike lane. So at this busiest of all intersections on the route, there is no bike lane. There is a clear message here from the city: we will accommodate bicyclists only if it does not reduce motor vehicle capacity. Otherwise, tough luck.

The loop detectors on 13th Street only sometimes detect bicycles. I often see bicyclists during off-times, when there are fewer motor vehicles to trigger the cycle, proceeding through the intersection on red, when it is safe to do so (and occasionally when it is not). They have the right to do so, since by definition a signal that does not detect vehicles (devices) is a non-functional signal, but it is not the best solution.

When the pedestrian button is pushed to cross J Street on the west leg, but no southbound motor vehicles are present, the vehicle signal remains red, so doesn’t allow for undetected bicyclists. This doesn’t protect any walkers, so it makes not sense.

Solutions?

  1. Continue the bike lane on southbound 13th Street to and through (with green skip paint) the intersection with J Street, and remove the left turn lane which prevents the bike lane from continuing. That might mean lengthening the green light for motor vehicles in order to clear the queue.
  2. Install video detection on this intersection that will detect bicyclists on 13th Street so that they don’t have to wait for motor vehicle traffic to arrive and trigger the signal cycle.
  3. Change the traffic signal for southbound to go green at the same time as the pedestrian walk sign. This allows bicyclists to proceed without confusion.

more LPIs

I wrote some while ago about leading pedestrian indicator (LPI) signals, which give the pedestrian a head start of a few seconds before the parallel traffic light turns green. So far as I know, Sacramento has not added any locations to the list of eleven.

But the city should. In fact, I’d argue that any traffic signal where there are a significant number of walkers, and a significant number of turning drivers, should have an LPI. Drivers often fail to yield to people in the crosswalk when turning, or cut in right behind them, and the more chance the walker has to get out into the crosswalk and visible, the better. Of course nothing about the LPI prevents the driver from turning on red, unless turns on red are prohibited. Prohibiting turns on red has been much discussed lately, but I don’t think that treatment is the most important that can happen at intersections.

I live a few blocks from Fremont Park, which is the block between 15th Street and 16th Street, and P Street and Q Street. In fact, many of the parks in the central city are located between pairs of one-way streets, called couplets. 16th is one of the busiest streets in the central city, and the other two are moderately busy, and these four intersections see a lot of turning vehicles. Since I walk nearly every day to and around the park, I get plenty of chance to see how drivers interact with walkers in the crosswalk. I’ve never seen anybody hit, but I often see conflicts, the driver trying to intimidate the walker, trying to beat them to the crosswalk, stopping just short of hitting them, or cutting in close behind them.

P Street and Q Street are two-lane arterials, while 15th Street and 16th Street are three-lane arterials, with higher traffic volumes and vehicle speeds. 16th was a state highway.

So, I’m asking the city to install LPI signals for the south crosswalk at 15th & P, the east crosswalk at 15th & Q, the north crosswalk at 16th & Q, and the west crosswalk at 16th & P. The photos below show the intersection of 15th & P from pedestrian level, and overhead. The video shows two pedestrians crossing, and mostly through the crosswalk before the driver encroaches. This was a low traffic time with only one turning vehicle. When I have a chance to capture a heavier traffic time with pedestrians, I’ll replace it.

P Street westbound, showing crosswalk over 15th St ahead
15th Street & P Street, south crosswalk
crosswalk over 15th Street at P Street

I often write about the Sacramento central city because that is where I live, and I have ample opportunity to observe transportation infrastructure and driver, walker and bicyclist behavior. However, I’d like to state that I DO NOT think that central city issues should be solved first. These issues occur in many places in Sacramento, where the traffic is higher speed, facilities are poorer, and neighborhoods have been disinvested. Drivers in the central city are just as bad as drivers elsewhere, in fact most of them are from elsewhere, the suburbs, but they have grown somewhat accustomed to seeing walkers and bicyclists, and are more careful around them.

Next: LPIs and bicyclists

poor accommodation at 3C

The convention center and community center theater project (3C) project did a very poor job of preserving access for walkers and bicyclists at the beginning. Some issues have been resolved, but some never have, though the project has now been going on for just less than two years.

The most significant issue is that there was no provision made for northbound bicyclists on 13th Street, passing the construction between L Street and J Street. 13th is a major bicyclist route of travel, and the city knew this before the construction started. But the original traffic plan did not address this use at all. After public complaints, a sign was installed on the sidewalk for northbound bicyclists, photo below, but not the southbound. The numerous walkers using this sidewalk, adjacent to the Marriott and Sheraton convention facilities, were confused to see bicyclists on the crowded sidewalk. After more public complaints, a sign was added southbound, the second photo, though it is placed in a location where people coming from K Street would not necessarily see it. As you can see in the first photo, the sidewalk is narrow just north of the crosswalk, so bicyclists heading north are brought into immediate conflict with pedestrians heading south, many of whom are headed to the crosswalk over L Street. Of course having an angled ADA ramp here, rather than the two-to-a-corner design that should be used wherever there is significant pedestrian traffic, makes things worse.

Of course the best solution here would have been to just close 13th Street to motor vehicles between K Street and L Street, leaving the narrowed roadway available for two-way bicyclist traffic. There are far more bicyclists using this route than private vehicle drivers. Despite that, the city biased in favor of drivers.

13th Street northbound at L Street
13th Street southbound at K Street

One issue on which progress was made was the southeast corner of J Street and 13th Street. Initially this corner was closed, giving walkers only one choice of how to cross, despite this being one of the most heavily used intersection crossings in the city. There was no reason to close the corner off, the area behind the fence was never used for construction. After about a year and a half, the corner was re-opened, photo below, so that walkers have a choice of routes. Note that when the city finally worked on this corner, the work was not done behind the fence, but the fence was moved and then the sidewalk and ramp work done by closing off the corner until it was done.

J Street & 13th Street, southeast corner, finally re-opened

On the east side of the project, issues remain. The sidewalk from J Street south along 15th Street has no signing indicating that it is closed ahead, see photo. When you get half way, there is just a fence blocking access. In daylight, you can see the fence ahead, but a limited vision person and anyone walking at night would not see the fence until they got to it. This is simply unacceptable.

15th Street west side, southbound from J Street, no signage

There are several other less serious issues around the east and south sides. At K Street & 15th Street, there is no signing to indicate how to get to the other side, to go either northbound or southbound. This one is not hard to figure out, at least for sighted people, but it was still not done correctly. This crosswalk ramp should have been barriered off, just like the ADA compliant barriers in the previous post, since it only leads to a closed crosswalk.

On the south side of the project, there are plastic barriers for the crosswalk over 14th Street at L Street, and for the crosswalk over L Street on the west side of 14th Street. These barriers were knocked over months ago and have not been put up again. There were not sufficient to begin with, but laying down on the ground, are both useless and hazardous.

14th Street at L Street, failed barrier
L Street at 14th Street, west side crosswalk, failed barrier

I’m going to call this one a failure on the part of both the construction company and the city: the construction company for failing to monitor and maintain the traffic control devices for which they are legally responsible, and the city for failing to monitor the construction company. Blame all around!

And lastly, the closure of a lane on L Street for the construction was not handled well. As you can see, there is a narrow crosshatched area the length of the block. One might reasonable choose not to go this way, but then again I see people going this way every day, both walking and bicycling. I am not sure how this should have been handled, but there must be a better solution. Of course one solution would have been to continue a temporary pedestrian walkway on the north side of the street, set off by concrete barricade, and requiring only a simple fence to separate the walkway from the construction site. If more street width was required, parking could have been removed from the south side and the general purpose lanes shifted to the left. Note there there never was a bicycle lane present in this block, it is dropped at 15th Street and the traffic sewer 3-lane roadway continues west.

L Street westbound at 14th Street, narrow shoulder

In closing, this construction project is probably the worst in the city (though there is competition). It does not involve a private property owner, it does not involve a state construction project, it is a city project on city land. There is simply no excuse for such poor walker and bicyclist accommodation. It is a big middle finger to those to who don’t drive.

Construction zone done right

Since there will likely be a long string of posts on construction zones done wrong, I want to point out that they can be done right. This is one from yesterday. Though the crosswalk closure here was less than one day, it was signed properly, and the detour was very short, about 30 feet west to the next crosswalk.

N Street at 12th, clear construction zone signing
N Street at 12th, clear detour signing

Walkable Sacramento #2: crosswalks

This is the second in a series of posts on a Walkable Sacramento, starting with crosswalk policies.

Crosswalks

  • All prohibited crossing locations will be evaluated within two years, and every instance that is not clearly justified will be removed. Locations were infrastructure change is required to accomplish safety will be prioritized for funding and resolved within five years.
  • No crosswalk will be removed without approval of the Active Transportation Commission and the city council.
  • All crosswalk locations with more than 200 crossings per day will have marked high visibility crosswalks, within five years.
  • All intersections with more than 2000 crossings per day will receive an exclusive pedestrian phase, within three years.
  • Marked and safe crosswalks will be provided on all roadways at no less than an 1/8 mile interval, within two years. Pending the installation of safety countermeasures, speed limits will be reduced. Modify ‘complete streets’ policies so that they address this interval of safe crossings, and do not construct ‘complete streets’ that fall short. 
  • All marked crosswalks will be daylighted in the upstream direction with red curb markings and removal of marked parking, within five years, with a goal of 20% per year. All unmarked crosswalks will be daylighted within ten years, with a goal of 10% per year. (Daylighting means to remove the parking space closest to the crosswalk, so that walkers may better see vehicles, and drivers better see pedestrians. Sometimes this daylighted area receives a painted or concrete curb extension.)
  • All crosswalks with at least 2000 crossings per day will receive curb extensions where parking lanes are present, within eight years. 
  • Raised crosswalks or raised intersections will be installed at any intersection where serious injury and fatality occurs after other measures have been taken.
  • Roadway crossing distances will be limited to no more than 60 feet. Where wider roadways exist, median refuge islands with pedestrian activation buttons will be installed to reduce distances to 40 feet or less, within five years. 
  • No roads will be constructed that are more than two lanes in each direction, and all roads with more than two lanes will be reallocated within ten years, with the purpose being to reduce crossing distance. Freeways and expressways with strictly limited access may have more lanes.

crosswalks, for now

I hope that you have found the series of posts on crosswalks (category: walkability) useful. I could write about them forever, but for now, that is all. Besides, I’m off to the wilds of southern Utah for spring break, out of Internet range, and no crosswalks except in the small towns.

If you have improvements that you’d like to see that I did not include, or if you have specific locations you’d like to see improved, please comment. Please don’t accept the word of traffic engineers that streets can’t be made safer, or that we can’t afford to make them safer (there are a range of solutions from inexpensive to very expensive), or worst of all, that we can’t slow traffic down. We can slow traffic, we should slow traffic, we must slow traffic. Speed kills.

Zegeer and crosswalks

In 2005, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published Safety Effects of Marked Versus Unmarked Crosswalks at Uncontrolled Locations. The authors were Charles V. Zegeer, J. Richard Stewart, Herman H. Huang, Peter A. Lagerwey, John Feaganes, and B.J. Campbell, but the research paper is usually referred to as ‘the Zegeer report.’

This is the research that Ryan Moore was referring to in the crosswalk removal meeting when he said that the city was following federal guidelines that required them to remove the crosswalk at Freeport and Oregon, though he did not call out Zegeer by name. Twenty-three crosswalks were removed in total, though we still don’t know where all of them are, and the city won’t provide that information.

As you would imagine, research reports contain a lot of text and figures and tables, but a key finding is that on multi-lane roads (more than one lane in a direction), with traffic volumes over 12K ADT, marked crosswalks had a somewhat higher crash rate than unmarked crosswalks. There is always an unmarked crosswalk at intersections unless there is specific signing to prohibiting crossing. It is this finding that traffic engineers have used to not install, or to remove, crosswalks on arterial roads all over the US. They don’t read beyond that.

The report says several things relevant to the crosswalk removal issue:

  • “In most cases, marked crosswalks are best used in combination with other treatments (e.g., curb extensions, raised crossing islands, traffic signals, roadway narrowing, enhanced overhead lighting, traffic calming measures). Marked crosswalks should be one option in a progression of design treatments. If one treatment does not accomplish the task adequately, then move on to the next one. Failure of one particular treatment is not a license to give up and do nothing. In all cases, the final design must accomplish the goal of getting pedestrians across the road safely.”
  • “Raised medians provided significantly lower pedestrian crash rates on multilane roads, compared to roads with no raised median.” (There is a raised median on both north and south sides of the intersection, and though they are narrower than would be required if built today, they do indeed provide pedestrian refuge.)
  • “Regardless of whether marked crosswalks are used, there remains the fundamental obligation to get pedestrians safely across the street.”
  • “Pedestrians have a right to cross roads safely, and planners and engineers have a professional responsibility to plan, design, and install safe and convenient crossing facilities. Pedestrians should be included as design users for all streets.”

Most importantly, Charles Zegeer, the lead author, said this about the key table in the report:

“This table should never be used to remove crosswalks. That will not solve the safety problem. Use this table to make crosswalks safe.” – Charlie Zegeer

I was on a webinar in which he said that he was horrified by the tendency of traffic engineers to use his research to justify crosswalk removal, and he strongly implied that this was professional malfeasance.

I believe that the city removed the crosswalk because they looked at the intersection and decided that removal was preferable to all other options. This is the ‘cars first’ attitude that contributes to the death of almost 6000 pedestrians a year. It preferences the convenience of people driving though a neighborhood over the safety of people in the neighborhood. This is not acceptable to me, and I doubt it is acceptable to the neighborhood around the removed crosswalk. The city needs to rethink its entire approach to pedestrian safety. Having a Vision Zero Action Plan will do no good if traffic engineers continue to make the wrong choices.

Community meeting on crosswalks – 2

Part one, Community meeting on crosswalks, prior posts:  removal of crosswalksDon’t use the ‘A’ word. Next related post will be about Zegeer.

Question and answer session of the meeting:

  • The city is doing a speed study on Freeport from Sutterville Rd to Meadowview Rd, and will include part of Sutterville (not clear what part)
  • There are no red light cameras on Freeport; the city piggybacks on country red light program
  • There are no lead pedestrian interval signals on Freeport, or even is south Sacramento (all are in the central city); Ryan Moore said these should not be used in low pedestrian areas (which is false)
  • Resident commented on Fruitridge Rd, 24th to Freeport, a lot of red light running and few safe crossings
  • Resident who lives on Oregon suggested changing the speed limit on Freeport
  • Steve Hansen says that the city would like to change Freeport, but to do so, the community (residents, businesses, neighborhood associations) will need to come together to decide how; people will have to give up some time for better safety; he also mentioned narrow sidewalks with obstructions
  • Several people asked about or commented on specific sections and intersections; Matt mentioned catching egregious speeders
  • South Land Park Neighborhood Association (Ryan?) asked what public notice there was before crosswalk removal and said they were not notified; not clear if the other two were notified
  • Ryan Moore said that each removal was analyzed, he says they followed the law of CA MUTCD; said most of the removals were result of complaints; said neighborhood input makes no difference; mentioned FHWA info on crosswalks, referring to Zegeer report though not by name (more info about Zegeer in a future post)
  • Neighbor said that any process that removes crosswalks is flawed; mentioned no still phase on signals (time between red one direction and green the other); going out of the way is not reasonable to ask; can’t have data on people walking because people are scared to walk
  • Steve Hansen and Jay Schenirer want to review pedestrian guidelines, not sure what document this is; said we need to talk about equity because the top corridors of Vision Zero concern are not necessarily located in disadvantaged communities
  • Neighbor said speed display signs don’t seem to have any effect on behavior; asks for immediate action and not years out
  • Ryan Moore continually says “we’d like to but we can’t” but offers no proof; continues to say that crosswalks at this volume and speed are not safe
  • Neighbor said there are bus stops close to Oregon which is true and which might make removal a violation of Title 6
  • Issue of sidewalk maintenance responsibility has come up several times; city continues to insist that it is the responsibility of the property owner (even though most sidewalks are part of the public right-of-way and all are part of the transportation network)
  • Many people pointed out that improvements could have been made at the Freeport-Oregon intesection, such as bulb-outs, refuge median, lighting; there is a median already but it is too narrow to provide refuge
  • Participant asked for a pedestrian commission, Jennifer Donlon Wyant said the the city Active Transportation Commission would be seated in April or May
  • Jay Schenirer wrapped, mentioned that McClatchy students drove the changes to Freeport north of Sutterville Rd

My overall take on the community meeting is that the city council members and the public, both residents of the neighborhood and others, want proactive changes to increase pedestrian safety and walkability. They don’t want excuses. Ryan Moore, the Interim City Traffic Engineer, seem prepared only to offer excuses.

Of all the people on stage, Ryan Moore seemed the least sympathetic to the person killed, or the issues that it raises. He said much the same thing he’d said to the SacBee: “Instead, traffic engineers hope that by removing some crosswalks, pedestrians will instinctively choose to cross at a safer, nearby intersection,” Moore said. He kept referring to federal and state standards that were being followed, though a number of people in the audience who know a great deal about traffic engineering noticed that he was mis-stating and mis-using standards and research to defend his actions and opinions.

Community meeting on crosswalks

I had promised I’d report on the community meeting to address the crosswalk removal over Freeport at Oregon and related issues, but it has taken me a while. Previous posts: removal of crosswalksDon’t use the ‘A’ word. For background, see the SacBee article: Why Sacramento erased 23 crosswalks, including one where a grandmother died after removal.

The meeting was hosted by City of Sacramento council members Jay Schenirer and Steve Hansen, and school board president Jessie Ryan, and held March 8 at Hollywood Park Elementary which is east of the intersection where the fatality occurred.

Steve talked about the concept of a stroad, a street/road hybrid that doesn’t do either well, though he did not use the term. Freeport is a stroad. He introduced vision zero, talked about changing both infrastructure and behavior, mentioned that the traffic motor officers are gradually being built up but are far below what they should be, and said “we should enjoy the public space and not be afraid.”

Ryan Moore, Interim Traffic Safety Engineer, and the person responsible for the removal of crosswalks, repeatedly mentioned a ‘Systematic Safety Analysis Report’ but is was not clear what this is, and the city website has no mention of it. He also said that he was following all the federal and state rules, as well as research, by removing the crosswalks.

Jennifer Donlon-Wyant, the Active Transportation Specialist, gave a Vision Zero presentation similar to what many people have seen before, but highlights are that Sacramento is the second worst in the state for pedestrian fatalities per capita. She went over the ten profiles that are the core of the draft Vision Zero Action Plan, of which three are related to speed, and one related to transit stops, which all play a role in this incident. One that does NOT apply is ‘Pedestrian Crossing Outside of an Intersection or Crosswalk.’ Though the city had erased the marked crosswalk, it was and is still a valid legal crosswalk. Freeport Blvd is not one of the top five fatality and injury corridors in the city.

Matt Armstrong, Sergeant of the Motor Team (officers on motorcycles) said he has 7 officers on at a time, maximum, for the entire city. They respond to complaints, but otherwise focus on schools and high volume corridors. He said top concerns are red light running, distracted driving, and speed. He mentioned something I had not heard before, that this was a multi-lane threat crash. A multi-lane threat crash occurs on streets with more than one lane in the same direction (Freeport has two lanes in each direction), when one driver stops for a pedestrian and other drivers does not. This is a violation of CVC 21951 “Whenever any vehicle has stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.”

Jessie Ryan said the district recognized that their policies were insufficient and were going to adopt the California School Boards Assocation Safe Routes to School policy (which is very weak), that they were creating heat maps to prioritize unsafe routes, is committed to using and reviewing data, and welcomes public input. The district, prior to this, has shown little interest in Safe Routes to School and has implemented only some minor projects.

Kirin Kumar of WALKSacramento and Jim Brown of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates (SABA) spoke briefly about the need for culture change in the community and in the city bureaucracy.

Next post I’ll discuss some of the public comments and questions, and the answers provided.

Grid 2.0 pedestrian comments

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.

Pedestrian beg button on a commonly used crosswalk, this location should have a pedestrian signal on every cycle, not just when someone presses the button.
Pedestrian beg button on a commonly used crosswalk (K & 9th), this location should have a pedestrian signal on every cycle, not just when someone presses the button.

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 the corridor improvements shown. For me, these points are:

  1. All signals and pedestrian signals in the grid should be set on automatic recall by default. That means that pedestrians get a walk signal on every cycle without having to find and press the beg button (many of which can’t be accessed by disabled people). If the city thinks that a particular crossing should require a button, they should have to do a traffic study to justify it, which includes both the requirements that 1) the level of pedestrian use if very low (unlikely in the grid, but possible), and 2) that there is a demonstrable delay in traffic due to automatic recall. This does not mean that pedestrian buttons will not be present, as there may be valid ADA benefits to having them, including the specific announcements now being included, but they should never be required.
  2. In heavy pedestrian use area, if pedestrian buttons are present, pressing the button should actually shorten the signal cycle to provide for pedestrian crossing on demand, rather than just changing the pedestrian signal head when the signal goes through its regular slow cycle. No regular cycle should be longer than 90 seconds because long cycles unnecessarily delay pedestrian (and bicyclist) travel in favor of motor vehicle traffic.
  3. All three-lane one-way roads should be reduced to two lanes. This will make street crossings safer (by about 1/3 – what other improvement could make such a difference!) and more comfortable. There is no excuse in a walkable urban environment for there to be three-lane one-way streets.
  4. All no-pedestrian-crossing locations should be removed and replaced with regular high visibility crosswalks. Though these prohibitions are often justified by safety concerns, they are really just for the convenience of motor vehicle drivers, so that they don’t have to slow down or wait as long at signals. If a crosswalk is not safe, it means the roadway design is unsafe, and the correct solution is to change the roadway design, not to prohibit crossing.
  5. The ability to safely and comfortably cross streets is just as important to people walking as the ability to walk along streets. I don’t know that this is the case here, but transportation agencies often get so focused on travel along corridors that they forget about the need to cross corridors. The grid pattern in midtown/downtown eases this problem, and is in fact one of the major benefits to a grid, but nevertheless, significant attention must be paid to crossing.