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.

removal of crosswalks

In today’s SacBee, an article on the City of Sacramento’s removal of crosswalks (Why Sacramento erased 23 crosswalks, including one where a grandmother died after removal), which has contributed to at least one fatality, had the following information from Ryan Moore, the City Traffic Engineer.

“To send the message via crosswalk that this is a good place to cross the road is a false message,” Moore said of the Oregon Drive intersection. “Our standards dictated that we remove the crosswalk or build safety enhancements.” The city would have kept the crosswalk marking in place, he said, if it would have been able to install a traffic light there. But the money – in the $500,00 plus range wasn’t available. Instead, traffic engineers hope that by removing some crosswalks, pedestrians will instinctively choose to cross at a safer, nearby intersection, Moore said.

This is definitely the engineer perspective that says lives don’t matter as long as policy was being followed, and the windshield perspective that it is OK to make pedestrians walk out of their way so long as drivers are not inconvenienced.

Freeport-Oregon.pngAs you can see to the right, at the intersection of Freeport and Oregon, there are residences to the west and businesses to the right. There are signalized crosswalks about 700 feet to the north and about 700 feet to the south, but walking to either of these adds a one-quarter mile walk. Is this reasonable or not? It could be argued either way, but to discount it as Mr. Moore did demonstrates bias against pedestrians. The Google Map photo is from before the removal of the crosswalk.

The suggestion that nearby intersections are safer is also questionable. At the intersections of arterial roads, which Freeport and Fruitridge to the south are, drivers routinely fail to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk on right turns. That is in fact why many walkers prefer to cross away from major intersections.

Common estimates of the expense of a HAWK signal (High-intensity Activated crossWalK) are $100,000, not $500,000. $500,000 is the cost of a fully signalized intersection. So Mr. Moore’s $500,000 number is a straw man meant to deflect criticism by saying the solution is more expensive than it really is.

There are solutions to this particular problem, and to the removal of crosswalks in general:

  1. The city should be required to perform a complete traffic study before removing any crosswalk. The city is always saying that they have to do traffic studies before anything can be done to change traffic flow, so I would presume that doing a traffic study in this situation would be a no-brainer.
  2. If the traffic study indicates that the crosswalk is unsafe, then the next step is to design a solution or options, with a funding estimate, and then go to city council with a request for the funding.
  3. The city council would have to hold a hearing, either as part of the regular city council meeting or as a separate meeting, to gather public input on the removal. If the city council then makes a decision not to expend the funds to create a safe crossing, the crosswalk can be removed.
  4. If a crosswalk is removed, the city would be required to post informational signing at that location with distances to the nearest safe crossing in both directions, so that pedestrians can make informed decisions. The signing would have to stay in place for at least two years.

Anything short of these actions makes the city engineers both morally and legally responsible for any fatalities or severe injuries that occur at the site of a removed crosswalk.