Sac Vision Zero top intersections all modes

And now for the third analysis of high injury network intersections and the relationship to the Sacramento Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors. The dataset this time is all killed or severe injury collisions in Sacramento, for all modes of travel, for the period 2009-2017. Of the 1641 collisions in the city, 322 (20%) were at intersections defined by the intersection of arterial and/or collector streets. There is also a pdf map available.

Sacramento high injury network intersections and Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors

Of the eleven intersections with four or five collisions, three are on the Top 5 Corridors:

  • Stockton Blvd & Broadway, 4 (on Stockton-Broadway corridor)
  • Stockton Blvd & Lemon Hill Ave, 4 (on the Stockton South corridor)
  • Stockton Blvd & 47th Ave & Elder Creek Rd, 4 (on the Stockton South corridor)

and eight are not:

  • Watt Ave & Auburn Blvd, 5
  • Del Paso Blvd & Evergreen St & Lampasas Ave, 5
  • Julliard Dr & Kiefer Blvd & Folsom Blvd, 5
  • Power Inn Rd & Fruitridge Rd, 4
  • Freeport Blvd & Florin Rd, 4
  • Center Pkwy & Cosumnes River Blvd, 4 (not on map)
  • Bruceville Rd & Cosumnes River Blvd, 4 (not on map)
  • Franklin Blvd & Mack Rd, 4 (not on map)

The three last intersections are not on the map because I wanted to maintain the same scale as used for the previous maps, but they would be off the south edge of the map. Note that the number of collisions at these intersections is not directly comparable to the bicycle collisions map I created because I used a different dataset, degree of injury and span of years. I may go back and update the bicycle map to be consistent, but it is probably more worthwhile to look at some of these intersections in more detail.

Sac Vision Zero flaws

Edit: Added graphics for El Camino – Grove intersection and Broadway – Stockton intersection, excerpted from the Sacramento Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors document.

The Sacramento city council will be considering the new Sacramento Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors document at the council meeting on Tuesday, February 15. It is item 11 on the consent agenda, so will not be discussed unless a council member pulls it from the consent agenda.

I have taken a look at the document, though the one included with the with the agenda is a flat file, not searchable, and with low resolution graphics, making it hard to use. When a high resolution and searchable version becomes available, I’ll link to it.

The document continues the pattern established in the 2018 Vision Zero Action Plan of focusing on corridors and not on intersections. The five segments presented as the top five are segments of El Camino Avenue, Marysville Road, Broadway/Stockton Blvd, Stockton Blvd south, and Florin Road. I believe that this exclusive focus on corridors is a mistake. Nearly all other vision zero communities have a dual focus on corridors and intersections, but Sacramento does not.

The Vision Zero Action Plan acknowledges on page 11 that 78% of collisions occur at intersections, but then seems to ignore this fact in pursuit of corridor projects. Of course if a corridor is done correctly, the intersections will be fixed as part of the project. The issue is that these corridor projects will cost millions of dollars and will require seeking state and federal grants to accomplish. The costs are El Camino $16,450,000, Marysville $12,850,000, Broadway/Stockton $8,750,000, Stockton South $9,500,000, and Florin $11,900,000. And these are only for the most important fixes; less important or more expensive fixes are somewhere off in the distant future. But a focus on the high injury intersections within the corridor could yield significant safety benefit at much lower cost, perhaps within the range of general fund expenditures.

This focus on corridors leads to some flaws in the corridor plans. On El Camino, the plan misses that there is a dropped bike lane at eastbound at Grove Avenue and therefore does not recommend the countermeasure Extend Bike Lane to Intersection. At the Broadway/Stockton intersection, the plan does not recommend the countermeasure Bike Conflict Zone Markings for Broadway eastbound and westbound approaching Stockton, and seems to completely drop the bike lane on Stockton northbound approaching, even though a bike lane is already present there.

El Camino Ave & Grove Ave intersection
Broadway & Stockton Blvd intersection

Re-striping of lanes at intersections and green paint could make many intersections a great deal safer without requiring expensive intersection reconstruction and new signals. I recently wrote about Dropped bike lanes, using Broadway/Stockton as an example. Paint could fix a lot of the problems here.

The concerns expressed here are with bicycle facilities. I actually think pedestrian (walker) facilities are more important, but it will take a lot more time to look closely at those.

The bicycle-related countermeasures recommended in the Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors are:

  • Bike Conflict Zone Markings: Green pavement within a bike lane to increase visibility of bicyclists and to reinforce bike priority. The green pavement is used as a spot treatment in conflict areas such as driveways.
  • Class II Bike Lanes: Five to seven foot wide designated lanes for ‘bicyclists adjacent to vehicle travel lanes, delineated with pavement markings.
  • Close Bike Lane Gap: Closing gaps between bike lanes increases the amount of dedicated facilities bicyclists can use, reducing mixing of bicyclists and drivers and Increasing network connectivity and visibility of bicyclists m the roadway.
  • Extend Bike Lane to Intersection: In locations where a bike lane is dropped due to the addition of a right tum pocket the intersection approach may be re-striped to allow for bicyclists to move to the left side of right-turning vehicles ahead of reaching the intersection.
  • Provide Green Time For Bikes: Provide or prolong the green phase when bicyclists are present to provide additional time for bicyclist to clear the intersection. Can occur automatically in the signal phasing or when prompted with bike detection. Topography should be considered in clearance time.
  • Remove Right Turn Slip Lane: Closing a free-flow right-turn slip lane can help slow right turning drivers, eliminates an uncontrolled crossing for pedestrians, and shortens pedestrian crossing distances. The space reclaimed in closing the slip lane can be reused as pedestrian widen sidewalks, enhance curb ramps, more space for street furniture.
  • Separated/Buffered Bikeway: Designated bike lanes, separated from vehicle traffic by a physical barrier usually bollards, landscaping, or parked cars. These facilities can increase safety by decreasing opportunities for crashing with overtaking vehicles, and reducing the risk of dooring.
  • Slow Green Wave: A series of traffic signals, coordinated to allow for slower vehicle travel speeds through several intersections along a corridor. Coordinating signals for slower travel speeds gives bicyclists and pedestrians mare time to cross safely and encourages drivers to travel at slower speeds.

I support the Vision Zero concept and city actions to support this, but I want to make sure that both are the best they can be. I hope to look in the near future at the pedestrian elements of the Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors, the Vision Zero School Safety Study, and the high-injury intersections in Sacramento that have been missed through a focus on corridors.

Dropped bike lanes

I believe that bike lanes dropped at intersections are one of the top reasons that some people won’t ride on the streets, and other people do, but cringe at the danger. A bike lane is dropped approaching an intersection almost always in favor of turn lanes for the motor vehicles. The bike lane may be continuous along a corridor or block, but then disappears just when the bicyclist most needs the reassurance of a bike lane, and the motor vehicle drivers need a reminder that bike belong here. Almost all collisions between drivers and bicyclists happen at intersections. They rarely happen along bike lanes. I am aware that many people don’t think that regular Class 2 bike lanes are sufficient for streets with a posted speed limit over 30 mph, that a higher level of protection is needed. I don’t disagree, but bike lanes are mostly what we have now, and will have for quite some while, even if separated bikeways are beginning to be installed. My issue here is whether bike lanes that get dropped at intersections are safe and welcoming for bicyclists.

I’ve picked the intersection of Broadway and Stockton Blvd in southeast Sacramento as an example. It is certainly not the worst intersection, but it shows several of the scenarios for bike lanes.

First, an excerpt from the Sacramento Bicycle Master Plan 2016-2018 map showing existing and proposed bicycle facilities. Broadway has Class 2 bike lanes from 44th Street through 49th Street, including the intersection. Stockton has Class 2 bike lanes south of Broadway, but only proposed Class 2 bike lanes north of Broadway.

Broadway & Stockton Blvd, bicycle facilities from Sacramento Bicycle Master Plan

Second, a Google Maps excerpt of the intersection.

Broadway & Stockton Blvd, Google Maps

Southbound on Stockton Blvd, there is actually a bike lane between the through lane and the right hand turn lane. This is the type of facility that scares many bicyclists, riding between two potentially fast lanes of traffic. If you assume that the turn lane if inevitable, which it is not, then this is the only way to place a bike lane without significant intersection modification. Southbound on Stockton, there is no bike lane before this short bike lane shows up.

Northbound on Stockton, the bike lane is dashed from 6th Avenue to Broadway. The dashing, or skip line, is intended to indicate to both bicyclists and drivers that this is a merge area, with right-turning traffic merging to the right and through traffic merging to the left. Problem is, almost no drivers know what this means and how to act. California Vehicle Code (CVC) requires that a right turn be taken from the rightmost position (CVC 22100: Both the approach for a right-hand turn and a right-hand turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway…). The purpose of this law is in part to ensure that bicyclists and drivers are in line with each other, so that the bicyclist is not right-hooked by the driver. In the turns section of the DMV Driver Handbook, none of the diagrams or text mention bike lanes, so it is not surprising that most people are unaware of the law and do not follow it.

Eastbound on Broadway, there is a bike lane present up to San Diego Way, the preceding street, but is absent in the next block. It is dropped in favor of a dedicated left turn lane and a dedicated right turn lane. Many bicyclists will ride the left edge of the right hand turn lane, and then proceed through the intersection. But most bicyclists will not even ride here because it is uncomfortable and unsafe. The bike lanes on Broadway are largely wasted because of this dropped bike lane. If a person doesn’t feel safe approaching an intersection, they don’t feel safe on their ride.

East of the intersection, the bike lane does not start up again until just past 6th Avenue. What the bicyclist is faced with is no bike lane in an area where two general purpose motor vehicle lanes are merging, which is a situation in which drivers are negotiating with other drivers, not paying any attention to bicyclists. There is a simple solution here, which is to make the right hand lane approaching Stockton be a right-turn only lane, so that the merge happens before the intersection, not after. That also removes the need for the existing right hand turn lane and provide space for a bicycle facility. To the east of the intersection, Broadway would be one lane only, as it becomes just one block later.

Westbound on Broadway, there is a bike lane from the east, but it is dropped 180 feet before the intersection, in favor of a right hand turn lane.

This is a flared intersection, where the roadway cross-section is wider near the intersection than on the approaching streets. The reason for this is to accommodate turning lanes. Stockton southbound has dedicated right turn and left turn lanes. Stockton northbound has a dedicated left turn lane. Broadway eastbound has dedicated right turn and left turn lanes. Broadway westbound has dedicated right turn and left turn lanes. Despite the flare, bicyclists have not been accommodated, only motor vehicle drivers.

Northrop Avenue dropped bike lane, Sacramento County

I believe strongly that bike lanes should not be dropped at intersections. Never. Ever. As I’ve noted before, I’m a vehicular bicyclist who is not significantly affected by these roadway design flaws, but it is not for vehicular bicyclists that roadways should be designed. They need to be usable and comfortable for the widest possible array of bicyclist types (Four Types of Transportation Cyclists).

The perceived need by traffic engineers and drivers for dedicated turn lanes should not trump the actual needs of bicyclists for continuous and safe bicycle facilities.

It is possible to modify or reconstruct intersections so that they accommodate drivers, including turn lanes, and bicyclists, with continuous bike lanes, but that is expensive, and such changes would happen only slowly. What needs to be done NOW is to return a small part of the roadway to bicyclists by ensuring that bike lanes continue up to and through intersections. That means restriping the roadway to reallocate space. Either right turn or left turn dedicated lanes would need to be removed. I’ll leave it to the traffic engineers to decide which maintains the best flow of traffic, but I won’t leave it up to the traffic engineers to decide that it doesn’t need to be done. Though I don’t like, and most bicyclists hate, bike lanes between right turn lanes and through lanes, it is one possible solution for maintaining the right turn lane, but only when right turns are a predominant movement for the entire intersection.

Note: This is not just an issue in Sacramento. It is in the county, and the region, and the state, and everywhere in the US that I have traveled. In Oregon, bike lanes continue to the intersection, but then Oregon has the strange idea and law that bicyclists need to remain in the lane, but drivers can’t enter it. I’m not sure whether this is more safe or less safe, but it is different.

Next post, what this means for Sacramento.

How NOT to be nice to bicyclists

At intersections, some motor vehicle drivers offer to let bicyclists go first, even though it is not the bicyclist’s turn. To the driver, this may seem like a nice gesture, but it is often not taken that way by bicyclists.

Intersections are about taking turns, and about right-of-way rules. At a signalized intersection, the signal indicates whose turn it is and makes things simple, but at intersections with stop signs (two-way or four-way), or yield signs, or no signs, the driver (of the bicycle or motor vehicle) must use the rules and their eyes and their brain. These are the rules:

  1. First come, first served.
  2. First come, first served.
  3. First come, first served.
  4. If two vehicles (bicycles or motor vehicles) arrive at the intersection at the same time, at an angle, the one to the right goes first.
  5. If two vehicles (bicycles or motor vehicles) arrive at the intersection at the same time, facing each other, the one going straight goes before the one turning left.

Why did I repeat the first one three times, other than being funny? It is because too many people know the other two rules, and don’t seem to know the first.

When a motor vehicle driver yields to a bicyclist when it is the motor vehicle driver’s turn to go rather than the bicyclist’s turn, they are violating this most basic rule.

Why is this a big deal? When drivers do not take their correct turn, it leads to uncertainty for everyone, and uncertainty can lead to, at the least, frustration and anger, and quite possibly crashes.

As a bicyclist, I will not go when it is not my turn. If I did do that, I’d leave myself both physically and legally vulnerable. I have absolutely no guarantee of the behavior of other drivers who may be not polite, but taking their rightful turn, or who get impatient, or who push their way in, or even just are not paying attention.

So there is a stand-off. I shake my head no, and if that doesn’t work, I wave the driver whose turn it is to go. And then I wait. And sometimes wait, and wait, and wait. Meanwhile, I’m in a vulnerable position. Drivers behind me may get impatient and angry, not understanding why I’m not going. If I’m making a turn, I’m often stuck out in the intersection in a place that I don’t want to be hanging out, rather than having already safely completed my turn. This stand-off doesn’t increase the risk for people in motor vehicles significantly, but it very much does for bicyclists.

Motor vehicle drivers may say, “but most bicyclists don’t take their turn.” Yes, this is often true. I believe there are two things are work:

  • Many bicyclists ride just like they drive. They don’t take turns at intersections, pushing their way in before it is their turn. They don’t stop at stop signs, figuring if they never really stop, they have the right of way. Yep, the same thing motor vehicle drivers do. My anecdotal observation is that car-free bicyclists are much more likely to do the right thing at intersections than bicyclists who also drive motor vehicles. My data-based observation is that bicyclists and motor-vehicle drivers comply with stop signs at almost the exact same rate. Don’t believe me? Spend some time at an intersection and see how many drivers (of bicycles or motor vehicles) come to a full and complete stop, as the law requires. Not many.
  • Bicyclists have been trained by “polite” motor vehicle drivers that they don’t need to take their turn, and so they don’t. Every time a motor vehicle driver yields inappropriately to a bicyclist, it reinforces this behavior.

So, if you are one of those motor vehicle drivers, I ask you to stop yielding inappropriately.

“But, what about the bicyclist who doesn’t stop – I don’t want to run them over.” Or, “what about the bicyclist who doesn’t stop, I’m angry that they won’t follow the law and think themselves above it.” The answer is to be hyper-aware at every intersection. These are the places where most crashes occur, and so they are good places to pay extra attention, and use your brain rather than your emotions.

What everyone should be doing at every intersection (assuming no traffic signal) is:

  1. stop at the stop bar, or the edge of the crosswalk if there is no stop bar; if you can’t see from there, then creep forward until you can see, but only after having initially stopped
  2. look left, right, and left again before entering the intersection
  3. make eye contact with any person who may do something unexpected; this means other drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, really, anyone else who is there
  4. yield to pedestrians
  5. continue looking left and right, as well as forward, going through the intersection; you can never be certain that someone else is not violating the law and endangering you

If you do this, then the “rogue” bicyclist who is not following the law and taking turns will not be a complete surprise to you. You will be able to respond appropriately, ensure that a crash does not occur, and go on your way. Everyone ends up safer, everyone ends up happier.

By the way, a bicyclist who does not stop when there is no one there to yield to or to take turns with is, yes, violating the law, but is not failing to practice safety. Bicyclists can see better and stop faster than any motor vehicle driver. So if you see a bicyclist at a distance, slowing and looking but not stopping when there is no one there to interact with, understand that they are acting in a completely safe manner. Take off your law enforcement vigilante hat, and smile.

pedestrian collisions in Sacramento

I often wonder if governments really focus on the issues rather than responding to incidents. In the case of pedestrians and the City of Sacramento, is the city really placing its attention, and its dollars, where they need to be to enhance the safety of pedestrians? I’ve created some maps to show where the problems lie (see note at bottom about data sources and how these were created).

The collisions mapped are:

  • Date: 01-01-2004 to 12-31-2012
  • Location: City of Sacramento only (no, I can’t explain why some are outside the city)
  • Victim role: Pedestrian
  • Victim degree of injury: Killed or Severe Injury
  • 388 collisions
  • ArcGIS link

The first map, a point map of the entire city, shows:

  • the greatest density of collisions is in downtown/midtown, but there are certainly plenty in other areas
  • almost all collisions happen at intersections, not mid-block
  • almost all collisions are associated with major streets, called arterials and collectors, which are wide and high speed, intended to move motor vehicle traffic at speed rather than provide for multi-modal transportation

pedestrian collisions, killed or severe injury
pedestrian collisions, killed or severe injury, point map

Continue reading “pedestrian collisions in Sacramento”

Protected Intersections

When I posted on the North 12th Street Complete Street Project, I expressed concern about how the  cycle track to the north would transition to the bike lane to the south, and how bicyclists northbound would access the cycle track. On Wednesday I attended the project open house at City Hall. Preliminary designs presented by the contractor Echelon Transportation Group indicate one possible design for the intersection of 12th Street and C Street, a protected intersection. These conceptual design drawings are not yet available on the North 12th website, so I don’t have a drawing to share here. Comments from the open house and online will be used to revise the concepts, and they should then be available on the website for further review and comment.

The protected intersection is a design new to the United States, and so far not built anywhere in its entirety. The design is fairly common in bicycling friendly countries in Europe. The Protected Intersections for Bicyclists website provides a great video showing how the design works by providing a higher level of safety for bicyclists and pedestrians without much impact on motor vehicles. The design has not yet been included in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, but I would guess it soon will be.

protected intersection
protected intersection

The diagram at right shows the general outline of a protected intersection. The intersection at 12th and C would look like the right half of the diagram on the west side, with the almond shaped corner medians, but would not look like the left half on the east side. Bicyclists heading south out of the cycle track would either continue south in the bike lane or use the protected intersection to turn east and then continue south on lower traffic streets. Bicyclists coming from the east would use the protected intersection to get to the west side and the cycle track.

confronting the stop sign myth

this bicyclist rode through a stop sign, past a right-turning car, rude and dangerous
this bicyclist rode past a right-turning car on the right side, without letting the car driver go first

I often see or hear the statement “bicyclists run stop signs all the time.” The person making the statement is not just making an observation, but trying to justify some attitude or action on their part, such as “bicyclists shouldn’t be on the road,” “bicyclists should be on the sidewalk,” “bicyclists should be thrown in jail,” “it is OK to intimidate or run over bicyclists,” or “we should not be spending any of our transportation money on bicycle facilities.”

I think that it is time for all of us to confront that statement and end its use. Yes, it is true that some to many bicyclists run stop signs. It is also true some to many motor vehicle drivers run stop signs. To refer back to my earlier posts on stop signs, stop signs are installed largely to reduce vehicle speeds and to get drivers to take turns at intersections. Bicyclists are rarely exceeding the speed limit, so that function is not served by the stop sign, nor by a bicyclist stopping. In the case of taking turns, the issue is taking turns, not the act of stopping. If a bicyclist does not stop at a stop sign, but no other vehicles are present which should go first, then the function of the stop sign to get people to take turns is intact, it has not been violated.

Continue reading “confronting the stop sign myth”

What are stop signs for?

Rosswood-GrandOaks_crosswalksIn the month of May I bike commuted to work in Carmichael and Citrus Heights most of the days. I had plenty of time to think about stop signs, as there are a lot of them on my regular routes. A few less, now that the county has removed some from the parkway path, but still, a lot. At most of these stop signs, there are no cars anywhere in sight, particularly at the beginning of AM and PM commute hours when I’m riding, but even at other times of day. So I started thinking, why are these stop signs here, and what are stop signs for?

Stop signs get used for these purposes:

  1. When there is a busy intersection with a more or less equal flow of vehicles on both streets. The four-way stop signs assist people in taking turns.
  2. When one street is so busy that gaps long enough to cross that street are rare.
  3. When there are visibility issues that prevent vehicle drivers to see each other.
  4. When motor vehicles are going too fast, and they need to be slowed down.

Looking at each purpose in more detail:

Continue reading “What are stop signs for?”