change the signal at J St and 13th St

The signal at J Street and 13th Street in downtown Sacramento (shown at right) does not work well for pedestrians. The signal cycle is long, even compared to other signals on J Street, so the wait for pedestrians is quite long. I have seen the signal cycle skip both pedestrian crossings and vehicle crossings a number of times, which means that the wait is doubly long. Most walkers respond to this long wait by simply crossing the street against the pedestrian signal, and I don’t blame them at all.

A second issue is that the signal is set so that the east crosswalk walk mode occurs at the same time as the left turn from 13th Street southbound to J Street eastbound, meaning there is always a conflict between pedestrians and drivers at this point, and this conflict has been created by the signal setup. Many drivers cut directly behind or in front of people walking, as they know if they wait until the crosswalk is clear, as the law requires, they won’t make the signal.

This signal should be reconfigured so that it gives priority to pedestrians, without making them wait an unreasonable period of time, and does not create unnecessary conflict between turning drivers and people walking. The east crosswalk at a minimum needs a longer leading pedestrian interval (LPI).

Even better would be to make this a pedestrian scramble intersection, with an all-direction crossing phase during which all vehicle turning movement are prohibited. The intersection can be marked with diagonal crosswalks, and additional diagonal pedestrian signal head added, however, simply changing the signal timing is sufficient as an initial step. This is a busy crosswalk intersection, with the convention center on one corner, the Sheraton Grand on another, and the parking garage for the Sheraton and others on the third corner. It is alway busy, and the people crossing here are commonly tourists, who are likely used to more advanced ‘world class’ cities where pedestrians are not second class citizens after car drivers.

Note: There are a number of busy pedestrian crossing intersection in the Sacramento central city that deserve an upgrade, but this is the one that most irritates me, whether walking or bicycling.

J Street Safety Improvments

The City of Sacramento is going to use street rehabilitation funds (from SB-1) to create a separated bikeway on J Street between 19th and 30th, starting this summer. The city held a public meeting last night (January 25) to gather public comments on the design elements, which have not been finalized.

I like the proposal, and see it as a significant improvement over what is there now. The general purpose travel lanes would be reduced by one, from three to two, while bike facilities would be increased from zero to one. The separated bikeway, also called a cycle track or protected bike lane (separated bikeway is the correct term in California) would be installed along the right side of the one-way street. The project will improve pedestrians safety by shortening the crossing distance over general purpose lanes, but this is more a traffic calming and bike facility project than a pedestrian project. This project is intended to be a “paint only” project that fits with the funds available. Improvements needing concrete would come later, if at all. The separated bikeways would be “protected” with flexible delineator posts between the parking lane and the bikeway, which provides increased safety but not full protection.

Though the diagrams shown last night indicate that bus stops would be at the existing curb, and the bikeway with green paint would swing around the bus stop to the left, it appears that the city is rethinking that and will use a shared bus/bike lane for the length of the bus stop. There is talk of moving bus stops to better locations, and perhaps reducing the number of stops for better service times. The only bus currently using J Street is SacRT Route 30, which has a 15 minute frequency on weekday day times, 30 minute evenings and Saturdays, and 60 minute Sundays. This is a route whose ridership probably justifies 10 minute frequency day times.

The intersections will be daylighted by removing the parking spaces that currently are right up against the crosswalks and reduce visibility between drivers and pedestrians. I completely support that and feel that the safety benefits make the loss of a few parking spaces worthwhile. I’m not against on-street parking, in fact I like it because it slows traffic, but safety is even more important.

I would like to recommend some improvements to the project as presented:

  • Reduce lane widths from 11 feet to 10 feet. This is the most important action that could be taken to enhance safety. The best action for pedestrian and bicyclist safety is to #SlowTheCars (@StrongTowns). The narrower the lanes, the slower the traffic, and the slower the traffic, the less severe collisions that do occur, and the less collisions. The city currently has an 11 foot standard they don’t seem ready to change, but what better time than now to create a significant project with narrower lanes, so we can directly experience the safety benefits.
  • Reduce the speed limit to 20 mph, and stripe the street in a way that encourages this actual speed. Again, the city is reluctant to go below 25, but there is a growing national movement to 20 mph in urban areas. Goes hand-in-hand with the lane width reduction, and is very inexpensive to implement.
  • Stripe the separated bikeway and street in such a way that the shared bus/bike lane at bus stops can be converted to floating bus islands with the bike lane at the curb. This configuration keeps the bus in the flow of traffic, which greatly speeds bus times as they don’t have to wait for a gap in traffic to continue. I do not know how wide the islands need to be to accommodate bus shelters, but am looking into that and will report. Another advantage of the lane width narrowing is that it would provide another two feet for the islands. The separated bikeway “lane” is seven feet, and that seems fine to me. Since this is a “paint only” project, concrete bus islands would delay it for additional finding, which I don’t want to see, but the design should be ready for bus islands as soon as they can be funded.
  • Reduce the number of bus stops to one every three or four blocks. The increase in service speed makes the greater walking distance worthwhile, and since the walking environment will be more appealing and safer, this is a good trade-off.

The meeting last night was the only formal opportunity to have input to this project, but I encourage you to email Jennifer Donlon-Wyant with support for the project, for these improvements I’ve presented, or you own ideas. You can also comment here, but emailing Jennifer is the first step.

green wave

A “green wave” is a traffic signal sequence set so that vehicles will encounter green lights for some distance, so long as they are traveling at the selected speed. A green wave can also be set for bicycle speeds, though it very rarely has been, and never in Sacramento.

To some degree, all signals are set this way, though the degree and distance of sequencing varies widely. Many of the east-west streets in the Sacramento grid have signals set for motor vehicles, and when traffic is not congested, it may be possible to go all the way across downtown and midtown on green lights, for example on J Street. Very few north-south streets are set this way, I can think of only the 15th & 16th couplet, and the 9th & 10th couplet. At intersections with the east-west couplets, these north-south couplets seem to have their green wave broken. Only if the grid spacing and the selected speed calculate out is it possible to have a green wave in all directions. Sadly, many signal sequences in the Sacramento region are set above the posted speed limit, encouraging drivers to speed so that they make all lights.

Continue reading “green wave”

Yet another criminal

I was assaulted by a vehicle driver today on J Street. Assault includes intent to harm with a deadly weapon, which is a motor vehicle, and does not require actual battery. Having learned my lesson from the last incident, I got the license number and vehicle description right. I did not get enough of a driver ID to press charges, but it will at least go on their record.

The details:
3VFM067 CA
White Toyota 4-runner, not new
White male young
J St eastbound at 10th St
Occurred about 6:25pm, 2012-05-29

A white Toyota 4-runner driven by a young white male attempted to intimidate me off the roadway by using his vehicle as a weapon. The driver gunned their engine at me for a block, and then passed within 3 inches, I felt the mirror touch my arm. I was traveling in the rightmost lane at about 20 mph. There is no bike lane in this area, and the lane is not wide enough to share. The other two eastbound travel lanes were open, at a time of light traffic, so the driver could have easily passed but chose to intimidate me. I caught up to the person and asked why he would use his vehicle to kill another person, and he flipped me off. Another vehicle immediately following did the same thing, passing too closely, so I suspect the two drivers were traveling together.

Incident 12-146316
Responding officer R. Cabrera, Sacramento Police Department