Freeport roundabout(s)

Another post on the Freeport Blvd Transportation Plan. See the category Freeport Blvd for other posts.

The city has proposed a roundabout for the intersection of Freeport Blvd and Sutterville Rd E. This is a good location for a roundabout, in part because there is so much space here already that a roundabout would not encroach on other uses.

Notes: I am calling the section of Sutterville Rd to the east of Freeport ‘Sutterville Rd E’ and the section to the west of Freeport ‘Sutterville Rd W’, but these names do not reflect street addresses, since this is all East Sutterville Rd. This post introduces the idea of protected intersections along Freeport, which apparently were not considered by the city in their planning process. For more information on this design, see protected intersections and Davis protected intersection.

First, what it looks like today. As you can see, there is a huge area of wasted space in the intersection

Freeport - Sutterville E intersection existing
Freeport – Sutterville E intersection

Second, the roundabout proposed in the plan.

Freeport - Sutterville E roundabout proposed
Freeport – Sutterville E roundabout proposed, north is to the right

This is a multi-lane roundabout. These roundabout designs are significantly less safe, for all modes of transportation (walking, bicycling, driving) than single lane roundabouts, and current roundabout practice is to only use multi-land roundabouts where they are absolutely necessary for the ADT (average daily traffic) to be designed for. Not the existing traffic, but the desired traffic. Not being a roundabout designer, I can’t say for certain whether a multi-lane roundabout is desired here. It is true that this intersection, and the stretch of roadway between Sutterville E and Sutterville W, combines traffic from both Freeport Blvd and Sutterville Rd. In the traffic counts diagram in the plan, this segment is shown as having the highest ADT of any section of Freeport, at 28,000 ADT. This does not mean the intersection needs to be planned for this volume, but it is an issue to be considered.

The possibly congested traffic flow is westbound from Sutterville E, south on Freeport, and then west on Sutterville W, or conversely, eastbound on Sutterville W, north on Freeport, and then east on Sutterville E.

So, yes to a roundabout at this location.

However, there are several potential improvements to the roundabout design.

  • Traffic north of the intersection does not need two lanes northbound or southbound. Freeport to the north is only two lanes (mostly at 3/2 design with center turn lane). It makes no sense to have the segment to the north with unneeded capacity.
  • There is 1060 feet of roadway south of the roundabout for southbound traffic to merge right for a turn to Sutterville to the west, or left to continue south on Freeport. Merges do no need to happen within the roundabout. That means the west side of the roundabout need only be one lane. Or, the west side right hand lane can be a bypass lane, with no interaction with the other lane providing the roundabout function.
  • Similarly, there is ample space northbound for merging, so the lane that goes from Freeport northbound to Sutterville to the east can be a separated or bypass lane, with no interaction with the other lane providing the roundabout.
  • Proposing something way outside the box, traffic from Sutterville E with Sutterville W could be routed through the park, rejoining Sutterville to the west of the Freeport – Sutterville W intersection

So, why is roundabout in the post title potentially plural? Because I think either roundabouts or protected intersections should be considered for the intersection of Freeport with Sutterville W, and Freeport with Fruitridge.

First, what Freeport – Sutterville W intersection looks like today.

Freeport - Sutterville Rd W intersection existing
Freeport – Sutterville W intersection

Second, the plan proposal. It is very much like the present configuration, the differences being the the southbound bike lane is merged across the right hand turn lane rather than being dropped, the bike lanes are partially separated bikeways (meaning at least vertical delineator ‘protection’ and perhaps curb protection), and parking is removed from Freeport south of the intersection. There are some safety benefits to these changes, but nowhere near as much as a roundabout or protected intersection would offer. Is there space for a roundabout here? Possibly. It would require using some of what is private land on the southwest corner and the east side, but there are no buildings, only parking lots, in the area needed.

Freeport - Sutterville Rd W intersection proposed
Freeport – Sutterville W intersection, north is to the right

And now, the Freeport – Fruitridge intersection. I’ve already made comments on this in the photo essay, but to repeat and look more closely… This is what it looks like today. There are intersections like this along every arterial in the south Sacramento, both city and county. A vast area of pavement, flared out at the intersection in favor of right and left turn lanes, designed to promote the flow of motor vehicle traffic, and designed with little thought to walkers and bicyclists. Of course volumes of bicyclists are new since these were built, but volumes of walkers are not new, they have always been here but were intentionally ignored by the planners and engineers.

Freeport - Fruitridge intersection existing
Freeport – Fruitridge intersection existing

And the intersection proposed by the plan. Other than being rotated 90 degrees, there is no significant difference. Green bicycle markings through the intersection? For what purpose? The purpose of green paint is to signify conflict zones, but the green in the intersection is not a conflict zone. Courageous bicyclists are not going to be encouraged nor protected by this green paint, and other bicyclists are just going to pray.

Every dedicated right turn lane is still there. Every dedicated left turn lane is still there, including the hazardous and unnecessary double left from Freeport southbound to Fruitridge eastbound.

Have median islands wide enough to be, and designed to be, pedestrian refuge islands on these long crossings, been added? No.

Freeport - Fruitridge intersection proposed
Freeport – Fruitridge intersection proposed, north to the right

There is enough space here for a roundabout. Or maybe a protected intersection would be better. I’m not sure, but what I do know is that the intersection design proposed by the city is just plain unacceptable. The community asked for safety, walkability, and economic vitality. This intersection design offers none of those things.

Davis protected intersection

The new protected intersection in Davis, the first in the United States to open, has been in the news recently (#Damien Talks Episode 13 – The Davis Planning Department on the Bike Protected Intersection (Streetsblog), This California city just built the country’s first protected intersection for bikes (Vox), It Just Works: Davis Quietly Debuts America’s First Protected Intersection (Streetsblog), Davis Dutch intersection, first ever in U.S., unveiled with no drama (Davis Enterprise), and others). Though it did not initiate the movement towards protected intersections, which have long existed in some form in Europe, Nick Falbo’s Protected Intersection video has popularized the idea in the United States.

Yesterday I spent about an hour looking at the intersection. It was mid-day, so lightly used by bicyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicles. I might have a different impression at a different time of day. I was on my knee scooter, my current method of getting around, so acting as a pedestrian and not a bicyclist. The design is at the intersection of Covell Blvd and J Street/Cannery Row, on the north side of Davis. The intersection was revised because of the major new development north of Covell, The Cannery, which has recently opened but is still being developed. Some photos are on Flickr.

intersection diagram, from Davis Enterprise
intersection diagram, from Davis Enterprise

With one exception (below), the intersection worked just fine for all modes. Most bicyclists were on Covell headed east or west, and they used the on-street bike lanes. I saw one person use the ramp up to sidewalk and back down, and one bicyclist use the design to turn left from Covell westbound to J southbound. No issues. I also saw a number of pedestrians crossing in various directions. No issues. The signal cycle is slower than it probably needs to be, but, again, that might be different during commute times.

Continue reading “Davis protected intersection”

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.