Sacramento open streets for eating

With the removal of blockages to motor vehicle travel on Capitol Avenue, a few weeks ago, and R Street, recently, Sacramento no longer has any streets closed to motor vehicles for the purposes of encouraging outdoor dining. There are still a few locations with sidewalks diverted to the street for outdoor dining, and parking lanes dedicated to outdoor dining, but many fewer than there were.

Following onto the SacBee article and tweet this morning (https://twitter.com/sacbee_news/status/1554800490478796801), a number of other people have commented on the issue today, on Twitter. Unfortunately, there weren’t tags on the tweets, so it is hard to find those twitter threads.

The city says that the end of the closure (to cars) was the decision of the business owners. Did the city talk to them to find out what they needed? To negotiate with them? I doubt it.

The city, of course, says that they are working on a permit system for outdoor dining, but the discussion of the permit system that I’ve seen is that it will only be for sidewalk diversions and parking lane dining. The city does not envision ever closing a street (to cars) for dining again, ever, anywhere. Why wasn’t the permit system in place before these dining areas disappeared? I believe it is because the city slow walks (pun) everything that has to do with creating a more livable, less car dominated city. There are powerful forces, in Public Works in particular, but other places as well, that don’t believe in walking and bicycling, or public spaces, and will do everything they can to make sure those things don’t happen. The pandemic reversed this, temporarily, because there was such a strong demand from the public, but the city has now slid back into its anti-livability comfort zone.

The city (I think) went to the trouble and expense of installing bollard anchors along much of R Street, from 15th Street to 10th Street, and the cross streets, but seems unwilling to use them.

R Street now, car dominated
R St Sacramento street dining
R Street then, people dominated

When I went by today to get a current photo of the street, I noticed that Iron Horse Tavern has blocked the sidewalk on the south side of R Street, leaving no alternate route or ADA accommodation. I suspect that this is one of the businesses here that thinks all its customers arrive by car, and they don’t need to serve anyone else. Please make their wishes come true, if you are a walker or bicyclist, and avoid this business.

Iron Horse Tavern on R Street, blocking the sidewalk

Liestal Row shared space

Edible Pedal in Liestal Row
Edible Pedal in Liestal Row

Shared space is a type of roadway that is common in Europe, found in a few places in the United States, and so far as I know, only one place in Sacramento. The concept is that pedestrians, bicyclist, and motor vehicles can mix without having to have set-aside areas defined by curbs and painted bike lanes.

In Sacramento, Liestal Row, an alley between L Street and Capitol Avenue, and 17th Street and 18th Street, is the example. The alley was reconstructed with sidewalk areas defined by smooth concrete and roadway areas defined by bricks, however, there are no curbs in between and no limitations that keep the modes separate. The two businesses in the alley, Edible Pedal and Old Soul, spill out into the alley, and people often stand around in conversation. Often vehicles (including bicycles) have to thread their way between other users. What makes the alley work is that motor vehicle drivers are moving at a very slow speed, and do not have priority over other users. I’ve seen the uncertainty in the eyes of drivers negotiating the space, and that is exactly what makes it safe for everyone, the uncertainty that leads to paying attention instead of making assumptions or driving distracted.

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