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.

Slow & Active Streets signs

I went by the Slow & Active Streets again today. Ali Doerr Westbrook and Katie Valenzuela had a table set up on 26th Street at K Street to inform the public, and giving out Valentine’s goodie and bike network maps.

Since Friday, the signs have been moved out into the street, rather than on the side. I spent some time watching traffic, and this placement does seem more effective. I saw people starting to turn onto the routes and then not, and also drivers going less than a block to homes.

Slow & Active Street signing, O Street

An unexpected feature was that the traffic signals on 26th Street had been set to flashing red along 26th and the cross streets. I was surprised because it is rare that the city changes traffic signal operations for anything.

I heard from people that the street had been very active yesterday on a warm sunny day, but there weren’t a lot of people out today. More bicyclists than walkers. Everyone seems very happy to see this program in effect.

One driver stopped while I was taking a photo, to ask what I thought. He then mentioned that he lived on O Street, and was very happy to see this traffic calming, as he said many drivers went way to fast on O Street, coming off 21st Street (which is a one-way street with higher traffic speeds even though posted 25 mph).

So far, so good.

1500 S St infill

The house at 1500 S Street, and commercial building at 1506/1508 S Street, have been razed in preparation for a new development.

1500/1506/1508 S St, Sacramento

I am curious about redevelopment/infill projects in the central city because they have the potential to increase housing, allowing more people to live in the central city, improving economic vibrancy for businesses and property/sales tax for the government. At the same time, I know that perfectly viable Victorian houses have been torn down for redevelopment, so I’m not always in favor of these projects.

The house at 1500 S Street had been unoccupied for years. Same with the commercial building at 1506/1508 S Street. Houses on three adjacent lots were razed sometime between July 2015 and February 2018. As much detail as I was able to gather from Zillow and Google Earth historical imagery is below. I think it is interesting that the houses had survived for 95 years, 103 years, 101 years, and 108 years, whereas the commercial building lasted at most 36 years. So many commercial building are disposable, often not built to last, and not worth modifying or reconstructing. The house on the corner, 1500 S Street, looked to be in poor condition. I don’t know about the other three houses.

  • 1500 S St, house 926 sf, lot 3200 sf, 1926, gone 02/2021
  • 1506/1508 S St, building, built after 12/1985, gone 02/2021
  • 1512 S St, 3,129 sf, lot 6400 sf, 1915, present 7/2015, gone 5/2018
  • 1516 S St, 1,177 sf, lot 6400 sf, 1915, present 7/2015, gone 7/2016
  • 1522 S St, 876 sf, lot 6400 sf, 1910, present 7/2015, gone 2/2018

The combined lots sold for $5,125,000 in 2019.

The information I was able to find about plans for the location are: Anthem Acquires an Infill Project in Sacramento, Anthem Properties submits plan for site near R Street Corridor (2020-04-27, firewalled), and Downtown Sacramento Partnership 1500 S, all indicating a mixed use building of eight stories.

1500 S Street, from SacBiz

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.

Slow & Active Streets, finally

The City of Sacramento implemented the first three Slow & Active Streets on Friday. Eleven blocks of 26th Street, four blocks of O Street, and five blocks of V Street were designated. Apparently these streets were selected based on strong support from the Midtown Neighborhood Association.

These streets are not closed to motor vehicles, this is not an open street type designation, but through traffic is discouraged. The signing below is on 26th Street at S Street, and every block is marked with signing, though some blocks are simpler. The signing is always set to the side, in what would be the parking lane. This is different from the setup used by almost all other cities that have set up slow streets, where drivers have to carefully go into the opposing lane in order to proceed on the street. The signs are less likely to be damaged, which is a problem in some cities where belligerent drivers move or simply run over the signs, and where errant drivers cannot help but hit anything in the roadway, no matter the safety colors used. But they are also less likely to be noticed.

26th Street at S Street, Slow & Active Streets signing

I watched two intersections on 26th Street for some while, and I saw not a single driver avoiding continuing on or turning onto 26th Street because of the signing. This may change over time as people get used to it, or it may not. It is, after all, a pilot. If you walk or bicycle on these Slow & Active Streets, or live on them, please let the city know what you think and what you observe, at https://forms.cityofsacramento.org/f/PW_Transportation_CommentForm.

The city has said the Slow & Active Streets program will be in effect at least through the end of April, but that may be extended to the end of June. Some additional streets are under consideration. The city has said that primary limiting factor for the pilot is the requirement that the signing be checked every day by Public Works staff, and after April these staff will be busy with other tasks. I am sure that local resident can take care of most needs, and report to the city if there is something they cannot fix, but I don’t see a need for staff to check them any more than once a week.

9th St fixed, sort of

Following on to the post 9th St blocked by construction, the city has partially fixed the issue.

At the south edge of the sidewalk and bikeway closure, at L Street, there is now some signing, below. However, the signing and fencing do not meet ADA detectability requirements. Though there is more than one way of meeting detectability, an example graphic follows, showing a low bar across the entire width, detectable by canes used by vision impaired people. See my earlier post signs and diagrams for construction zones and construction zone solutions for more information on signing and barriers.

9th St at L St sidewalk closure signing

What would otherwise be a reasonable route and signing for northbound pedestrians is blocked by an open construction gate. This open gate was not being actively used in any way, it had just been left open. A person walking is forced to walk outside the crosswalk to get to the bypass.

9th St at L St bypass entrance and signing, blocked by construction gate

For southbound bicyclists on 9th Street at K Street, the diversion starts suddenly, pushing bicyclists into the traffic lane without warning. This is not necessary, the construction cone placed blocking the separated bikeway should not be there. This is just plain sloppiness. The bikeway could remain open, with a half block available to place signing that explains there will be a diversion and bypass ahead.

9th St blocked separated bikeway

Then there is the entrance to the walking and bicycling bypass, below. The same lack of detectable barriers as in the first item also exists here. If a vision limited walker encountered the construction fencing across the sidewalk, they would have no idea where the bypass is. The ‘sidewalk closed’ and ‘pedestrian detour’ signs are MUTCD compliant signs, MUTCD R9-9 and MUTCD M9-4b respectively, but they need to be placed on or above a detectable barrier, not on sawhorses which do not meet detectability requirements. The ‘bikes’ sign is a made-up sign, and because of its size, it intrudes into the shared bike and pedestrian space. I can imagine bicyclists hitting the sign on their way into the bypass. The correct sign for the location is actually MUTCD M9-4a, shown below.

9th St pedestrian and bicyclist bypass
MUTCD M4-9a right

It took about four weeks for the city and construction company to come up with and implement a new traffic control plan, which is ridiculous. If there had been a problem with motor vehicle traffic instead of for walkers and bicyclists, it would have been solved in less than a week. And it would have been done right. Either the new traffic control plan does not really meet ADA requirements, or the signing and barricades placed do not follow the traffic control plan. Remember, this is a city project, reconstruction of Capitol Park Hotel, so not only is the city responsible for managing streets, but also for managing the construction project. Take a look at the photos, or go walk or bicycle the section of 9th Street between K Street and L Street. The sloppiness of the work is glaring. As I’ve said before, the city does not care about walkers and bicyclists, and is not fulfilling its legal responsibilities.

Why is that I, a private citizen, continually have to tell the city when they are doing things wrong, and how to do it right?

East Sac Hardware closing

I read with sadness in a Sacramento Business Journal article (https://www.bizjournals.com/sacramento/news/2021/01/29/east-sac-hardware-closing-permanently.html; paywalled, but there is a not-paywalled article at https://insidesacramento.com/farewell-neighbor/) that East Sac Hardware on Folsom Blvd is closing soon.

East Sac Hardware

I don’t question the business and property owners right to do what they want with the business and property, but the closure is nevertheless a big loss to the community. Locally owned businesses are almost always better in my opinion than national chains. Local stores and staff know their customers, and their customers often know them. Yes, I will admit that big box stores often have lower prices, but despite their huge floor area almost never have a better selection. I’d rather get exactly what I need from a local hardware store than something that sort-of-might-do from a big store.

The biggest losses here are the staff expertise, quantities, and location:

  • Expertise: In a local hardware store, the staff almost always knows what you need, or don’t need, and how to install it or use it. Home Depot and Lowe’s, not so. Though I rarely go into these big box national chain stores, when I do, I can’t get good help. Every once in a while I do find someone, but it always turns out they are retired from a real hardware store and just picking up some income and wanting to still serve the public.
  • Quantities: Another issue with the big stores is that you can’t buy just what you need. Need a screw or a bolt? They have them in packs of 25 or 50 or 100. In a real hardware store, you can buy just that one screw or bolt.
  • Location: Another big issue with the loss of hardware stores is that a person has to drive further and further to the big box store. Fortunately there are still two real hardware stores that I can access, Capitol Hardware on I Street in midtown Sacramento, and Emigh’s Hardware in Arden-Arcade. Emigh’s has expanded and diversified, so will probably survive, but I am concerned for Capitol.

And when was the last time you saw a mural on a big box store?

I believe that local businesses both create and support livability in a community. Big box stores do not. Though their employees may be local, their owners are not, and decisions are made by a corporate headquarters that knows little, and probably cares less, about the local community. Home Depot is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia and Lowe’s is headquartered in Mooresville, North Carolina, though you’d be hard pressed to find that information on either of their websites.

Restaurant space update

There are now several more allocations of sidewalk and roadway space in Sacramento for restaurant outside dining, since my May 28 post (https://gettingaroundsac.blog/2020/05/28/restaurant-space/).

I have created an album on Flickr of my photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157715113286843. I am not claiming that I have an exhaustive archive, there may well be other locations that I have not run across. Let me know if you know of others.

Most of the installations have been done reasonably well. I feel that it is better to place dining space in the parking lane, or even travel lane, rather than the sidewalk, however, if done well, using sidewalk is OK. Yesterday I did run across a completely illegal diversion on R Street. It is not legal to simply put up sidewalk closed signs without providing an ADA accessible pathway.

R Street illegal closure

I reported it, and the city had removed it in less than 24 hours. Already underway though, were plans to close this section of street and allocate it to restaurant dining and pedestrians. Some bollard bases had already been installed, and more were being placed this morning. These bollards will allow the closure (to cars) of R Street between 15th and 14th, R Street between 14th St and 13th, 14th Street between R Street and Rice Alley (to the south). It may be that additional bollards bases will be placed to allow a more refined closure.

I assume that since bollard bases and bollards are being installed, rather than just construction/detour signs, it appears likely that the intent is that temporary closures will continue to be available past the pandemic.

There were contractor crews working this morning to set up tents for outdoor dining, in the section of R Street between 15th and 14th. It isn’t clear to me yet whether other sections of street are going to be closed (to cars) at this time, or if the bollard bases are just in preparation for future use.

R Street at 15th Street, bollards, tents in background

This work is apparently a cooperative project between the city and R Street Partnership, but I do not know the role of each.

restaurant space

Sacramento has implemented changes to the streets along 18th Street and along Capitol Avenue and L Street near the intersection of the three. There may be other locations in Sacramento, but I’m not aware of them.

L St at 18th St restaurant space

The first example, along L Street at 18th Street, is for Aïoli | Bodega Española. The sidewalk has been closed and an alternate sidewalk provided in what was the parking lane on the south side of the street. There are a few widely spaced tables.

18th St at Capitol Ave, restaurant space

The second example, along 18th Street just north of Capitol Avenue, is for Zocalo Restaurant. It could also be used for the adjacent business, but doesn’t seem to be. The sidewalk was retained (more or less, there is a slight narrowing), and the angled parking on the east side of the street was converted into seating area.

The ADA ramps which go around the sidewalk closures look sketchy to me, but I don’t have expertise in that aspect of ADA, so I’ll leave that to others who do.

I think this is a great use of street space to help restaurants meet the challenge of physical spacing while reopening. I prefer the situation where the outdoor seating in in the parking space, rather than the sidewalk being diverted to the parking space, but each situation is unique, and it should work for the business and the walking public.

Of course with any of the ‘temporary’ COVID-19 measures, the question is, should this be a permanent solution? I think this needs to be a negotiation between the city, the business owners, and the public, but I do think in many cases, the answer is yes.

Sacramento redlining map

Thanks for the website Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America, I have better copies of the Sacramento redlining map, which was produced in 1937 by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC). These were government sanctioned zonings meant to guide banks to only loan to certain kinds of people in certain areas. Specifically, higher income white people.Though the official endorsement of the federal government eventually ended, the practice continued into the 1970s, and is with us still today. The best book on it is The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein, which I highly recommend.

I had seen this map before, most likely from the posts of Bill Burg, but had not seen a high quality version, and had never found the GIS data. In 1937, Sacramento was a pretty small city, not going south past Land Park or north past Del Paso Heights, so the maps only cover a tiny part of what is today Sacramento. But as the city grew into other areas, the same practice redlining continued.

The first map below is the ArcGIS version, the second a scan of the original 1937 map.

Sacramento HOLC redlining map 1937 (click for pdf)
redlining map scan
original map, scanned (click for high resolution)