J St bikeway posts

This is a followup to J St bikeway. If you are a Twitter person, you may have noticed discussions the last few days, started by Jennifer Donlon Wyant of the city, about new delineator posts being installed on the J Street separated bikeway. See also the ‘Battle of the Bollards’ page. Though as Jennifer points out, these are not bollards.

Below are photos of the three types of vertical delineators. I’m calling them, respectively, fat delineators (first two photos), rubbery delineators (second two photos), and turtle delineators (fifth photo). The bumps are often called turtles (except in Texas where they are called armadillos). As you can see, despite the fresh installation, at least one of the rubbery posts has already been hit several times and is marked with tire rubber. However, it does not seem to be damaged in the way a regular plastic post would be. The delineator is much more flexible, and perhaps more able to take being hit by reckless drivers.

J St bikeway fat vertical delineators
upJ St bikeway fat vertical delineator close-up
J St bikeway skinny rubbery delineators
J St bikeway skinny rubbery delineator showing damage
J St bikeway turtles & delineators

The fat delineators are much more visible than the rubbery delineators, and probably about as visible at the turtle delineators.

Time will tell which of these works best. Of course none of these provide complete protection from errant drivers, but the theory is that parked cars provide much of the protection. Probably true during the times of day when the parking is in heavy use, but not at other times of day. In the previous post, I recommended that the block sections without driveways, about half the blocks in this stretch of J Street, be protected with concrete curbing. Jennifer points out that this is an attempt to solve or mitigate the problem with relatively minor expenditures, whereas concrete is more expensive. The bikeway itself was an attempt to improve bicyclist safety and comfort with relatively minor expenditures, as part of a repaving project.

Next post I’ll have some information about the bus stops along J Street.

J St bikeway

The J Street separated bikeway has problems, as has been highlighted by Streets are Better and many others. Separated bikeways are also called protected bike lanes and cycle-tracks, but in California the official term is separate bikeways.

The City of Sacramento placed a separated bikeway on J Street from 19th Street to 29th Street as part of a repaving and roadway reallocation project called the J Street Safety Project in 2018. This was the second such project in Sacramento, the first being portions of P and Q Street downtown, but it was the first in the heavy retail, parking, and traffic environment of J Street.

The theory of these parking-protected bikeways is that the row of parked cars protects bicyclists from moving cars, and this is true in the length of the block (but not at intersections, which are a separate issue), when there are parked cars. But some times of day there are not parked cars, and throughout the day as cars come and go (particularly on a retail corridor), protection is lacking.

It is true that bikeways don’t need strong protection from PARKed cars, but they do need protection from PARKing cars and delivery vehicles, and bikeway intrusion.

Vertical delineators and pavement markings were used to set off the bikeway, with a sign at the beginning of each block segment showing the new allocation. These vertical delineators are also called bollards and soft-hit posts, with soft-hit meaning that they won’t damage cars when drivers hit them. The first photo below shows the 27th to 28th section. It initially had 14 delineators place, but only three are remaining. The other blocks have fared a little bit better, but overall about half the delineators are gone. The second photo shows the 25th to 26th section sign that has been run over by a driver.

J Street bikeway, 27th to 28th section, missing delineators
J Street bikeway, damaged sign

Some of the vertical delineators are being run over by people parking, some by delivery vehicles parking on top of them, and some by drivers going down the bikeway itself. And probably some just for sport. I don’t know which of these causes are most common.

There are several solutions:

One: Put the delineators closer together so as to make it more obvious that vehicles are not supposed to cross them.

Two: Add bollards which either are, or at least look to be, more substantial. The photo below is from a somewhat different setting in Oakland, with more substantial bollards. Reading blogs and Twitter, these seem to be successful in some cities and some settings, but not in others.

bollards in Oakland

Three: More substantial separators such as planter boxes.

planter separated diagram from C40

Four: Partial hard curbs or medians. The photo shows a median at the start of a bikeway section. It reduces the number of signs flattened by drivers and signals to drivers that there is something different about this block.

bikeway with hard median start, FresnoCOG

Five: Continuous hard physical curb or median. It is hard to find good photos of these, probably because in the past they haven’t been seen as necessary. There are a lot of photos of hard medians adjacent to moving traffic, and adjacent to two-way cycle-tracks, and alongside raised bike lanes that are at or close to sidewalk level. But the graphic below gives the general idea.

Of course hard curbs or medians are more expensive, but last 20-30 years whereas delineators or bollards may need to be replaced every year, so I think they are a good investment.

A major issue with all separate bikeways is the presence of driveways. In fact streets with a high density of driveways should not have this design. Below at the blocks of the bikeway, with information about driveways.

19th3 drivewayspartially separated; driveways not changeable
20th3 driveways2 changeable driveways
21st1 drivewaydriveway not changeable
22nd2 driveways2 changeable driveways
23rdno driveways
24th2 driveways1 maybe changeable
25thno driveways
26thno driveways
27thno driveways
28th2 drivewayspartially separated; 1 driveway changeable

The changeable driveways will be the topic of a separate post, but the basic idea is that parking lots that have access to the alleyway do not need access to the main street, so in this case, parking lots with access to Jazz Alley do not need access to J Street.

My recommendations

  1. Place hard medians at the beginning of each block, to protect the signs, and better signify to drivers this is a different place. For the locations where there are bus stops (19th, 22nd, 25th, 27th, 28th), the median would be moved down the block a bit. Note that this is too high a frequency of bus stops, but that is an issue for another post.
  2. Place more substantial bollards, and at a closer spacing.
  3. Place a continuous hard median on one of the four blocks without driveways, the same width at the painted buffers present now. This would be a pilot to test the installation, determine costs, and document benefits. If the pilot is successful, the other three blocks with no driveways should receive the same treatment.
  4. Start negotiation between the city and the owners of parcels that are used solely as parking lots, to close J Street driveways and use Jazz Alley access. Some of these parcels will be redeveloped into more productive uses anyway, but that may take longer than desired.

use Amazon? – support this!

This afternoon I was walking along P Street, not riding my bicycle, when I saw this Amazon delivery van parked in the separated bikeway (cycletrack) just past 13th Street.

When I asked the driver why he was in the bike lane, he said there was nowhere else to park. But in fact there is a cross-hatched, implied no-parking, area just behind the photo on 14th Street, not more than 30 feet from where the van is parked. I can’t show you an aerial of this because the parking has been reconfigured since the last historical Google Earth imagery without leaves on trees, but tomorrow I’ll take a ground photo and add it here. There were also several empty parking spots on 13th Street both north and south of P Street, but apparently this was too far for the driver to walk.

Once making several deliveries, the driver finally left, traveling down the separated bikeway all the way to 13th Street. I reported the parking violation to the city’s 311 app, but of course the van was gone before they could respond. However, I think it is important for everyone to report these violations, otherwise the city can claim it was not aware of the situation.

This is the Amazon attitude, that our deliveries are more important than public safety, and if we actually get caught, the ticket is a small price for our way of doing business, which is raking in the big bucks. So, please think about this photo the next time your order from Amazon. I am not saying Amazon is the only guilty party, other delivery services do similar things, though Amazon seems to be the most brazen. And it is partly the city’s fault. When they repaved and restriped P Street to create the separated bikeway, they could have created delivery spots on both the 15th-14th block and the 14th-13th block, but they did not.

2021-03-12: Adding photo better showing context for the illegal Amazon parking. On the right is the separated bikeway that was being blocked by the Amazon driver. On the left is the crosshatched area that sets off diagonal parking on 14th Street. This morning it was being used by an exempt vehicle, perhaps CADA, but when the Amazon van was there, this was empty and available for delivery.

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?

Sacramento among 10 best new bikeways

People for Bikes just published “America’s 10 Best New Bikeways of 2018” and Sacramento is one of them. Congratulations!

4. Sacramento, California
The J Street Safety Project was designed to calm traffic, improve pedestrian crossings, provide parking-protected bikeways, and make the street more inviting for travel. They chose to add a parking-protected lane to allow people of all ages and levels to bike the grid, separated from moving traffic. Travel lanes were reduced from 3 to 2, encouraging slower vehicle speeds, decreasing pedestrian crossing lengths, and improving corridor safety.
The project came out of the Central City Transportation Plan (Grid 3.0) in 2016, and is a marriage of street maintenance funding and transportation planning. They found that there was a need to calm traffic and improve pedestrian crossings, which was identified by the local businesses and residential community. The project improves pedestrian visibility by moving parking back from the intersection. It also benefits local businesses along the corridor by slowing traffic and increasing ease of crossing the corridor.
So far they’ve built over 25 blocks of parking-protected bikeways this year, and have funding for another 22 blocks.

People for Bikes

Parking in the protected bike lane

People are again parking in the protected bike lane (correctly called a separated bikeway in California) on 10th Street in Sacramento, approaching K Street. This happened for about two weeks after the facility was installed, and then seemed to stop as people adjusted to a different street configuration, but now it is happening again. I was not sure whether this is illegal or not, but the city confirmed that it is illegal. The parking meters are for the parking spaces in the parking lane to the left of the bike lane, not for the curb. Confusingly, the red curb was painted over, probably in a misguided attempt to follow city design guidelines without thinking about the real world.

The bike lane here needs to be changed to prevent this from happening. The 10th Street bikeway is full of compromises made with parking. Mostly, it works, despite that, but in this particular place, it does not.

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.

Separated bikeway demo on P St

The City of Sacramento has created a demonstration separated bikeway on P Street (westbound) between 15th and 13th streets. Separated bikeways, also known as protected bike lanes and cycletracks, are becoming common in progressive cities, but this is the first in Sacramanto. Yesterday the city held a “ribbon cutting” on the facility, with Mayor Steinberg and Councilmember Hansen speaking and visibly excited. The demonstration will be there through Friday, then removed. The purpose of the demonstration is to show the public what a separated bikeway looks like and how it works, and gain community feedback on the project. The city wants to install parking protected separated bikeways on portions of P and Q streets, and a buffered separated bikeway on a portion of 10th St (map below), so the demonstration hopefully will lead to permanent installations. 

I was amazed at how quickly drivers adapted to the parking change. Most of the spots were filled with properly parked cars, even though the parking didn’t open until after the morning rush on parking. I was also noted that when the project was already set up for the morning inbound rush hour, there was no congestion on P St. This is the type of project that benefits drivers, bicyclists, and even people parking. 

On of the questions about these facilities is how they interact with transit. The demo was placed on the left (south side westbound) to avoid interacting with buses. However, Route 6 Land Park and Route 38 P/Q Streets are low frequency 60 minute routes that should not strongly influence street allocation. An easy solution to having both separated bikeways and bus stops on the same side of the street is bus boarding islands within the parking lane or buffer, so that the bikeway passes behind the island. 

I encourage you to get out and see, and use, the demo, and then provide your feedback to the city. The city will host an Open House on October 9 from 5-7 p.m. at City Hall. If you can go, please do! I’m sure there will be people there complaining about loss of a lane, and loss of parking (though there is only a slight decrease), and about change in general, so the city needs to hear from enthusiasts (we want it NOW) and thoughtful ideas for how to improve projects and install in more places. More information is available on the CityExpress page, and the Downtown Bikeways Project page


More photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157686958079110