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 M9-4a sign

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