Freeport trees and sidewalk buffers

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

So, given the need for trees to shade sidewalks along Freeport, where do they go? The answer is in the sidewalk buffer or planting strip. At one existing location along Freeport, there is an example of street trees in a sidewalk buffer, where the new Raley’s shopping center is. The photo below is from the photo essay. I don’t know whether the city required the developer to put in sidewalk buffers and wider sidewalks, or whether the developer knew this was the right thing to do and did it on their own. In any case, this is the only part of Freeport that has them, other than a short section along the airport north of Blair Ave.

The one situation in which sidewalk buffers may not be appropriate is where buildings come to the curb in dense retail areas. But there are virtually no instances of this along Freeport. Almost all buildings are set back from the sidewalk a little, or a lot. In several cases there are massive parking lots adjacent to the sidewalk, creating the kind of place where no one wants to be. So buffers and trees at least mitigate the blandness to some degree.

Freeport Blvd sidewalk buffer and trees
sidewalk buffer and trees along Freeport Blvd at Raley’s

As with any post, I look for example photos and diagrams. So I searched Google for ‘sidewalk buffer’. Lo and behold, the second item is my own post about this! It is experiences like this that make me realize the value of this blog, when other people are using my advocacy work in their advocacy work.

So, so rather than re-write the post, I’ll link to it here: sidewalk buffers. I encourage you to take a read. Trees, and the sidewalk buffers that would allow them, are probably the most important aspect of Freeport Blvd, and the most important topic that the city has neglected.

Walkable Sacramento #4: sidewalks

For a series on walkability, you might think sidewalks would come first, not later. The reason they are not first in the series is that sidewalks, relative to other issues, are in decent shape. Yes, vast areas are missing sidewalks, and in many areas that have them, they are not well maintained. But looking at the whole issue of walking, it is crossing roadways that is most dangerous and unpleasant, not walking along roadways.

I do not believe that low speed, low volume residential streets need sidewalks. It is OK that some have them, and it is OK to require them in new developments (to the degree that it is OK to have new developments, which is to say, this should be irrelevant because there should be no new developments). But to build sidewalks on quiet streets that do not have them is not the best use of funds.

The city has a lot of semi-rural areas without sidewalks. Do they not deserve sidewalks? Where sidewalks would provide a route to key amenities such as grocery stores and schools, sidewalks should be provided, or at least paved asphalt paths adjacent to roadways. Too many people die walking on the shoulders of rural and semi-rural roads, so shoulders are not a solution, there must be either sidewalks or separated paths.

The most important point of all about sidewalks is the first bullet, that it is the responsibility of the city to maintain sidewalks. It is irrational to propose that roadways are maintained by the city, but sidewalks are not. If this belief and legal fabrication persists, Sacramento can never be a walkable city.

  • Recognizing that sidewalks are an integral part of the transportation network, sidewalk repair will be the responsibility of the city and not of property owners, except where trees owned by property owners, or disturbance, change or widening is initiated by the property owner.
  • All streets with an ADT over 5000 will have continuous sidewalks of no less than four feet clear path, within five years.
  • All streets with an ADT over 10,000 will have a continuous sidewalk of not less than six feet clear width, within two years.
  • All streets with an ADT over 20,000 will have a continuous sidewalk of not less than six feet clear width, with a buffer of not less than six feet, within six years. Parallel multi-use paths can be used to meet this requirement.
  • Utility poles and other obstructions will not restrict sidewalk width below the minimums above, and where these exist, will either be removed or sidewalks widened. The expense will be borne by the utilities, not city taxpayers.
  • All sidewalks will be maintained in a state of good repair by the city. Any cracks with a vertical displacement of more than one inch will be fixed within two months. The city will evaluate and implement flexible sidewalks for locations with ongoing tree root heaving issues.
  • Timely leaf removal from sidewalks will be the responsibility of the property owner, except for sidewalks with a daily use of over 5000, which will be the responsibility of the city. 
  • All development which requires new sidewalks (greenfield development) will fund a maintenance fund so that existing city residents are not financially responsible for sidewalk maintenance on new sidewalks. 
  • Sidewalks will be continuous across alleyways, in concrete and not asphalt. Every alleyway that is reconstructed or repaved will have this implemented.

sidewalk buffers

garden sidewalk buffer on Q Street
garden sidewalk buffer on Q Street

The purpose of sidewalk buffers, also called planting strips, is to isolate pedestrians from moving motor vehicles, where parking does not provide a sufficient buffer. Sidewalks adjacent to the curb are called attached sidewalks, while sidewalks with a buffer are called detached sidewalks.

Traditionally all residential, collector, and arterial streets had buffers. Retail areas often did not, in order to make getting from the car to the sidewalk more convenient.

Modern suburbs, however, usually eliminated the buffer strip from all streets in order to maximize the area available for development and roadways. Pedestrians do not like to walk next to fast traffic. In part, the elimination of buffers is why there is much less walking in the suburbs. The lack of buffers also makes an area look harsh, with a bland expanse of pavement rather than the welcoming and beautiful strip of nature. The planting strips and their vegetation require maintenance, and responsibility for those areas is another question of responsibility.

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