SacCity sidewalk design standards

I’ve written about existing sidewalk buffers or lack thereof (sidewalk buffer widths), and a solution for areas without sidewalk buffers (street trees in the parking lane), and now on to sidewalk standards. Sidewalk areas are composed of the sidewalk, sidewalk buffer (also called planting strip or furniture zone), and pedestrian scale lighting.

Design criteria:

  • All new or reconstructed streets will have sidewalks, sidewalk buffers, and pedestrian scale lighting
  • Reallocated or mitigated streets will have sidewalk buffers added if right-of-way can be reallocated
  • Sidewalk areas may also include sidewalk-level bicycle facilities
  • Attached sidewalks (sidewalk adjacent to the curb) will not be used for new or reconstructed streets
  • Sidewalk width:
    • Minimum sidewalk width will be six feet in areas of 85% of more residential
    • Minimum sidewalk width will be eight feet in all other areas
    • Sidewalks must be completely free of obstructions, encroachments, or driveway aprons into their minimum width
    • Sidewalks adjacent to and within 1/8 mile of schools will be a minimum of 8 feet; sidewalks used for drop off/pickup will be a minimum of 10 feet
  • Sidewalk buffer width:
    • Minimum sidewalk buffer width will be eight feet in order to accommodate a canopy of mature trees; if a lesser width is available, parking areas will be considered for tree placement
    • Sidewalk buffer may also accommodate street related infrastructure and utilities, street furniture, bike and scooter parking, dining areas, bioswales, and other related uses
  • Sidewalks will receive priority use of right-of-way; travel and parking lanes, and bike facilities, will be placed in remaining right-of-way
  • Bus stop amenities will not be placed within the sidewalk minimum width; the sidewalk buffer may serve as clear sidewalk abutting the curb, with appropriate design and transition; transit amenities may also be placed on transit islands away from the sidewalk and sidewalk buffer
  • Sidewalks will be continuous over driveways and alleys, without interruption of design or materials
  • Pedestrian scale lighting will be provided along the street length; motor vehicle scale lighting will not be considered sufficient; intersections and crosswalks may be lit with motor vehicle scale lighting

Design diagrams:

  • Sidewalks of six or eight feet, with sidewalk buffers of at least eight feet
  • Tree planters or wells in the parking lane or curb extensions
  • Alley entrances and sidewalk crossings of alleys
  • Driveway crossings of sidewalk, with design indicating walking priority
  • Bus stop amenities (benches, shelters, etc.) with a sidewalk area clear of encroachment
  • Transit island diagram here or in the transit section
walkers at Capitol Park sidewalk N St & 15th
walkers at Capitol Park sidewalk N St & 15th

sidewalks across alleys

Note: Please see post on City of Sacramento Street Design Standards. It turns out that there are at least two different sets of design standards.

The City of Sacramento has Standard Specifications and Drawings that require certain designs for the public right-of-way. There were last revised April 2020, and are available on the Utilities: Development Standards page. It is not clear why these are part of Utilities rather than Public Works or Community Development, but they are. Though I haven’t done an element by element comparison, they seem to be a considerable improvement over the previous standards, which seem to be June 2009.

There are designs which are not being followed, and others that should be eliminated. Today, I’ll address sidewalks crossing alleys. Alleys are only common in the central city, but they do exist other places throughout the city.

The city design standard is below (pdf of entire page). The detail is hard to see, but the alleyway, sidewalk, and alley driveway are all concrete, none are asphalt. The T-11 Standard Alley Entrance Detail page says “Portland Cement Concrete (PCC) is the city standard pavement for alleys.”

SacCity Specification detail alley entrance

Of course there are many alleyways that are asphalt, and some that are unpaved gravel. I don’t know when the city standards changed to require pavement, or when to require concrete, but those are the current standards. That means that if an alley, or a sidewalk, or the alley driveway is changed, it must meet current standards. Below is a photo of Neighbors Alley at 17th Street, which was just redone within the last two months. It clearly does not meet city standards. Both the driveway and the sidewalk are asphalt, not concrete. Though I noticed this work being done, I failed to notice who was doing it. City? Private? Private utility? Not sure.

photo of Neighbors Alley at 17th Street
Neighbors Alley at 17th Street
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Sacramento and sidewalks

The draft City of Sacramento Climate Action Plan (CAAP) section MEASURE TR-1: Improve Active Transportation Infrastructure to Achieve 6% Active Transportation Mode Share by 2030 and 12% by 2045, includes the performance indicator “Deploy 20,000 feet of new/repaired pedestrian infrastructure by 2030”. The final CAAP will become part of the city’s 2040 General Plan.

This is less than four miles of sidewalk repair. The city has approximately 2300 miles of sidewalk. At this rate, 8 years to repair 4 miles of sidewalk, it would take 4600 years to address the sidewalks in the city. What does the city intend instead? That private property owners repair sidewalks, even though the sidewalks and the land they sit on belong to the city (in most cases, though some wider sidewalks in the central city are a mix of city and private). From the city’s Sidewalks, Curbs & Gutters page:

Q: Isn’t it the City’s responsibility to maintain the sidewalk? Isn’t it public property?

A: The sidewalk is in the City’s right-of-way. However, California Streets and Highways Code sections 5610 through 5618 allow cities throughout California to require property owners to maintain the sidewalks in front of their property. Sacramento City Code section 12.32 sets forth the City’s procedures under these sections.  Sacramento is not the only city to require sidewalk repairs to be the property owner’s responsibility. However, curb and gutter maintenance is the City’s responsibility. As the property owner may bear civil liability for a person suffering personal injury or property damage caused by a defective sidewalk: it is in the property owners best interest to maintain the sidewalk and reduce the risk of a lawsuit.

Note the word ‘allows’. Nothing requires that the city shift the burden of sidewalk maintenance to private property owners. The city has simply decided to do so, so that it may shift responsibility of a critical part of the transportation infrastructure off the city and onto adjacent property owners (so that it may spend more on roadway capacity expansion, in case you were wondering). Though it would make sense to require property owners to repair sidewalk damage from root heaving due to trees on private property, it is ridiculous (and criminal, in my opinion) for the city to demand that private property owners repair sidewalks when the trees are in the city-owned sidewalk buffer area. This is the sort of action one would expect in a dictatorship, forcing citizens to take on individual responsibility for city actions.

See previous posts: Walkable Sacramento #4: sidewalks and whose responsibility are sidewalks?.

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?

830K construction zone

Yet another. There is a construction project, or at least a fencing off for future construction, at 830K, a long abandoned building. Along 9th Street, a fence has been put up where there used to be a bus stop, extending from K Street to and including Kayak Alley.

Southbound at K Street, there is no signing on the fence at all. This is not a major flaw, as it is obvious the sidewalk is closed, but there is no information about how far the closure extends.

9th Street southbound at K Street, west side (830 K)

From the south end, things are much worse. There is no signing at L Street to indicate there is a closure ahead. When you get to the closure, there is a random assortment of barricades, each of which is non-ADA compliant, and not indication which way to go. If Kayak Alley were open, it would at least offer an alternative, but the alley is closed.

9th Street, northbound at Kayak Alley, west side (830 K)

The worst part of this is that, so far as I can tell, nothing is going on here. The sidewalk, and bus stop, was closed off by fencing, but since then, nothing is happening. The point here is that there should be requirements placed on construction projects that if they stall out, the sidewalks must be returned to their previous open condition until such time as construction resumes.

poor accommodation at 3C

The convention center and community center theater project (3C) project did a very poor job of preserving access for walkers and bicyclists at the beginning. Some issues have been resolved, but some never have, though the project has now been going on for just less than two years.

The most significant issue is that there was no provision made for northbound bicyclists on 13th Street, passing the construction between L Street and J Street. 13th is a major bicyclist route of travel, and the city knew this before the construction started. But the original traffic plan did not address this use at all. After public complaints, a sign was installed on the sidewalk for northbound bicyclists, photo below, but not the southbound. The numerous walkers using this sidewalk, adjacent to the Marriott and Sheraton convention facilities, were confused to see bicyclists on the crowded sidewalk. After more public complaints, a sign was added southbound, the second photo, though it is placed in a location where people coming from K Street would not necessarily see it. As you can see in the first photo, the sidewalk is narrow just north of the crosswalk, so bicyclists heading north are brought into immediate conflict with pedestrians heading south, many of whom are headed to the crosswalk over L Street. Of course having an angled ADA ramp here, rather than the two-to-a-corner design that should be used wherever there is significant pedestrian traffic, makes things worse.

Of course the best solution here would have been to just close 13th Street to motor vehicles between K Street and L Street, leaving the narrowed roadway available for two-way bicyclist traffic. There are far more bicyclists using this route than private vehicle drivers. Despite that, the city biased in favor of drivers.

13th Street northbound at L Street
13th Street southbound at K Street

One issue on which progress was made was the southeast corner of J Street and 13th Street. Initially this corner was closed, giving walkers only one choice of how to cross, despite this being one of the most heavily used intersection crossings in the city. There was no reason to close the corner off, the area behind the fence was never used for construction. After about a year and a half, the corner was re-opened, photo below, so that walkers have a choice of routes. Note that when the city finally worked on this corner, the work was not done behind the fence, but the fence was moved and then the sidewalk and ramp work done by closing off the corner until it was done.

J Street & 13th Street, southeast corner, finally re-opened

On the east side of the project, issues remain. The sidewalk from J Street south along 15th Street has no signing indicating that it is closed ahead, see photo. When you get half way, there is just a fence blocking access. In daylight, you can see the fence ahead, but a limited vision person and anyone walking at night would not see the fence until they got to it. This is simply unacceptable.

15th Street west side, southbound from J Street, no signage

There are several other less serious issues around the east and south sides. At K Street & 15th Street, there is no signing to indicate how to get to the other side, to go either northbound or southbound. This one is not hard to figure out, at least for sighted people, but it was still not done correctly. This crosswalk ramp should have been barriered off, just like the ADA compliant barriers in the previous post, since it only leads to a closed crosswalk.

On the south side of the project, there are plastic barriers for the crosswalk over 14th Street at L Street, and for the crosswalk over L Street on the west side of 14th Street. These barriers were knocked over months ago and have not been put up again. There were not sufficient to begin with, but laying down on the ground, are both useless and hazardous.

14th Street at L Street, failed barrier
L Street at 14th Street, west side crosswalk, failed barrier

I’m going to call this one a failure on the part of both the construction company and the city: the construction company for failing to monitor and maintain the traffic control devices for which they are legally responsible, and the city for failing to monitor the construction company. Blame all around!

And lastly, the closure of a lane on L Street for the construction was not handled well. As you can see, there is a narrow crosshatched area the length of the block. One might reasonable choose not to go this way, but then again I see people going this way every day, both walking and bicycling. I am not sure how this should have been handled, but there must be a better solution. Of course one solution would have been to continue a temporary pedestrian walkway on the north side of the street, set off by concrete barricade, and requiring only a simple fence to separate the walkway from the construction site. If more street width was required, parking could have been removed from the south side and the general purpose lanes shifted to the left. Note there there never was a bicycle lane present in this block, it is dropped at 15th Street and the traffic sewer 3-lane roadway continues west.

L Street westbound at 14th Street, narrow shoulder

In closing, this construction project is probably the worst in the city (though there is competition). It does not involve a private property owner, it does not involve a state construction project, it is a city project on city land. There is simply no excuse for such poor walker and bicyclist accommodation. It is a big middle finger to those to who don’t drive.

crosswalk barriers done right

And now, before going on to all the examples of failure to accommodate walkers and bicyclists, some examples of crosswalk/sidewalk barriers that are done right. These barriers are for the state office building being constructed on the north side of O Street between 11th Street and 10th Street. It is also the light rail alignment, and one of the busier light rail borderings is across the street at Archives Plaza.

These barriers are some of the few ADA compliant barriers in the entire city. These are hard barriers, not construction tape or plastic barricade poles that can be walked through without notice be a vision impaired person. They have a base plate which is detectable by canes. They are anchored to the sidewalk, so that they can’t be knocked over intentionally or accidentally. The signing is clear, that the sidewalk/crosswalk is closed, and that the route goes left, crossing O Street.

11th Street at O Street, northeast corner

At the opposite corner of the project, on 10th Street southbound, there is clear signing, even wayfinding signing for the State Museum. Though the sidewalk is open for half the block, the barriers and signing make clear that a crossing of 10th Street is the appropriate action. Again, these are ADA compliant barriers.

10th Street east side, southbound from N Street

On 11th Street northbound, there is ‘share the lane’ signing, which is not ideal but serves acceptably in this situation with narrow street width. On 10th Street northbound, the bicycle lane has been carried through by shifting travel lanes to the left (west) and removing parking (no photo, but I will add one later). This is a good solution to accommodating bicyclists.

11th Street northbound

The remaining photos below show the other barriers and signing for this construction project. I don’t know why this one was done correctly, when most of the others are not. Was it the construction company that insisted on doing it right? Was it the state? Was it the city?

10th Street at O Street, northwest corner, crosswalk barricade
O Street at 10th Street, southeast corner, barricade and signing
O Street at 11th Street, southwest corner, barricade and signing

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.

unacceptable accommodation

Sacramento City continues its practice of approving construction projects that do not consider the needs of walkers and bicyclists. Here is the latest I ran across, on Folsom Blvd between Santa Ynez Way and 39th St. The construction on the south side appears to be installing cable or fiber. At the west end, there is a sudden ‘sidewalk closed’ sign. There is no prior warning, there is no ramp or marked crosswalk for crossing Folsom to the north side (it requires crossing an offset intersection diagonally to go from one ramp to another, an exceptionally long distance), and there is no indication about how long the detour is.

At the other end, there is the same sort of signing without any prior warning or information provided.

At this location, 39th St, there is a marked crosswalk with traffic signal which could allow people to cross Folsom, but just to make sure the message that pedestrians are unwelcome here is clearly received, a construction truck was parked across the crosswalk. When I asked the construction crew to move the truck, they refused. I reported it to parking enforcement but am not sure of the outcome.

Of course there is a bicycle lane along this section of Folsom Blvd, which is also blocked by the construction. That may be justifiable, but you would think that forcing bicyclists to share the general purpose traffic lane would justify a reduction of the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph, but no, that that would inconvenience drivers and in the city, that is not to be considered.

This kind of bias against walkers and bicyclists should be unacceptable in the city. And it would be if the staff of Construction Services were not biased against walkers and bicyclists. Time to replace that staff with people who care about all modes of travel.

JUMP users

I have heard many complaints from regular bicyclists and car drivers about JUMP bike riders. Since I spend a lot of my time paying attention to where the riders are and how they are riding, and I live in the central city where a large percentage of the usage is occurring (I live two blocks from the R Street corridor and three blocks from the 16th Street corridor), of course I have some perspective to offer.

Sidewalk riding: Is there a lot more sidewalk riding by JUMP riders? Well, I certainly see JUMP bikes on sidewalks, and it bothers me in part because JUMP bikes potentially go faster. However, I think the reason there are JUMPs on the sidewalk is because there a just more bike riders out. I don’t think JUMP riders are on sidewalks any more than any kind of bicycle. I fact, I’ve noticed a lot of JUMP riders in travel lanes on streets that don’t have bike lanes. Most bike riders avoid these roads, but because JUMP bikes are more able to keep up with traffic than the average bike rider, it seems like more are doing this. As SABA and many others have pointed out, most people riding on sidewalks are doing so because of their perception that the street is not a safe place to ride, and in many cases they are right. Probably a few are doing it out of habit, they learned to ride there and they continue to do so without thinking about whether and where that is appropriate, but again, the rate of sidewalk riding doesn’t seem any higher.

Parking: I hear complaints of bikes parked everywhere and blocking everything. Some of the comments are similar to those of people reacting to electric rental scooters in other cities, that civilization is ending and the sky is falling. But the more reasoned comments are worth considering. There are simply a lot more bikes needing to be parked than there were before. And there are not enough bike racks. The JUMP hubs are generally not in the most in-demand locations, but a block or two away, and so a lot of riders are parking exactly where they are going, and not at the hubs, sometimes on existing bike racks and frequently on sign poles and parking meters, and sometimes not locked to anything at all. On the whole, I see people parking JUMP bikes in appropriate locations. JUMP’s user agreement is that the bike be locked to something, and the City of Sacramento rule is that they must be locked to a bike rack (I’m not sure about West Sacramento and Davis). Very occasionally, I see a bike parked in such a way that it blocks pedestrians (both walkers and mobility devices). But this is rare.

I have been surprised by a recent trend, to lock a bike to nothing except itself (the lock mechanism locks the rear wheel, so it cannot be ridden, whether locked to anything or not). I’m seeing this even when there is something easy to lock to, right next to a bike rack or right next to a pole. Since the JUMP user agreement says the user is responsible for the bike unless it is locked to something. it surprises me that people would not lock to something when it is convenient or possible. I have not heard of any theft, but better safe than sorry. Yes, many types of bike racks are awkward to lock to, and pole and parking meters are not always easy to use.

If you do see a bike blocking pedestrian access, and you have some muscles, please move it! Yes, the bikes are heavy and not easy to move, but most people could move them a couple of feet to clear the sidewalk.

Riding skill: People who ride regularly are horrified by the skill of many of the JUMP riders. They have a point, there are a lot of unskilled riders, as many riders are people who don’t regularly ride bikes. They may not be handling it very well, particularly with the speed and acceleration. There are often riding in the wrong place on the road, which is in the travel lane if there is not a bike lane.

Traffic laws: I see JUMP riders not stopping at stop signs, and occasionally not at signals. But I don’t perceive that there is any difference between JUMP riders and other riders. And as always, I must point out that motor vehicle drivers run stop signs at a higher rate than bicyclists, though they also run red lights at a lower rate. Drivers have a perception that bicyclists always violate the law, and so they see what they expect to see, but they have a perception that drivers mostly follow the law (which is far, far from the truth), so they don’t see driver violations. Of course being on a bright red bike makes one more prominent.

Helmets: And last of all (added), people complain that JUMP users aren’t wearing helmets. I’ll keep this short, recognizing that even anything I say about helmets is likely to start a war with helmet trolls. There is no real evidence that helmets save lives. Yes, trauma nurse say so, but they only see the after-effects and know nothing about the causes. Yes, the ‘research’ of the helmet industry says so, but it has all been discredited. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has removed all reference to the ‘prevents 85% of head injuries’ statements because it turned out the research results that they cited were fabricated. I’ll accept the validity of helmets when pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers, who both have higher rates of head injuries, are also wearing them. If you are so concerned about the safety of bicyclist, then get cars off the road.