Walkable Sacramento #8: enforcement

Street redesign is the ultimate solution to the epidemic of serious injury and fatality of walkers, and intimidation of walkers by drivers, however, in the interim, while streets are being redesigned, enforcement can save lives and increase walking.

There are real equity issues with the enforcement of vehicle codes violations. Given that I do not have a way of automating enforcement of failure to yield, that must happen with traffic stops. These stops should be closely monitored to reveal and correct bias.

  • Enforcement will be focused on the three violations that most affect walker safety, in order of priority:
    1. Recognizing that failure to yield to pedestrians both leads to higher serious injuries and driver intimidation of walkers, failure to yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk (CVC 21950) will be the top traffic enforcement priority for the police department. The goal will be elimination of this violation within three years.
    2. Recognizing that speed directly affects the likelihood of serious injury and fatality, make speed enforcement (CVC 22348) will be the second priority. Use automated speed enforcement whenever possible to eliminate the proven racial and income bias in enforcement.

Walkable Sacramento #5: speed

This one is pretty simple, but of utmost importance. Speed kills, but the increasing share of fatalities is walkers. The chart explains why.

Though the primary beneficiaries are walkers, bicyclists and motor vehicle drivers will benefit as well. As with many policies and actions related to walking, this is an interim measure to keep people alive until roadways are redesigned. Roadways design should enforce a desired speed, not allow and encourage a higher speed.

Policies:

  • Any roadway with a history of crashes resulting in serious injury or fatality will have the speed limit reduced by 5 mph until this pattern ceases, and each such crash will result in further reduction, but not below 15 mph. 
  • Speed limits on all roadways will be set at the desired speed, not the design speed and not the actual speed. It will be illegal to consider the 85% criteria for setting speeds.
  • Implement a city-wide base speed of 20 mph, and allow higher speed limits only where the roadway design ensures safety at higher speeds. Safety means no fatalities or serious injuries. The sign below is from the UK (United Kingdom), but many places around the world have now made 20 mph (32 kph) the baseline speed.

Better bike share ordinance

The City of Sacrament is set to adopt a bike share ordinance on Tuesday evening (agenda item 23). This is one more step along the way to bringing JUMP electric bike share to Sacramento, and on the whole the ordinance is good. But I have some suggestions for improving it.

5.18.210 Bicycle parking spaces required. No person shall operate a bicycle‐share business unless they have provided and maintain at least one and one‐half bicycle [designated] parking spaces using bicycle racks for every bicycle‐share bicycle to be operated by the bicycle‐share business, as approved by the city. The installation of bicycle parking spaces and bicycle racks are subject to encroachment permit requirements, as set forth in chapter 12.12.

I completely understand the city’s desire to have an orderly bike share system, where the bikes are in known locations and not scattered randomly. In my experience of dockless bike share in other cities, the concern about bikes left in inappropriate places is exaggerated but real. However, bike racks are not the only possible solution. The photo at right shows a solution from Seattle, still experimental, but with great promise. I would hate to see the city shut the door on other solutions by specifying bike racks when they could specify designated places, of which racks would be one. Bike racks are important, and preferred, but there will be many areas within the system boundaries which do not have racks, or do not have convenient racks.

5.18.220 Retrieval of bicycle‐share bicycles. A bicycle‐share business shall, within two hours of notice, retrieve their bicycle‐share bicycles that are in any of the following conditions.

  1. Bicycle‐share bicycles that are inoperable or not safe to operate, and parked in the public right‐of‐way;
  2. Bicycle‐share bicycles that are not locked to a bicycle rack in an upright position[, or locked within a designated bicycle parking area with the kickstand deployed];
  3. Bicycle‐share bicycles with a battery or motor determined by the city to be unsafe for public use.
  4. Bicycle‐share bicycles parked in violation of section 10.76.050.

This change is consistent with using designated areas, rather than just bike racks.

5.18.230 Electric bicycles. Electric bicycles shall comply with the California Vehicle Code and any other applicable laws and regulations[, and shall be of the Class 1 type (CVC 312.5. (a) (1): A “class 1 electric bicycle,” or “low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.]. In addition, electric bicycles shall be equipped with software or other mechanisms to prevent the motor from providing assistance when the bicycle’s speed exceeds 15 miles per hour.

I would like to see the 15 mph speed limit removed. There is anecdotal evidence, no research yet that I could find, that e-bikes are somewhat more dangerous that pedal bikes, with a higher crash rate. But many of the anecdotes don’t make clear whether the bikes were pedal assist, Class 1, or throttle, Class 2. Almost none say whether speed was a contributing factor, in fact some seem to be at low speeds, just getting going with a heavy bike. Some bikes with powerful batteries do start suddenly, but my experience with JUMP bikes in San Francisco is that they are pretty smooth as the assist starts and stops. The JUMP bikes are 250 Watt, which is on the low end of power for electric bikes.

The reason speed is important is that a bike at 20 mph is transformative. In moderate to heavy congestion in a urban area, such as most of the area within the system boundary, e-bikes at 20 mph can keep up with traffic. At 15 mph, they are just a regular bike with a little less effort involved. At 20 mph, they could replace many private vehicle trips, and many ride-hailing trips. We already know that private vehicles and ride hailing trips have a negative impact on livability and the environment. Here is a solution! Let’s set them free and see what a difference they can make.

Legislation I’d like to see

In all my spare time, which means while commuting to work on my bike, I think about state legislation I’d like to see. Here is my list of the moment. Feel free to add suggestions.

Bicycling

  • Remove far-to-the-right bike lane provisions, CVC 21202
  • Flip parking in bike lanes from permissible unless posted to prohibited unless posted
  • Require that all signals detect bicycles within two years
  • Be explicit in CVC that placing waste containers in bike lanes is the same violation as leaving any material in a travel lane
  • Require that all waste containers be inscribed with ‘do not place in bike lane’, and have reflective stripes on the sides of the container
  • Implement ‘Idaho stop law’ (yield as stop) for stop sign controlled intersections

Pedestrians

  • Require full traffic studies for the removal or crosswalks or prohibition of crossing, with the default position being that crosswalks will not be removed and prohibitions will not be created or continued
  • Remove the prohibition on pedestrians crossing the street between signalized intersections on all streets 30 mph or less

Speed

  • Change the prima facie speed limit for residential and commercial streets (local) from 25 mph to 20 mph; change to 20 mph or less for posted school zones
  • Set the maximum speed allowable on collector streets to 30 mph; set the maximum allowable speed on arterial streets to 40 mph
  • Allow automated speed enforcement everywhere

Schools

  • Require law enforcement to send incident reports involving children going to or from school to school districts within 24 hours of completion, and investigations within 72 hours of completion
  • Prohibit U-turns within school zones
  • K-12 school districts and colleges/university would be required to have transportation demand management programs, since school-related traffic is a significant portion or overall traffic

Other

  • Shift the burden of proof to the motor vehicle driver for all collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists involving fatality or severe injury
  • Allow any citizen to challenge the professional license of an engineer who is aware of a traffic safety hazard and fails to request funding to mitigate that hazard
  • Decriminalize transit fare evasion
  • Allow conversion of any and all freeway lanes to toll

doubting protected bikeways

Protected bikeways, also called separated bike lanes or cycle tracks, are all the rage these days. The NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide codified cycle tracks, but they were already showing up in several cities, and are now being implementing in a great number more. I’ve ridden on cycle tracks in Long Beach, San Francisco (just yesterday, in fact) and other cities, and yes, they are a pleasure to ride on compared to riding in traffic or traditional bike lanes. Many people have declared the era of vehicular cycling dead, and the era of protected bikeways upon us.

So why am I doubting?

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What are stop signs for?

Rosswood-GrandOaks_crosswalksIn the month of May I bike commuted to work in Carmichael and Citrus Heights most of the days. I had plenty of time to think about stop signs, as there are a lot of them on my regular routes. A few less, now that the county has removed some from the parkway path, but still, a lot. At most of these stop signs, there are no cars anywhere in sight, particularly at the beginning of AM and PM commute hours when I’m riding, but even at other times of day. So I started thinking, why are these stop signs here, and what are stop signs for?

Stop signs get used for these purposes:

  1. When there is a busy intersection with a more or less equal flow of vehicles on both streets. The four-way stop signs assist people in taking turns.
  2. When one street is so busy that gaps long enough to cross that street are rare.
  3. When there are visibility issues that prevent vehicle drivers to see each other.
  4. When motor vehicles are going too fast, and they need to be slowed down.

Looking at each purpose in more detail:

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additional street changes

Note: I’ve updated this post to add some detail to the descriptions and photos to illustrate the treatments. I will be adding separate detailed posts on some of these treatments.

Following on my earlier posts about changing streets in downtown/midtown Sacramento, here are additional street changes that might be used in some places:

  • r2-1_20Reduce speed limit: Reduce speed limits throughout downtown/midtown to 20 mph. Of course simply reducing speed limits does not ensure that actual speeds go down, unless other measures are taken. The removal of three-lane and one-way streets will help a great deal, since these are the streets that most encourage speeding. Other changes suggested below will also slow traffic. I think, however, that the primary change will be a change in attitude, in cultural values. Once a place becomes more livable, people will focus more on being there instead of going through there to somewhere else. I see the whole pace of life in downtown/midtown as being slower, living at the pace of a walker, or even the pace of a casual conversation, rather than at the unnatural pace of a motor vehicle.

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Walkable City

Sacramento Press is sponsoring a live chat with Jeff Speck, the author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step At A Time. The live chat is tomorrow, January 3, at 12:30PM. The offline chat is already going on, if you want to check it out. I am currently reading the book, in the Kindle version, but am only part way through.

Many of the online comments so far have focused on creating a livable city, and it is wonderful to see so many positive ideas and accurate identification of challenges. Intelligent conversation like this is rare in the Sacramento news blogs. I’ll make some comments specifically on the walkability safety aspects. I’ve written about this before, but it is worth writing about again and again, because the problems still exist.

Traffic sewers: Multiple lane and one way streets are traffic sewers. This epithet is used to describe streets designed to flush traffic in and out of employment centers (and to homes in the suburbs) twice a day. They serve no other reasonable purpose, and they make a place very much less walkable. Three (or more) lane roadways are incompatible with walkability. They encourage high speed traffic, and provide too long a crossing distance to pedestrians to be comfortable with. They don’t meet the “8-80” criteria, of being safe and comfortable for people of all ages.Solutions:

  1. Therefore, I think that all three-lane roadways in Sacramento must be narrowed to two lanes. If a true refuge median is provided between two directions of travel, at least three feet wide, so that a person can cross each direction of traffic separately, then roadways with a total of four lanes are acceptable. If not, then only a total of two lanes. Six lane or more roadways, common in the northern and southern suburbs of the City of Sacramento, are not acceptable.
  2. One way streets also encourage high speed travel. I think that all of our one way streets should be converted to two way streets. This can be done over time as streets are repaved, it is not as high a priority as the narrowing of streets, above.

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