R Street suggestions

R Street, the part to be improved
R Street, the part to be improved

The City of Sacramento and CADA held a community meeting on November 23 on the R Street Phase III Streetscape project, presenting design alternatives for the section of R Street between 13th and 16th streets. Phase I is the already completed portion between 10th and 13th, and Phase II is the upcoming portion between 16th and 18th. Three alternatives were presented for each of the three blocks, basically representing three different levels of traffic calming and devotion of right-of-way width to pedestrians rather than vehicles. Alternative three for each block includes curb extensions or bulb-outs at most corners. All the alternatives include wider sidewalks.

I am glad to see the city moving forward on these improvements, with the already completed Phase I making a huge difference to the usability and appearance of the street. Though the most economically vibrant portion of the street currently is this section from 13th to 16th, it will unfortunately be the last to be completed.

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confronting the stop sign myth

this bicyclist rode through a stop sign, past a right-turning car, rude and dangerous
this bicyclist rode past a right-turning car on the right side, without letting the car driver go first

I often see or hear the statement “bicyclists run stop signs all the time.” The person making the statement is not just making an observation, but trying to justify some attitude or action on their part, such as “bicyclists shouldn’t be on the road,” “bicyclists should be on the sidewalk,” “bicyclists should be thrown in jail,” “it is OK to intimidate or run over bicyclists,” or “we should not be spending any of our transportation money on bicycle facilities.”

I think that it is time for all of us to confront that statement and end its use. Yes, it is true that some to many bicyclists run stop signs. It is also true some to many motor vehicle drivers run stop signs. To refer back to my earlier posts on stop signs, stop signs are installed largely to reduce vehicle speeds and to get drivers to take turns at intersections. Bicyclists are rarely exceeding the speed limit, so that function is not served by the stop sign, nor by a bicyclist stopping. In the case of taking turns, the issue is taking turns, not the act of stopping. If a bicyclist does not stop at a stop sign, but no other vehicles are present which should go first, then the function of the stop sign to get people to take turns is intact, it has not been violated.

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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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