Sacramento open streets for eating

With the removal of blockages to motor vehicle travel on Capitol Avenue, a few weeks ago, and R Street, recently, Sacramento no longer has any streets closed to motor vehicles for the purposes of encouraging outdoor dining. There are still a few locations with sidewalks diverted to the street for outdoor dining, and parking lanes dedicated to outdoor dining, but many fewer than there were.

Following onto the SacBee article and tweet this morning (https://twitter.com/sacbee_news/status/1554800490478796801), a number of other people have commented on the issue today, on Twitter. Unfortunately, there weren’t tags on the tweets, so it is hard to find those twitter threads.

The city says that the end of the closure (to cars) was the decision of the business owners. Did the city talk to them to find out what they needed? To negotiate with them? I doubt it.

The city, of course, says that they are working on a permit system for outdoor dining, but the discussion of the permit system that I’ve seen is that it will only be for sidewalk diversions and parking lane dining. The city does not envision ever closing a street (to cars) for dining again, ever, anywhere. Why wasn’t the permit system in place before these dining areas disappeared? I believe it is because the city slow walks (pun) everything that has to do with creating a more livable, less car dominated city. There are powerful forces, in Public Works in particular, but other places as well, that don’t believe in walking and bicycling, or public spaces, and will do everything they can to make sure those things don’t happen. The pandemic reversed this, temporarily, because there was such a strong demand from the public, but the city has now slid back into its anti-livability comfort zone.

The city (I think) went to the trouble and expense of installing bollard anchors along much of R Street, from 15th Street to 10th Street, and the cross streets, but seems unwilling to use them.

R Street now, car dominated
R St Sacramento street dining
R Street then, people dominated

When I went by today to get a current photo of the street, I noticed that Iron Horse Tavern has blocked the sidewalk on the south side of R Street, leaving no alternate route or ADA accommodation. I suspect that this is one of the businesses here that thinks all its customers arrive by car, and they don’t need to serve anyone else. Please make their wishes come true, if you are a walker or bicyclist, and avoid this business.

Iron Horse Tavern on R Street, blocking the sidewalk

car sickness on Capitol Ave

I walked by the section of Capitol Ave in Sacramento, east of 18th St, as I have done many times, but today it struck me how dead this street is, now. It was alive for a while:

Capitol Ave, Sacramento, pandemic street closure, August 2020

But now it is sick again. To extend the analogy, it has always suffered from car sickness (a street dominated by motor vehicles), but had a relatively brief recovery when the street was closed to cars and opened to people walking and bicycling, and now a relapse into car sickness:

Capitol Avenue, Sacramento, opened to cars but not people, June 2022

The street feels abandoned. There are no people walking or bicycling. There are a very few people at the restaurants. It is hot, hot, hot, with insufficient street trees and an overly wide pavement. Note that if the street were closed (to cars) again, the street could be significantly narrowed, just space for bicyclists. Parking, unnecessary. Bike lane, unnecessary. Travel lanes, just enough width for emergency vehicles. Leaving plenty of space for outdoor dining, and street trees, and even a little nature.

During the closure (to cars), the street felt alive, even when there were few people there, even in the morning before most of the restaurants opened. People were walking and bicycling, and hanging out.

I don’t know why the closure was ended, and all the street canopies and seating removed. I’ve heard a lot of different stories: it was the city, it was the Midtown Association, it was the business owners. So I can’t point any fingers. But what I can say is that what was once clearly alive is now barely hanging on. Will it die? Probably not, but it won’t ever be healthy again, until the cars are again removed.

Cars kill business, cars kill cities. Why do we allow our city to be dominated by cars?