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Sacramento eyes new bike, pedestrian paths

Bicyclists along the American River east of Sacramento. (Photo: rayvee, via Shutterstock)

Hikers and bikers — a hefty portion of the population in California’s flat and leafy capital — may be in for some good times.

Sacramento residents may see new and wider pedestrian and bicycle paths on local streets over the next few years, courtesy of a major infusion of state funding intended to improve safety and air quality, and encourage people to leave their cars in the garage.

The program aims to reduce bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities by 10 percent each year.

A yearly increase for bicycle and pedestrian projects throughout California — $100 million per year for the next 10 years, totaling $1 billion — aims to increase pedestrian, bicyclist and transit usage and reduce fatalities.

Sacramento wants its share.

The projects are funded by the California Department of Transportation’s Active Transportation Program, which hopes to double pedestrian and transit use and triple bicyclist activity by 2020 from 2010 levels.

The program aims to reduce bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities by 10 percent each year.

The projects that will  receive funding include pedestrian and bicycle accessibility and safety improvements along midtown Sacramento’s Broadway corridor, which runs from 3rd Street to 29th Street, and along 47th Avenue in South Sacramento.

Folsom Boulevard, a major link between Sacramento and the city of Folsom to the east, awaits funding for similar improvements from the California Transportation Commission, which sets priorities for California’s road projects.

“I really don’t like Broadway — I don’t think that it’s safe.”– John Grady.

For the Broadway corridor, the city of Sacramento received $2.7 million “Complete Streets” project — a type of road that allows for vehicles, freight, transit, bicycles and pedestrians on one street.

The design for Broadway corridor is expected to be finished in fall 2020, according to the City of Sacramento website. The project reduces the number of vehicle lanes from four to two, but allows for a left turn lane and a bicycle lane separated from traffic by two inches of space.

John Grady, a bicyclist who often rides midtown and downtown, said that he avoids the Broadway  corridor because he feels it is dangerous.

“I really don’t like Broadway — I don’t think that it’s safe,” Grady said. “There aren’t as many bike lanes and the lanes are narrower. You mingle with traffic more, it’s one of those roads where too many people are crossing all the time.”

Funding for both the Broadway corridor project and other projects throughout California originated from SB 1, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on April 28.

Vanessa Wiseman, a Public Information Officer for Caltrans, which provides design assistance for road projects, said that designing and constructing safer roads is part of the Active Transportation Program’s goals to both increase pedestrian and bicycle activity and reduce fatalities.

“If people feel they are safe using that road, they’re more likely to use it whether bicyclist, pedestrian or using transit,” Wiseman said. “(When) designing bike lanes — that additional space between cars and you makes a difference. Even me, I use a designated bike lane, and sometimes cars cut it close, so it’s nice to have that designated space — I like to think I’m not the only one who feels that way.”

The Broadway corridor’s Complete Streets project is scheduled to have construction start in summer 2021, according to the City of Sacramento website.

Funding for both the Broadway corridor project and other projects throughout California originated from SB 1, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on April 28. Among the provisions of the bill were a 12 cents per gallon tax increase on gas purchases and a new $100 annual vehicle registration fee for electric vehicles made in 2020 and later.

“In terms of what (legislators and city planners) try to do with some of that housing that is more urban-oriented is give it more options for transportation.” — H.D. Palmer

The Active Transportation Program also aims to help rural or poorer communities, who rely more on bicycling, walking or transit but do not have the resources to pursue funding from the Active Transportation Program.

H.D. Palmer, the Deputy Director for External Affairs for the California Department of Finance, said that especially for inner city housing, accessibility to safe pedestrian, bicyclist and multimodal transportation — transportation involving multiple forms of transportation — is becoming a larger focus in legislation and policy.

“There’s been a greater focus, particularly of late on the issue of affordable housing,” Palmer said. “In terms of what (legislators and city planners) try to do with some of that housing that is more urban-oriented is give it more options for transportation — can people bike to work, can they bike to a light rail — some of those things have been incorporated into the larger issue of affordable housing and transportation.”

“You can have affordable housing on the foothills but if somebody has a job here downtown and they don’t have access to light rail, it’s not going to help them a lot.”

Multimodal transportation is another program goal, involving allowing easier ways for people to move between the different types of transportation.

For Caltrans, Wiseman said that assisting both urban and rural communities is important when considering road design.

“Disadvantaged communities have been affected by transportation decisions by previous developers, so it’s partly remedying things we’ve done in the past and ensuring that all Californians get access,” Wiseman said.

Multimodal transportation is another program goal, involving allowing easier ways for people to move between the different types of transportation.

Part of Caltrans’ effort to encourage multimodal transportation is first mile/last mile accommodations, which will install bicycle racks and lockers with security at transit stops and transit stations. Bicycle sharing programs and e-bicycle charging stations would also be available.

According to Wiseman, multimodal transportation would be used more if it was more accessible and convenient.

“(First mile/last mile accommodations) are a key part of multimodal transportation — it’s all an interconnected system,” Wiseman said. “It’s easy for me when I use light rail to get to work and just have to walk three blocks, but I’m sure more people would do it if it was easier to use — it’s just nearby access.”

Access also plays an important role in encouraging people to walk, bicycle or use transit to work, Wiseman said.

“It’s the old cliche — if we build it, they will come,” Wiseman said. “There’s data showing that if the facilities are in place, people will use them. It’s access.”

Ed’s Note: Rin Carbin is a government journalism student at Sacramento State.

 


  • willabeest

    My wife and i took light rail from Rancho Cordova to Sac once on a weekend. My wife said afterwards she would never do it again. No one checked tickets in fact there was no official presence at all on the cars. There were a lot of angry people who obviously did not appreciate two middle class people on their homeless people transportation. My wife did not feel safe and to be honest i was wondering if we were going to be attacked. I lived in Philadelphia for a year and light rail there was great. Used it all the time. There are police on the LR in Philly.

  • Tim Castleman

    While we wait for these important infrastructure improvements, there is a revenue positive step we can take right now! Let us demand that ALL law enforcement agencies enforce existing traffic laws! Especially in regard to speeding, distracted/reckless driving, and encroachment of Right of Way. Of course this is politically unpopular because EVERYONE routinely ignores these fundamental rules that must be observed during a driving license test. Even law enforcement vehicles routinely ignore these laws. Now cue the angry drivers that bike riders should wear helmets and not run stop signs. The point is that cars have a much greater potential for harm, cars KILL over 100 people every day. CARS. KILL. 100. PEOPLE. EVERY. DAY.

  • Danny Dietze

    “The projects are funded by the California Department of Transportation’s Active Transportation Program, which hopes to double pedestrian and transit use and triple bicyclist activity by 2020 from 2010 levels.”

    That will be difficult to achieve considering

    “The Broadway corridor’s Complete Streets project is scheduled to have construction start in summer 2021, according to the City of Sacramento website.”

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