Back-seat Driver: The I-5 chicken, bike corrals and other streets sightings

We have important things to tell you about today. First up: the I-5 Chicken.

Reader Cindy Cooke reports a red hen that has taken up residence on the southbound Interstate 5 shoulder near Sutterville Road is fine despite the brush fire there a few weeks ago. Cooke says the chicken, which she describes as “free(way) range,” is unlikely to end up as road kill, either, since in the half-year it’s lived there, it’s shown no desire to cross the road.

“There is plenty of foul driving on I-5, but this fowl does not seem to mind,” concludes Cooke, who clearly has a penchant for poultry puns.

Placard crackdown

DMV investigators fanned out across the state this week – including in Sacramento and Yuba City – to crack down on parkers who abuse disabled placards. They nabbed 241 cheats, and heard plenty of odd excuses, including this: I borrowed a relative’s placard because I’m sick.

The investigators approached people as they were getting out of cars parked in blue disabled spots. One person said he bought the placard online. That’s illegal. DMV officials also cited a number of people who parked in disabled spots, even though they didn’t have a placard.

“The majority who use placards are legal,” DMV spokesman Artemio Armenta said. “It’s a disservice to them” for placard abusers to take their parking spots.

Airport wait line checker

It’s one of the worrisome aspects of flying: How long is the federal Transportation Security Administration wait line going to be? At Sacramento International Airport, we’ve seen waits sometimes top 30 minutes over the years, although lines here are typically much shorter than that.

Now, a private company is promoting a service online, and on smart phone apps, that gives you advance notice of how long the wait line is likely to be at the 100 largest airports in the country, including Sacramento.

It’s not a true “real time” count. It’s based though on some pretty slick algorithms. The company is www.whatsbusy.com. If you use it, let us know how accurate it was.

Bike corrals and parklets

The Sacramento City Council will be briefed next week on plans to allow some downtown businesses to install a bike corral in lieu of a parking spot on the street out front. The Pangaea brew cafe on Franklin Boulevard already has a bike corral in front. So does the Insight coffeehouse at Eighth and S streets. The city is considering formalizing the idea. Bike corrals are typically a 12-bike rack, with striping and maybe some bollards to keep cars away.

In some spots downtown, such as at the MARRS building on 20th Street and the 1400 block of R Street, city officials say a bike corral should help clean up the clutter of too many bikes parked haphazardly on the sidewalk.

Similarly, the city is looking at allowing some businesses to create a sitting area on the street – called a parklet – to make the block more of a people-gathering place. They’d allow it on streets where the speed limit is 25 mph or less.

Questions the council will face: How many money-making metered parking spots is it willing to lose? Should it charge businesses a fee to let them use a parking space for a parklet? If it does, should the parklet be for the exclusive use of that businesses’ patrons, or available for anyone to use?

Bike sharing

Meanwhile, the plan to create a bike sharing program in Sacramento has reached a critical hurdle. Local advocates, led by the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, have submitted a request for regional transportation funds for $3.8 million in start-up costs. The decision is due in December. “If we get it, we’re off to the races,” air quality head Larry Greene said. Even so, the bike stations would not be in place until sometime in 2015.

Greene said the idea is to put bike stations at key places downtown, such as the train depot, as well in locales like Oak Park, Land Park and Davis. The bikes will be available for short-term, short-distance use, for a fee. You can pick up a bike at one station, and leave it at another. One target user group is people who choose not to use transit because the walk from their transit stop to their destination is a little too long. Bike sharing might also reduce the problem of commuter bikes cluttering up Capitol Corridor trains.

Bike use fees have not yet been determined, although for people who pay a monthly or annual membership fee, the first 30 minutes of use of any bike would be free.

Cashless toll plazas

If you travel to the Bay Area, you’ve noticed more and more toll plaza lanes at bridges are designated for drivers with Fastrak passes. In a new wrinkle, the Golden Gate Bridge recently was the first Bay area bridge to go completely cashless. You no longer stop at the toll plaza. If you have a Fastrak transponder, your electronic account is immediately tapped. If you don’t, cameras photograph your license plate and a bill is sent to the car owner’s address. You can also go online to http://bayareafastrak.org, log in your credit card number and pay in advance for the amount of crossings you plan to make.

“We have virtually eliminated the backup at the toll plaza,” Golden Gate district’s Amorette Ko said.

San Francisco Bay Bridge officials say they are watching how things go at the Golden Gate Bridge and will likely go cashless at some point.