Back-Seat Driver

‘Bermuda Triangle’ streets to get fixes

Big changes could provide safer biking near Sacramento State

Heavily used streets and intersections near Sacramento State will be getting significant upgrades meant to provide safer riding for bicyclists.
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Heavily used streets and intersections near Sacramento State will be getting significant upgrades meant to provide safer riding for bicyclists.

Just west of the H Street Bridge in East Sacramento, it gets strange. The area between the entrances to Sacramento State and River Park is like the Bermuda Triangle.

A traffic signal sits mysteriously in the middle of a block. Sidewalks start and stop. In fact, there’s a student parking lot with no direct way to get across J Street to campus. H Street offers drivers a second lane, for one block, then that lane disappears. And green bicycle lanes appear on Carlson Drive, then disappear, leaving cyclists dodging hot car grills to get across J.

Carlson Overview
A $1 million summerlong remake of Carlson Drive’s intersections with H and J streets aims to make the area safer for bicyclists. City of Sacramento

Adam Randolph, a senior engineer with the city, admits he’s curious: How did this street jumble ever happen?

“I’d like to know, but I don’t have an answer,” he said. Thanks to Randolph and others, it’s about to change.

Starting Monday, the city will invest $1 million in a remake of the H, J and Carlson triangle that should make the confusing area safer for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. The project changes are so complicated that the city plans to put out a video to explain how it will all work when done.

H Street will be reduced to one car lane on both sides of Carlson, to eliminate the jockeying now being done by drivers there. Sidewalks will be added that cut through the trio of traffic islands on the west side of Carlson at H Street. A crosswalk will be added across J Street from a parking lot to campus. The confusing midblock traffic signal on northbound Carlson will be eliminated.

The city also will try a few brand new tricks for bicyclists as well.

Bikers northbound on Carlson will be able to push a button on a traffic pole at H Street and have the intersection all to themselves to make a left turn, while cars wait.

The city also will expand the green bike lane markings and will create designated green “bike boxes” at intersections, where cyclists can wait at red lights in front of waiting cars.

It’s an ambitious remapping of a poorly functioning streetscape. It’ll take some getting used to, Randolph said. But, hopefully, the triangle area will be a bit less Bermudian.

Older pedestrians at risk

Overall, car crashes are down 14 percent in the city over the last few years. But cars are hitting more cyclists and pedestrians than ever.

Some new city data show that the pedestrians who seem to be most in the crosshairs are those age 60 and up.

Why is that? City officials say they’ve just begun digging deeper into that data to see if there are any particular patterns. For instance, are older people getting hit more often near bus stops on high-speed streets? Is it happening on early morning walks, or late nights?

Jennifer Donlon Wyant is among those at the city taking this forensic-style look at where and why deaths happen on city streets. The city will then focus some of its limited street funds on changes where they will do the most good.

The project is called “Vision Zero.” Its aspirational goal is to eliminate all roadway deaths.

Sacramento and West Sacramento launched a bikeshare program on Thursday. Bikes are available for rent at 14 locations around central Sacramento and on the West Sacramento waterfront.

Davis ups its bike game

The cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento did a soft launch of a “bike share” program last week, which allows people in the core area of those two cities to rent public-use bikes – at basically $1 per 15 minutes – from a handful of bike racks, and return them when done to any bike rack.

When that program gets up to full speed later this year, it will include the city of Davis. But why Davis? Doesn’t everybody there already have a bike?

City Councilman Lucas Frerichs says even Davis – which has a bike as city logo – can up its bike game. People arriving on trains, for instance, will be able to grab a bike at the station and pedal to work or campus. Freshman students won’t have to bring their bikes from home. The city, in fact, is talking with the university about allowing the bike-share rental cost to be included in basic student fees.

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak