Friday, September 28, 2007

Streets for two

At the very least, streets should adequately accommodate all the vehicles that are ostensibly authorized to use them. This means, primarily, automobiles of various dimensions and bicycles. Over at Metroblogging Sacramento, Christiana Dominguez questions the rationale behind street improvements along 19th and 21st streets, particularly widening bike lanes and removing a car lane.

Wburg and Uneasy Rhetoric stop by to explain the underlying logic behind how removing a lane will improve traffic flow (from Driver's Ed 101: uneccessary lane changes are the #1 cause of gridlock--remove the opportunity for change and traffic (like all fluids) will flow more smoothly), but I wish also to speak to Christiana's other complaint. One which, as a cyclist, a motorist and a pedestrian, I share, but also believe that incentivizing biking is essential for Sacramento as it grows, and consequently, that improving biking amenities along major thoroughfares in downtown is the best way to accomplish that.

As a cyclist, I am pained by all the people who ride on sidewalks and ignore stop signs. They make it worse for me, because I do follow the rules of the road, but when I'm on my bike, I never know what to expect from drivers, because they never know what to expect from cyclists. As a pedestrian, I have been run into, yelled at, nearly knocked over, and just plain irritated by the attitude that many Sacramento bike riders (to be distinguished from cyclists, who wear gear, helmets and generally ride in the street like they're supposed to) seem to have that riding on the sidewalks is acceptable. I understand the counterargument-- that the streets are too unsafe for riding. I know of a woman who was severely injured while riding up J street a while back, and I have no doubt that this sort of thing happens with alarming regularity.

The lack of space and respect that cyclists and motorists accord each other is all the more reason to help bike riders operate in the most sensible manner--which is why widening bike lanes on 19th and 21st seems like a good idea to me. These are the major roads across town, the traffic is timed to promote the best flow (i.e. the lights are favorably timed), and if I'm not mistaken, there are lots of protective porkchops on those streets. If stopping is such a pain in the ass for cyclists--which I think anyone who has ever ridden a bike through town has to concede--then why should they be subjected to more, not fewer obstructions in their flow as well? Ideally, we'd have so many cyclists that separate cycling thoroughfares would be necessary, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. And thus, I think the street changes are in fact an improvement. It should be noted, however, that I haven't tried driving on either street since this happened.

I can't wait to get home and see them.

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