By Darell Dickey
I sit on your Bicycle Advisory Commission, I am a board member of Davis Bicycles!, and I am an active member in the Davis Bike Club. Today I write to you as an individual. I am a daily cyclist, and the father of a school-age cyclist who navigates our city streets on her daily trips to school and after-school activities.
Because the commission message from the BAC and board message from Davis Bicycles! regarding loose green waste pickup seems to have been drowned out by public concerns of decreased convenience, I will voice my personal, concise thought on the subject:
-> We need to rid our bike lanes of all green waste for the safety of our road users. <-
While I have countless photographs of blocked bike lanes, I only offer this one example from my daughter’s route to school. It is on 5th Street, in view of the police station, and was there for six days. This is not the image of a safe and bike-friendly town. And it is not in compliance with our Municipal Code:
35.01.020 – Obstructing street or sidewalk prohibited.
It shall be unlawful for any person to place upon any sidewalk or street or part thereof in the city, or to allow to stand or remain for an unreasonable length of time upon that portion of the sidewalk or street or part thereof within the city immediately abutting, traversing, or existing in front of such person’s real property or premises, any building, fence, vehicle, engine, piece of machinery, merchandise or other article or thing of any nature, including debris such as soil, gravel, tree litter (including leaves, fruit or seeds), moss, grass clippings or other loose or slippery material, which may obstruct the use and enjoyment of the street or sidewalk or which shall be detrimental to the appearance or public safety of the street or sidewalk.
The top priority in the green waste discussion needs to be the safety of our family members, friends and neighbors who choose to take the city up on its “bicycle friendly” promise and status. How bike friendly is a town that endangers its cyclists with blocked bike lanes 24/7/365? If one were to dump a load of green waste in the middle of a travel lane, we would quickly see the definition of “automobile friendly.”
Containerization has emerged as the most effective solution to the loose green waste safety issue. Containerized green waste has proven convenient and financially sound in countless California communities (and containerization can solve the storm drain and composting issues). Containers bind the waste into a defined, easy-to-see space.
Without containerization, we would need a daunting amount of code enforcement to keep our bike lanes clear. Loose green waste piles on the street already violate our municipal code, yet they exist every day of every week without consequence.
Though I have been working both privately and publicly to encourage more compliance of Davis Municipal Code 35.01.020, personal experience has shown me that enforcement alone will not create significant, long-term improvement. We must make it easy for residents and businesses to “do the right thing.” And containerization generally appears to be that way.
The loose/containerization compromise that was recently accepted by council will likely have little effect in cleaning up the bike lanes. At the same time, it will cost us more, and will force people to store a new bin – all in one package deal. Sometimes, as in this case, a compromise that includes all options is not a solution to the problem.
Just as people already ignore our existing municipal code, the tendency going forward will reasonably be to continue dumping waste in the bike lanes at the time landscaping is performed, especially at commercial properties.
Landscapers that maintain yards every week and dump the waste in the bike lane without penalty, will continue to do so. The piles will grow each week until that one time per month when the claw arrives.
We do not have the enforcement capacity to keep everybody in compliance, so there is no reason to expect more compliance with the new policy. Monthly loose-waste pickup only appeases those who value personal convenience over the safety of others.
We are likely to have the same piles in many of the same places. The piles will just be picked up less often. If we remove the monthly loose pickup and associated costs, and instead offer a flat-fee, on-call service, then each property owner will pay for what they “need” and may even find that their biowaste generation is more elastic than is currently assume.
I won’t battle against the two-month seasonal loose pickup at this point. It is the year-round loose piles that should be eliminated in order to clear out bike lanes of loose debris.
The only way I would support the continued rear-round dumping of green waste on our streets, is if the piles were confined to the travel lane of each street – and then only to make a point. Faced with the scenario of green waste piles blocking automobile travel, I would like to hear feedback from the non-cycling residents in regard to the convenience and safety of that policy.
Dumping the waste in the travel lane would be no more in violation of our Municipal code 35.01.020 than what happens today. And the recent adoption of the compromise green waste plan keeps a blind eye turned to our Municipal Code.
We can never make everybody happy. But we CAN make our most vulnerable road users safer. We need to eliminate the loose green waste piles on the street.
This was originally a letter to the city council dated April 15, 2014. Darell Dickey is a Davis Resident and sits on the Bicycle Advisory Commission as well as Davis Bicycles!