Fifth Street Lane Reductions Have Been Implemented (Video)

Fifth Street just after L St - turn pocket and bike lanes now visible.
Fifth Street just after L St – turn pocket and bike lanes now visible.

On Monday, the city of Davis implemented the re-striping along Fifth Street between L Street and B Street. Lanes have been reduced to single lanes in each direction with bike lanes and turn pockets in place.

The Vanguard drove the road around 3 pm on Wednesday in each direction with no noticeable problems. We then held a camera out the window for a drive from L Street to B Street around 4 pm.

While there was traffic at this time, the flow was pretty good.

City staff did not report any major problems at this time, other than some confusion mid-striping on Tuesday – but the city believes that has been remedied. The city reports at this time that they are still working on signage and formalizing the striping, but believes that the overall traffic is flowing okay.

Watch the Vanguard video:

Skeptics of the redesign at this point have noted that the real test will come at 5 pm when the students are back in town and the road is filled with bicyclists and drivers sharing the road. Defenders of the redesign noted that many people would avoid Fifth Street during peak hours anyway, and that even if there is congestion the overall flow will be improved.

Two weeks ago, the city announced that the “final construction phase of the Fifth Street Improvements Project will begin mid-July. The Fifth Street corridor between A and L Streets provides a critical connection to the downtown area and UC Davis; however, the corridor has historically lacked bicycle and pedestrian facilities and an efficient roadway design.”

The city stated, “The completion of the Fifth Street improvements project will result in a safer, more attractive and efficient street for all road-users. Planned enhancements include bicycle and pedestrian facilities to engender safe, easy, and convenient access to and from the downtown area. Features include marked crosswalks, dedicated bike lanes, pedestrian-activated flashing beacons, vehicle left turn lanes, improved traffic signals and timing, and streetlights throughout the corridor.”

“The lane reduction from four lanes to two lanes will not exacerbate traffic congestion through the addition of dedicated left turn lanes, while the improved traffic signals and timing will create shorter wait times for all road users,” the city added.

“The City of Davis thanks the community for their continued patience throughout the multiple construction phases of this project. The City will work proactively to minimize construction impacts for local residents and businesses and we invite you to contact us with any questions or concerns at fifth@cityofdavis.org. Residents may also visit traffic.cityofdavis.org for more information,” the city concluded.

The project, as stated, reduces the number of motor vehicle travel lanes from four to two lanes between B and L streets, to accommodate new bike and center turn lanes, the release continued.

The project also improves and adds access ramps at intersection corners, provides additional striped crosswalks, streetlights and pedestrian activated signals (at C and J intersections). It will upgrade traffic signals at A, B and L, and will include new signals at the F and G intersections to accommodate new lane configurations. In addition, an emergency traffic signal will be added at E Street, providing access to the Fire Station.

Funding for this project is mostly from grants from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, Highway Safety Improvement Program and Community Development block grants, with some local funds.

The redesign seeks to improve safety through the Fifth Street corridor, both by adding complete street road features such as the bicycle lanes, medians, turn pockets and safer pedestrian crossings, as well as improving traffic flow through the reduction in lanes from four to two, which will slow down traffic but also allow it to flow more smoothly.

Currently, there are safety concerns with the speed, the difficulty of left turns both on and off the road, and the lack of safe pedestrian crossing opportunities and bike lanes.

“The Initial Study analyzed the project and determined that potential environmental impacts were less than significant,” according to a 2011 staff report.

“Potential impacts to emergency response plans and traffic during the project construction will be mitigated through a Construction Traffic Control Plan,” the report finds.

Approaching J St - the left turn lane and bike lanes are ahead and up ahead you can see traffic stopped for a red light.
Approaching J St – the left turn lane and bike lanes are ahead and up ahead you can see traffic stopped for a red light.
Approaching stopped traffic at F St, the signal had just changed, paused briefly but the traffic moved fairly quickly.
Approaching stopped traffic at F St, the signal had just changed, traffic paused briefly but then moved fairly quickly.
Approaching the fire station.  If there is an emergency, the signal lights activate and the fire engines are able to navigate without incident - and probably more smoothly than before.
Approaching the fire station. If there is an emergency, the signal lights activate and the fire engines are able to navigate without incident – and probably more smoothly than before.
Approach B St, able to get to protected left turn fairly easily.  At this point the traffic goes back to two lanes in each direction.
Approaching B St, able to get to protected left turn fairly easily. At this point the traffic goes back to two lanes in each direction.

Ten days ago the Vanguard reprinted a piece written by Steve Tracy in February 2009.

Mr. Tracy explained the concept:

It’s commonly called a “road diet.” This sounds like a bad term, because we usually don’t like diets, but this one leads to a healthy street. This design technique has been used in literally hundreds of similar situations across the country. Yes, there was initial opposition in many cases, but the results speak for themselves. We are aware of only two cases where the design was completely or partially undone. In fact, many cities went on from their first trial road diet to redo other streets. It works.

This design merges the two center lanes into a single lane for left turns. In time, portions of this lane can be landscaped to beautify the street. We gain a lot of flexibility by merging the left turn lanes: It provides the room to paint in the missing bike lanes. It provides for faster through travel because demand activated left turn arrows can be installed. This all fits between the existing curbs on 5th Street. It requires only paint, and some new traffic lights at F and G. The existing lights can be reused elsewhere.

Between A and B Streets, the only change would be to restripe the vehicle lanes to remove excess width, and stripe in bike lanes. Again, this all fits between the curbs. Almost 50% of the traffic coming east from UCD in the evening rush hour turns off of Russell at B, so this is the logical place to drop the extra lane which isn’t needed beyond that point.

Other communities engaged in road diet projects to address safety issues, with great results. Accident reductions often have been at or over 50%. The severity of crashes and injuries has seen an even more dramatic reduction, because vehicle speeds are lower, set by the prudent drivers at the head of the lines. Aggressive speeding is virtually eliminated.

Models run by UC Davis showed that, while traffic speeds were reduced, overall through times would be improved. We saw some of this yesterday as we drove through the section of G Street to the traffic light at B in just over a minute.

We agree that the full test will not come until the fall when students are back, but early returns look promising.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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52 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

    “While there was traffic at this time, the flow was pretty good.”

    Maybe it should have read, while there wasn’t much traffic at this time……………

    1. John

      I drove from Trader Joe’s to the Post Office and only had to stop once at the light at Anderson and Russell. The hiccup came as I passed through the A Street light in the right lane and I suddenly realized due to the construction materials ahead of me that I had to merge into the left lane if I wanted to continue through on Fifth Street. A prominent sign saying “Through Traffic Merge Left” is needed at A Street and Russell, especially given all the out of town visitors to UCD who won’t be familiar with the street configuration change at the B and Russell intersection.

      As I proceeded down Fifth Street I could see that there were five cars at the F Street light in the through lane, but the light had just changed to green and by the time I reached the proximity of the closest of those five cars it was moving forward toward the light and I reached out with my elephant trunk and grabbed onto its tail and followed through both the F Street and G Street lights unimpeded. By the time I reached L Street all five of the cars in front of me had peeled off to the right or the left. Two to the right at F Street, one to the left (in the pocket) at G Street, one to the right at G Street and one to the left at J Street.

      I can not remember when I was last able to drive from Anderson to L Street without stopping. Not bad for a 4:00 pm trip through town.

  2. Tia Will

    David

    Did you time the trip? It would be interesting to compare at different times of day and before and after the students arrival. I’m thinking in terms of information for any future such road revision projects.

    1. darelldd

      The striping is nowhere near done. The signs aren’t up. The cones are out. The trucks are partially blocking some lanes, the light timing has not been finalized, and some drivers are still a bit confused. I’m thinking that before recording any data, we should at least wait until the project is finished!

      1. Davis Progressive

        i think the point can be made though that despite any of those things being final, there doesn’t seem to be glaring problems at this point. in fact, i might even start driving the stretch again.

  3. darelldd

    I don’t know what it’ll take to get folks to stop talking about this in terms of the title, and the first paragraph of this article. This is *not* all about “reduction” of lanes. Why do we continue to equate transportation with in-town transportation with automobiles only?

    The point of this project was to increase safety, and to allow *people* – using every mode of transportation – to travel through the corridor conveniently with fewer conflicts and collisions. What used to be four lanes of travel (only practical for cars!), is now… wait for it… four lanes of travel, plus a center turn-pocket lane. Really we’ve gone from four lanes to five. But what we typically hear is that we’ve “reduced” the lanes from four to two. There really are not “car lanes” and “bike lanes.” They are all travel lanes defined differently in an attempt to protect the more vulnerable users. People wish to travel from one end of 5th to the other. They are all “traffic” and they are all just trying to get somewhere. It doesn’t matter much what vehicle they choose, nor which lane they travel in.

    The project is not yet finished of course, and there will be some snags as construction continues and road users figure it all out – but even now in these early stages, it is generally pleasant to drive (and to turn left!) it is much easier to cross (in a car, on a bike or on foot), and it is now a practical route for bicycle transportation. Many thousands of people get where they are going in this town by bicycle, and others get where they are going by foot. Some of the traffic on 5th street is not in cars – it is walking and riding. The redesign is intended to help get ALL traffic through that area conveniently and safely.

    The only “reduction” we should be talking about is the reduction of collisions and injuries. Maybe frustration and speeding too.

    Can we make the conversation about moving *people* safely and conveniently on our roads, instead of just moving cars? When that happens, this project is clearly not a “reduction of lanes.”

    1. WesC

      darelldd: Can we make the conversation about moving *people* safely and conveniently on our roads, instead of just moving cars?

      Very well said! Thank you for your comment.

    2. DavisBurns

      Darell, I cannot agree more! Just because cars are the largest thing on the public roads doesn’t mean they stop being public roadways, intended to be used by the public, supported, built and paid for with public funds. They aren’t “motorways” or truck and car roads, they are for use by people using feet, bikes, cars or other means. When I rode a bike and I was in a situation where it wasn’t safe for me to be on the shoulder and I felt I was at risk for being run off the road, I moved into the middle of the traffic lane. I was determined that if someone was going to hit me, they would have to make the decision to do it intentionally. I wouldn’t let them do it accidentally. In fact, riding in town, a cyclist making a right or left turn is only safe in the “traffic” lanes.

      This project has been studied to death and delayed for years because car drivers were outraged at the possibility they would be inconvenienced and all that time cyclists were not only inconvenienced but also at risk of injury. It is far past time for this project to be implemented and if the car drivers are inconvenienced, it is their turn.

      1. South of Davis

        Davis Burns wrote:

        > When I rode a bike and I was in a situation where it wasn’t safe
        > for me to be on the shoulder and I felt I was at risk for being run
        > off the road, I moved into the middle of the traffic lane. I was
        > determined that if someone was going to hit me, they would have
        > to make the decision to do it intentionally. I wouldn’t let them do
        > it accidentally.

        I’ve been run off the road “accidentally” many times (hit by car mirrors) when on the shoulder. I’ve also been hit from behind (drunk driver) and hit head on (I bounced off the windshield). It hurts a lot more (and I never went UNDER the car) to get hit head on or from behind than getting clipped “accidently” so I’m going to stick to the shoulder (and I recommend that other that want to avoid a lot of pain and/or death do the same)…

        1. DavisBurns

          I only rode in the center of the traffic lane when I believed it was unsafe for me to be to the far right. I too have been run off the road. In one case, it was intentionally and resulted in concussion and loss of memory of the event –well spotty memory of the event. The law states a cyclist should ride as far to the right as is practicable. When I ride in the middle, it’s because I’m following the law. I move over when it’s safe for ME. I have found drivers are quite willing to take a chance they won’t run me off the road and, so far, unwilling to commit vehicular homicide. And there are witnesses. In one case they get away with it. In the other they go to prison.

          1. darelldd

            >> The law states a cyclist should ride as far to the right as is practicable. <<

            DavisBurns – I'm afraid you may have missed the integral "except under any of the following situations:" part of CVC 21202.

            Off Topic, but for accuracy, I have to point it out: There isn't a road in Davis where the "ride as far as practicable to the right" applies. Included in the list of exclusions is "substandard width lanes". Every street in town that I'm aware of is "substandard width" and therefor is not subject to the provisions of 21202.

            Legally, you may take up the entire lane, even if you might feel comfortable on the right edge.

            Not trying to start a debate here, folks. Just pointing out the law. The law and courtesy are, and should be kept distinct.

            End of lesson. 🙂

    3. Davis Progressive

      “I don’t know what it’ll take to get folks to stop talking about this in terms of the title, and the first paragraph of this article. This is *not* all about “reduction” of lanes. Why do we continue to equate transportation with in-town transportation with automobiles only?”

      probably because that’s what a lot of us use, but more importantly that is what people were primarily complaining about and as this article seeks to debunk that argument, it makes a lot of sense that david would engage them on their own terms rather than yours (which i understand).

    1. Alan Miller

      If this is a section of the bike lane striping approaching a street, it means that if the bike lane is clear, a car can move into the bike lane to make a right turn.

      Oddly, this hatching was initially left out on the First Street restriping, making for a dangerous and confusing wide right-hand veer to make a right turn. Thankfully that was corrected within a few weeks.

    2. darelldd

      Alan beat me to it. Automobiles are required to merge (when safe!) into the bike lane to make a right turn. The hatched part of the line is an indication of when that is OK. Automobiles are not allowed to be in the bike lane at any other point (may not cross the solid white line… though in practice that happens all the time around town).

      If you look around, you’ll see the same thing all over town.

    3. darelldd

      Whoops! Sorry, I totally missed the “B Street” part here, and was only thinking 5th street!

      Those are buffers, and they’re used all over town. There is a small section on Pole Line, on 5th street before the Police Station, all along 1st Street West of Richards, and in a handful of other places. It is to offer more distance between lane uses. Sometimes a skinny white line just isn’t enough. Think of them as fat, solid lines… but saving paint.

  4. Alan Miller

    I rode it end-to-end on my bicycle a few days ago when only the center double-yellow line was painted, and the bike lane was not. I still felt much safer, as the cars were in one line hugging the center line. Yeah! Finally! Thank you Steve Tracy and everyone else who fought for this. The platinum bicycle status for Davis can finally have its ban lifted, NOW Davis is platinum.

    1. darelldd

      And if we stop storing our loose green waste in the bike lanes, we may even make diamond one day!

      (yes, it crossed my mind that before the redesign, nobody put green waste out on 5th. I mean, clearly it would obstruct automobile traffic! Now that we have bike lanes there…. Uh… never mind).

      1. Alan Miller

        Well, that’s a good point. I actually think we all (those who ride at night) need to get front beam bike lights to detect obstructions in the streets, regardless of green waste. Green waste actually slows me down and keeps me alert when I forget my front beam. I’m actually rather a fan of the “claw”. But your point about no yard waste on Fifth does illustrate the bias and carelessness regarding bicycle lanes very clearly.

      2. DavisBurns

        I hope, if we ever get green waste containers, they make them white or yellow. Sacramento has dark green and they are impossible to see in poor light.

        1. darelldd

          Personally, I think all containers (who can see the gray garbage bins in poor light?) should incorporate retroreflective bands. Both of mine currently have marine-grade SOLAS reflectivity. Same thing I use on my bikes.

          If you think a green eye-level bin is hard to see in low light, try picking out a low pile of loose green waste!

  5. Ryan Kelly

    I rode it this morning. I felt safe on my bike. All the lines are painted and the car traffic moved smoothly along at around 25 miles an hour. The lights seemed to have a shorter wait time, but I’m guessing on this. The only awkwardness is the transition at A & 5th for bikes. I chose to swing around and cross 5th using the light, so I could then connect with the bike path on the south side of Russell.

    The hash marks at intersections indicate that cars can move into the bike lane to turn right. Cars need to watch for bikes when merging and bikes need to stop behind the car, if a car is in the lane.

    1. darelldd

      I need to head back out. All the lines are now painted?

      What’s immediately obvious to everybody is how much more “calm” the whole situation is now.

      Yesterday there were still issues with some of the light timing. I don’t know if that’s a trial-and-error adjustment, or what. But in *general* this thing is making me very happy.

  6. Alan Miller

    Another thing I won’t miss is cars racing from L to G to beat the light, accelerating to 45-50 mph at times, or from G to L eastbound. I would sometimes cross at I, J, or K on foot or bike and not believe the car two blocks was already on top of me and I had to jump back and wait. Daily occurrence, now dead.

  7. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    I drove 5th Street westbound yesterday afternoon from L Street to B Street and on Russell to the west from there. Traffic flow was much, much better than it used to be. Cars turning right and left were not causing backups, which is why under the old FLP (fatso lane plan) the artery was clogged. Under the Road Diet, as designed, it moves far more efficiently the entire way. …

    One thing I noticed which I had not expected was the striping between B and A on Russell. It has two lanes in each direction plus what looks like a new bike lane coming. Insofar as bicycle traffic should (for safety) be directed to the dedicated bike lane on the south side of Russell, it would make sense to me to have signage or green painted pavement directing bikes off of Russell once they get to A Street.

    1. darelldd

      Fatso Lane Plan… I love it.

      It really is amazing how calm things are now, and how the whole mess moves along in an organized, predictable fashion. I found the same thing about the turns – that’s the part that really holds back any advantage to having the old design of two lanes – when one of those lanes also serves as an unpredictable turn lane that then inspires speeding to change lanes and pass.

      I’m digging around for the striping plan right now – trying to envision what you’re talking about between B and A. I probably need to make a trip down there to see for myself. When you say “Dedicated Bike Lane on the S. of Russell, you mean the Class 1 Bike path off the street, right?

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        “you mean the Class 1 Bike path off the street, right?”

        Yes.

        One thing I assume is that most bicyclists who ride on 5th Street westbound toward A Street will be going to the university. For them, it’s less important to direct them toward the Class 1 bike path. They will cross Russell out of necessity, as most likely do now.

        But a minority of westbound 5th St. cyclists, whose destination is much further west, should (probably*) be given direction toward the Class 1 bike path on the south side of Russell Blvd. Again, I’m not suggesting that for any reason other than safety.

        *I honestly don’t know the best way to do this. Traffic engineering experts (or smart guys like Steve Tracy) should decide. The worry to my mind would be encouraging bicyclists to cross two lanes of car traffic on Russell in a way which is unsafe. … Were I the rider, I would make sure it was safe to move into the left lane just before A Street, and then I would cut (safely) across Russell to the southwest corner where the bike path starts. However, I am not sure most bicyclists should try that.

      1. darelldd

        I thought that too, but I’m looking at the striping plan from a year ago, and it shows four lanes (none of the bicycle lanes) between A and B. Hmm. Stand by…. I’ll talk to the experts.

        1. Ryan Kelly

          There was a bike lane on the North side (going West). I don’t know about the South side (going East). Maybe the bikes are supposed to share the sidewalk on that side to allow two lanes until B street when one splits off to go South on B street.

  8. DavisBurns

    The hatch marks I mentioned go on for a couple of blocks on B Street for entire blocks. I think they are on the wider blocks north of 8th. I know about merging into bike lanes to turn right. If more drivers did that to turn right, cyclists would be safer.

    1. darelldd

      Oh! You’re talking about the buffers. Those are “no mans land” to separate the lanes by more than a few inches of paint. Buffers are used all over town. The new ones are bright and shiny and more obvious though.

  9. Mr. Toad

    Fifth street is much better. Better than I anticipated. Glad I wasn’t one of the doubters who complained before even seeing if it worked. One thing I noticed the light crossing Fifth at F from the south was quite short. Took me two cycles to cross and there were only 4 cars ahead of me. I’m sure this is an easy fix.

    1. darelldd

      >> Glad I wasn’t one of the doubters who complained before even seeing if it worked < Took me two cycles to cross and there were only 4 cars ahead of me. I’m sure this is an easy fix. <

      One easy fix is to ride a bike. Then you can scoot up to the intersection and catch the first green light across!

    2. darelldd

      And what I attempted to write the first time, but somehow got truncated during the post:

      >> Glad I wasn’t one of the doubters who complained before even seeing if it worked. <<

      I wonder what follow-up comments Bob – removing one busy, deadly lane can't possible be better than the status quo – Dunning will have.

  10. Alan Miller

    I rode 5th Street on my bike last night. Excellent. F-ing excellent. We stood on the curve at J Street and cars were going by at 25-30mph, not 30-50 as before. It was so calm. Tons of bicycles using the new lanes. This should have been done twenty years ago. All of you who complained and delayed this should hang your heads in shame. Especially for all the needless injuries and accidents and misery caused by your complaining causing the delays. Hang your heads low. Hang them low. Way low.

    Now, City Staff, get out a pen. I have a few concerns from my ride:

    1) Westbound: There is a utility cut that was improved, but at one point between F and G (or E and F) there is a terrible linear crack that someone could get a wheel caught on. Please cold patch this.

    2) Westbound: At B Street, 5th makes a fairly significant swing to the left. The bike lane on the far side is next to two traffic lanes here, and I saw large vehicles (bus, truck) not “setting up for the curve” in the intersection, and instead cutting off the bike lane on the far side with the rear of their vehicles. I’m concerned this could one day lead to a bicycle getting clipped. I suggest a bollard, sign, raised median or something to ensure the need to swing left IN the intersection more obvious, to avoid not just a stripe but something more obvious to driver of large vehicles.

    3) Eastbound: Maybe future striping will make this better, but right now for bicycles that are continuing on 5th at B Street must swing left awkwardly across the right turn lane onto B Street. A very clear green painted lane is necessary here, maybe a sign, the ability to swing over sooner, something . . . . .

    Thanks for listening, and thanks for doing this project. This makes Davis a better place.

    1. darelldd

      Great comment, Alan! I know exactly what you mean on all your improvement points – especially that parallel crack – RIGHT smack where it can cause the most harm.

      Each time I’ve ridden it now, I’m surprised at how much more convenient it is to get where I’m going – As compared to doing what most non-cyclists have suggested cyclists do: Use other, circuitous routes with more stop signs to get where I’m going!

      What a concept: I can use the road that’s the most direct route for me. If we aren’t careful, folks will start calling us “bicycle friendly.”

  11. Mont Hubbard

    “The redesign seeks to improve safety through the Fifth Street corridor, both by adding complete street road features such as the bicycle lanes, medians, turn pockets and safer pedestrian crossings, as well as improving traffic flow through the reduction in lanes from four to two, which will slow down traffic but also allow it to flow more smoothly.”

    Dare I say “We told you so.”? No. Actually, science told us so. Simulations of the improved corridor by my colleagues, UCD transportation experts from the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, many years ago predicted that it would work exactly as it is working. Smooth, and comfortable. I am not surprised, folks, because I believe in science (and it ain’t even rocket science!). I have explained this literally hundreds of times to doubters at the Davis Bicycles! Farmers Market booth over the five years it took to happen. It’s amazing how little faith the general population has in the scientific method, especially if their minds are already made up and they listen to Bob Dunning or Rush Limbaugh.

  12. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    Fifth Street had its first accident with the road diet in place:

    http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/crime-fire-courts/emergency-scene-2/

    I am not sure what happened. However, since I wrote my column this week on the road diet, I have heard from two Old North residents (not related to each other) and one person who works on 4th Street and regularly drives across 5th at E Street, who each told me that bicycles riding slowly on Fifth Street are making it hard to cross Fifth.

    I gathered from the emails I got that the problem is cars move 28-32 mph. So at some point, cars in each direction will pass. But then these folks said bikes going 10-12 mph clog up the works for them. By the time the slow moving bikes pass by, another new set of cars comes. So they said that they have had to dangerous accelerate to squeeze through, one on D Street and two on E.

    Hopefully, this aspect of the change is still not as bad as it was before. Because I almost never* cross Fifth on any streets but B or F, which are controlled by lights, I have not seen or experienced the problem which was related to me.
    _______________

    *The exception is when I drive to meetings at the Hattie Weber on C Street, I will sometimes cross 5th at C. I’ll go that course on bike, too, also at meetings at the Hattie Weber.

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