My View: Fifth Street Finally Fixed

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.

Fifth Street is nearly completed. As we reported earlier this week, traffic lanes were reduced on Fifth Street this week to one in each direction with the addition of turn lanes and bicycle lanes. From what we have reported and what we have heard, there have been few if any problems.

Concrete work will begin a week from Monday and the final touches will occur the week of August 25.

It has been a long journey to get here – an unnecessarily long journey. It is ironic that earlier this week there was a discussion on the Vanguard about criticism of city staff. In the case of Fifth Street, there is no other way to go.

At the outset there are three quick points to be made. Fifth Street was a remarkably low risk undertaking. First, the city was going to expend virtually no general fund money to do the conversion. Second, for those concerned about traffic flow – the traffic flowed through the corridor very poorly prior to this change. I know many people avoided Fifth Street between B and G at all costs.

Finally, if the project didn’t work, all the city would have to do is restripe it.

For all of the bellyaching in the community, the most remarkable thing about the redesign is how unremarkable it really is. They reduced automobile lanes from four to two. They added bike lanes. They added turn lanes. They got new traffic signals. That’s really it.

In May of 2009, Steve Tracy, who has done more to see this project get to the point of completion than any other resident in the city, would write on the Vanguard, “Once again an opportunity has been missed to move forward with the redesign that is in the adopted General Plan.  Replacing the 4 lane street we now have with the two lane plus left turn lane and bike lane configuration will finally provide some safety for the numerous bicyclists and pedestrians using the corridor, and has no negative impacts on vehicle flow.”

“The two most recent traffic models, one funded by the City and one from the UC Davis School of Engineering show that the redesigned street will actually improve traffic flow and travel times,” Mr. Tracy writes. “Once again a small but vocal group of individuals representing the Chamber of Commerce and the Davis Downtown Business Association refuse to believe the results of these traffic models or the positive evidence from dozens of communities all over the country that this redesign works.  It works for traffic flow, it works for pedestrians and bicyclists, and it works for nearby businesses.  And in every single case I have data for, it brings a reduction in accidents.  Yet when we showed the Chamber of Commerce spokesman statistics documenting the serious safety problem on 5th Street he said that is an ‘acceptable level of risk.’”

In the summer of 2009, DDBA President Jennifer Anderson presented the Davis City Council with a petition of 400 signatures from businesses opposing the Fifth Street Redesign.  In response, supporters of the proposed re-design created their own petition and in just over a week had more than double that number, in fact, when they turned in the petition in September 2009, they had more than 2500 petition signatures.

petition_signers_map

Moreover, as the distribution map of the locations of those who signed the petition shows, this wasn’t just residents of the Old North Davis Neighborhood that abuts Fifth Street – it was city wide.

On April 28, 2010, the Davis City Council unanimously approved moving forward with the pilot project on Fifth Street.

That was nearly four and a half years ago. How long ago is that? The council that passed it was Mayor Ruth Asmundson, Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor and Councilmembers Lamar Heystek, Sue Greenwald, and Stephen Souza.

Not only are none of them left on the city council, it has been over two years since the last of them exited the council. How can it possibly take over four years from unanimous passage to completion?

Even as the council was passing the re-design there were concerns that staff was trying to slow play the project. Indeed, the history up to that point was one of missed deadlines for funding and grant applications as staff destroyed data in order to cover up models that showed improved flow and connectivity through the corridor.

Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor, an earlier skeptic, was a key convert in this process. “Any comment about this should be prefaced by the current circumstance has problems,” he said.  “The current circumstance is not nirvana.”

“I think most people who experience Fifth Street in its current circumstance would agree that there are safety concerns on that street.  We have had numerous accidents that involve vehicles and bicycles, vehicles and vehicles, and even vehicles and pedestrians,” said Councilmember Don Saylor.  “So those accidents are real.  The rate of speed is often frightening, when approaching Fifth Street.”

“There are current problems,” he said.  “Anything we do designed to change this is going to have competing visions in our imagination.”

He stated, “We’re at a point where we’re ready to proceed.“

That was four and a half years ago.

In March of 2011, the Vanguard questioned, “Is the City Slow-Playing the Fifth Street Redesign?” Six months later, the Vanguard ran a story, “Questioning City Staff’s Commitment to Fifth Street Redesign.”

At that time, 2012 appeared to be the target date for the project, a date that was provided for which the council approved the advance funding for the project.

However, the design firm, KD Anderson & Associates designed the road with no pedestrian amenities, and failed to meet council priorities of bike and pedestrian safety. They created narrow bike lanes and wide vehicles lanes.

The new council, following the 2012 election, pushed for the city staff to narrow the vehicle lanes and raise the medians, among other things. Each step of the way was like pulling teeth.

So we’re finally there and at the end of this I’m not sure if I should be more surprised with how long it took or that we’re there at all and, low and behold, it seems to be working.

The comment made by Mont Hubbard earlier this week was instructive, as he writes, “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.”

Indeed, in August 2009, the Vanguard wrote an article showing how the models worked.

fifth_2.jpg

The findings of this model show significant improvement in travel time overall, however the results actually vary by direction.  The eastbound trip through the corridor during the peak hour is actually slightly slower, while the westbound trip is faster.

Steve Tracy explained, “An eastbound trip during the peak hour is slightly slower–it’s a matter of a few seconds.  Average travel time for through vehicles is 144 seconds with the existing street and 151 for the other one.  So it’s seven seconds slower in a two-and-a-half minute trip.”

However, that slight difference is more than made up by the vast difference in the westbound traffic flow which is about one minute quicker with the one-lane westbound street with turn pockets.

Said Mr. Tracy, “Feng and Ying have tried to play with the signal timing to adjust that, and that’s about as close as they can get in difference.  They couldn’t ever quite get the eastbound flow to be better with the two lane street.”

However, we wrote at the time, given the fact that it is only seven seconds slower and the westbound flow is far improved, overall the average travel time through the corridor is a full 20 to 25 seconds faster. And speed, of course, is not the only consideration.

Remember, the purpose of the redesign is not just speed, but capacity, traffic flow, safety, and also the ability to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians. So if we were able to get the traffic flow to be comparable to the then-current design, the other factors more than outweighed the very small eastbound slowdown.

Four and a half years after unanimous approval by the city council, we are finally there.

—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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111 Comments

  1. Anon

    I’m not sure the blame on just city staff “slowing” this project is accurate. I know that many citizens (I won’t name names) slowed the process because of complaints things were not quite right with the 5th St. redesign, which is pretty typical in Davis. Paralysis by analysis is often the “Davis way” because of vigorous public participation from where I sit.

    What I would say is that the blame game is not constructive at this point. Let’s enjoy the new 5th Street redesign, which both city staff and key citizens collaborated on at length to a successful conclusion.

      1. hpierce

        OK, David, with DP ‘naming names’, am thinking you should either confirm or deny whether these are the two names consistent with your ‘belief’.

    1. Davis Progressive

      i know both from speaking to steve tracy and from speaking to some of the council at that time two staffers – katherine hess and roxanne nomazi were widely believed to be working to kill the redesign.

      “What I would say is that the blame game is not constructive at this point. Let’s enjoy the new 5th Street redesign, ”

      a lot of people spent a lot of extra time over the years because of this – why brush it aside?

      1. Anon

        First of all, just because some someone says so-and-so tried to obstruct the 5th St redesign doesn’t make it so.

        Secondly, some downtown businesses were definitely not in favor of the 5th St redesign and fought hard against it.

        Thirdly, the proponents themselves slowed the process down considerably by complaining about width of bike lanes, the configuration of the crosswalks, etc.

        So who is to blame for the slow implementation? I would say it was multiple factors, but ultimately we got an excellent redesign. Why does their need to be blame cast at this point? What useful purpose does it serve?

        1. Davis Progressive

          “Thirdly, the proponents themselves slowed the process down considerably by complaining about width of bike lanes, the configuration of the crosswalks, etc. ”

          that’s only because staff didn’t follow council’s instructions on width in the first place.

          1. Anon

            There were many issues by proponents besides just width of bike lanes, and believe me it slowed down the process. I watched it at a number of City Council and other city meetings.

      2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        ” katherine hess and roxanne nomazi (sic) were widely believed to be working to kill the redesign.”

        I know for an absolute fact you are wrong with regard to Katherine Hess. Her official position is to have no bias. However, she and her husband are at the same time active bicycle enthusiasts, and there is not a chance in hell she would work against this project in the way you suggest.

        I also believe you are wrong with regard to Roxanne Namazi. Ms. Namazi is a Senior Civil Engineer. She is not a politician. Unless you can point to something she did or said that was anything other than give her professional opinion as an engineer, I call bullish!t on both of your attacks on these two women.

        Moreover, I think you deserve to be outed at this point on this site. It is terribly cowardly of you to hide behind your fake name and make false accusations against individuals by name. I have no idea who the hell you are. But I know you are [edit] who lacks the manners to stand behind your assertions. And I know you will make up false stories about people with no evidence and no sense of ethics.

          1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            Don, what is DP doing but name calling, when he makes false accusations against two city employees and he hides behind his fake name doing so?

          2. Davis Progressive

            i did not call anyone names. i did name the two public employees who were in charge of the project.

          3. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            DP, go back to your hole. You are a coward. You libel two innocent people by casting false accusations against them. There is no place for that in civil discourse. You should be ashamed of yourself. But clearly you lack any moral standards of behavior, and because of that character flaw, you likely are not remorseful. It’s sad that people like you exist.

          4. Davis Progressive

            so you know for “an absolute fact” but when pressed on it, you have turn it into an attack on me.

          5. John

            Rich, you have chosen to conduct your tirade against Davis Progressive at an incredibly intense level. It seems like this is incredibly visceral for you. The last time you came on the Vanguard your actions were similarly visceral, when you tenaciously attacked Michelle Millet.

            Long periods of silence punctuated by bursts of high dudgeon. Why so much anger?

          6. DavisVoter

            “It’s sad that people like you exist.”

            Wow. I assume Rifkin is hoping that DP stays healthy for the foreseeable future with a comment like that one on record…

          7. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            “The last time you came on the Vanguard your actions were similarly visceral, when you tenaciously attacked Michelle Millet.”

            I commented on the Vanguard yesterday, sir. One has nothing to do with the other. In this case, DP has libeled two people and presented no defense for his pathetic actions.

            In the case of Miss Millet, she never libeled anyone.

          8. John

            “DP has libeled …”

            Whether DP’s statements are factually accurate or not has nothing to do with the clear fact that rather than presenting your opinion that DP’s statement was factually suspect in a level tone, you chose to instantaneously spike the intensity and the rhetoric. Did you consider the possibility of conducting a dialogue with DP? Further, you ignore and discount his prior post which clearly states, “I know both from speaking to steve tracy and from speaking to some of the council at that time”

            The issue of your high dudgeon in this online community is separate and different from the accuracy or lack of accuracy of DP’s comments.

        1. darelldd

          Following in the footsteps of the Enterprise, I wonder if we’ll ever see a time on the Vanguard when contributors are required to post with real names.

          Obviously there are pros and cons to each policy. For my money, more accountability generates a higher level of conversation. But then, I’m not important enough to post anonymously, so what do I know?

          1. John

            Darel, your point would resonate if the current conversation were between anonymous parties, but Rich is anything but anonymous.

            The information that Davis Progressive shared could have been challenged without all the drama.

          2. Davis Progressive

            and i shared the source of that information namely steve tracy and since he’s no longer on the council, i can add joe krovoza’s name.

            rich overly reacted to what amounted to a fairly benign point and refuses to back up his absolute knowledge comment with anything other than attacks.

            why would i want to put my name and subject myself and my family to such an unstable personality? rifkin needs to take his midol.

          3. darelldd

            First off, my comment was supposed to be more general – I wasn’t thinking of just this list of comments. I’m just pointing out that discussion tends to be different when we all know who we’re talking to.

            I’m not condoning much of what’s been going on in THIS string either way!

        2. Davis Progressive

          “I know for an absolute fact you are wrong with regard to Katherine Hess. Her official position is to have no bias. However, she and her husband are at the same time active bicycle enthusiasts, and there is not a chance in hell she would work against this project in the way you suggest.”

          that’s not knowing with absolute fact, that’s conjecture based on your beliefs about her bicycle riding proclivities.

        3. Davis Progressive

          “It is terribly cowardly of you to hide behind your fake name and make false accusations against individuals by name. ”

          they are public officials. there is a great deal of basis in fact behind that. you haven’t stated any facts to argue otherwise except for your presumption that because katherine rides a bike, you know here position on this issue.

          show me evidence in her policy documents that she was neutral on this project and then ask steve tracy who worked on this for years what his opinion is.

        4. John

          I can confirm that Katherine Hess is indeed an avid bicyclist, and although I wouldn’t use the heightened rhetoric that Rich has injected into his response, I suspect that if bicycle issues were the only thing driving her actions she would be naturally a supporter of the project. However, all human beings make decisions in a complex stew of competing factors, so Rich’s rather absolute assessment of who did what and who didn’t do what is far from “money in the bank.”

        5. Anon

          Mr. Rifkin has a very valid point. To actually name two staffers, based on what someone else said, is inappropriate for civil discourse. I have not heard DP give any evidence or “facts” other than what someone else said, which is not evidence at all. And having worked with both Ms. Hess and Ms. Namazi, I cannot think of any conceivable reason either of them would actually sabotage this project. The problem is that there were many factions who opposed this redesign, the proponents themselves were never quite satisfied with what city staff came up with, etc, and thus a number of things factored into the project taking quite a bit of time to come to fruition.

          1. John

            Mr. Rifkin’s point does indeed make considerable sense. I’m not sure that it is any more valid though than DP’s original point. He is relying on information and belief. DP (who I believe is a lawyer who works in the Attorney General’s Office) is also relying on information and belief. Rich hasn’t told us whether any of his information is about actual events that were part of the decision process. DP has clearly rold us that his information comes from principals she were involved in actual events that were part of the decision process.

            When you say you “cannot think of any conceivable reason either of them would actually sabotage the project,” you actually follow that statement with a very conceivable reason when you say “there were many factions.” It is certainly conceivable that one or more members of those factions made Katherine or Roxanne fear for the safety of their continued employment. There were plenty of people in the community clamoring for Katherine’s head on a platter because of Crown Castle. Fear of losing her job could have been a powerful motivator.

  2. DT Businessman

    Yikes! It’s regrettable that the Vanguard chooses to perpetuate a false statement. Davis Downtown never took a position one way or the other on the Fifth Street project. A retraction from Tracy and the Vanguard would be helpful.

    -Michael Bisch, DD Prez

    1. Davis Progressive

      i read the section which appears to be from 2009. did the dd/ddba object at that time? did it correct the perception that jennifer anderson was speaking on behalf of the ddba? did it offer any clarification on this whatsoever?

      1. DT Businessman

        Yes, we have consistently stated throughout that we have never taken a position on the 5th Street project. I have corrected the record every time I was aware that the matter has come up, which has included, but not been limited to, Vanguard discussions and various commission meetings (including the BAC). I have done so enough times that it should come as no surprise to anyone to hear that the DD has no position.

        -Michael Bisch – DD Prez

        1. Davis Progressive

          what i asked was did you specifically provide clarification at the time that jennifer anderson’s views did not represent those of the ddba?

          i also have to tell you, my memory from five years ago, it certainly seemed like both the davis downtown and the chamber were opposing this – certainly their membership did. so this all seems like a “chase the tail” fix years later and attempt to be on the right side of history.

          1. DT Businessman

            That’s absurd. We cannot track down and follow every false statement made about DD.

            My recollection is that Anderson clearly prefaced her comments that she was not speaking on behalf of DD and that’s how the Enterprise reported it. There was nothing to correct at the time. In the meantime, the matter has popped up from time to time and I have corrected the record. I was unaware of Tracy’s quote until this morning, so I corrected it. David made his incorrect statement this morning, so I corrected. It’s all pretty straightforward, so why the resistance to setting the record straight? Whoops! I forgot. Resistance to correcting the record is not unusual on the VG.

          2. Davis Progressive

            “We cannot track down and follow every false statement made about DD.”

            because delivering a 400 person petition to city council is somehow subtle action.

        2. Anon

          Again, one more reason not to start “blaming” this city staffer, that business person or business organization, that commission, that private citizen, etc. for the “delay” in this project. Who cares? Just enjoy the fruits of a lot of labor. I know I was originally opposed to this project until I listened carefully to all sides.

          1. Anon

            To darelldd: I was initially opposed to this project because,

            1) my instincts told me traffic would bottleneck;
            2) I did not fully understand the safety issues involved for bicycles;
            3) I did not understand state law on the issue of a bicyclist’s right to use the road no matter how unsafe (in other words a bicyclist could not be forced onto safer routes);
            4) I had some of my own near misses with bicyclists/skateboarders/pedestrians doing stupid things.

            Anytime a project is proposed, it is perfectly normal to have an initial reaction/opinion, but hopefully one will keep an open mind about it and be willing to hear other viewpoints so that ultimately an informed decision is made.

          2. darelldd

            @Anon –

            I agree that it is perfectly normal to have an initial reaction. No question. But a reaction should not be confused with a stance. Taking a stance “for” or “against” the project should be reserved until after some knowledge is gained on the subject – as clearly you’ve now done.

            Far too many people stop at the initial reaction (cough*Dunning*cough) and go so far as to vote that way.

            Maybe I’m just grappling at semantics. In the end, I’m thrilled to hear that you learned a bunch about the project and made an informed decision to change your mind. Thanks!

            Yes, I think it was just semantics. If you had written that you were originally resistant, or that your first reaction to it was negative, I would have understood. I think it’s just the word “opposed.” To me, that meant you had decided (with little or no information) that the project was bad.

    2. darelldd

      The only thing I can add to this part of the discussion is that the decision to offer “no position” is as telling as a stated position. An official “No Position” generally supports the status quo, minus the backbone to state it.

      I don’t believe I’ll get any argument from saying: The DDBA did not offer support for this project.

      1. Don Shor

        Sometimes it just reflects division on the board of directors. Some probably favored the project, others opposed it. Some probably didn’t want to get involved in a political debate, and a large percentage of the DDBA membership probably didn’t care one way or another. I don’t know how this came down, but I’ve seen other instances where ‘no position’ meant ‘no consensus’.

        1. darelldd

          I agree, Don. And I’d feel more comfortable with the board claiming “no consensus” if that was indeed the case. Even so, the result is the same. No position arising from no consensus still supports the status quo, even if not intended.

          1. Tia Will

            darelidd

            “No position arising from no consensus still supports the status quo, even if not intended.”

            I can think of a second possibility. This would be in the case where neither the status quo, nor the proposal before them was favored, but rather a third option. What I do not recall is whether or not there were any other traffic control options that are considered initially. Maybe someone else recalls the very early discussions ?

        2. John

          Don’s assessment rings true. It also is at odds with what Michael Bisch has said, which was that “Davis Downtown never took a position one way or the other.” Michael is smart enough to know that taking “no position” is indeed very much taking a position.

          1. Anon

            Not necessarily. If the DDBA as a whole could not come up with a consensus on the project, including not being able to come up with a consensus on what to say publicly, it is perfectly understandable if the DDBA chose not to say anything at all. I suspect some business owners thought the redesign was a good idea, others did not, which very well might have caused a rift in the ranks. Sometimes that sort of thing happens. I don’t think you can draw any conclusions other than the DDBA chose not to take a position period, for whatever reason.

        3. DT Businessman

          No need to speculate. The truth of the matter is the project never came before the board. Our time was taken up by higher priorities.

          -Michael Bisch, DD Prez

          1. DT Businessman

            I’ll also add that the level of vitriol at the time was quite high. Comments for and against were way over the top. Fact and reason played very little to no role in the matter. The politicians were operating based on political considerations. Why stick your head up only to have it blown off? The relative merits/demerits of the project never really merited such a death grip struggle. All the while the economy was in meltdown. And all this blame in today’s article and thread is simply more of the same.

            These are strictly my personal observations.

            -Michael Bisch

          2. John

            “The politicians were operating based on political considerations. Why stick your head up only to have it blown off? The merits/demerits of the project never really merited such a death grip struggle.”

            Michael has done an excellent job of describing the environment that not only the politicians, but Katherine and Roxanne, were living in, with the added level of angst for Katherine and Roxanne that it would not only be their heads that would be blown off, but also their jobs blown away.

  3. Tia Will

    Anon

    “Let’s enjoy the new 5th Street redesign, which both city staff and key citizens collaborated on at length to a successful conclusion.”

    I completely agree that it is now time to sit back and enjoy. I had my first east to west trip down 5th street by car at 5:30. Staying within the speed limit it took very close to the two minutes listed above and was very smooth.

    I do not regret at all the time spent on this project for whatever reason. In my profession, projects often involve very slow, methodical changes with prolonged discussions and consideration of potential downsides to each change.

    Sometimes, being trained as a surgeon, I get impatient. I frequently have to remind myself that change is a process and that “operating first” and asking questions later is usually not the best way to go. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to do that. I think the same applies to our city planners and leaders.

    1. darelldd

      Tia –

      I agree with the premise, yet precious little of the “delay time” was spent on discussion and consideration. Mostly, it was just delay. Or to put it another way – what has finally happened this past week is what was agreed upon all those years ago.

      This was more like wart removal than surgery. 🙂

    2. Alan Miller

      I agree with this ddd fellow, and must add that I remain appalled by the unnecessary delay, and it should never be forgiven nor forgotten. As Steve Tracy pointed out in testifying before the City Council in the Spring, the delay alone in waiting until after the school year was over would, if the delay period were average, result in more injury accidents that could be avoided, as with all the injuries that occurred since the delays began years ago.

      Saying that, I am not going to be an anonymous S and name and blame specific persons by outing them on a local discussion board. This is pathetic, cowardly behavior, and the Vanguard through its commenting policy/personnel is enabling it.

  4. Davis Progressive

    “I do not regret at all the time spent on this project for whatever reason. ”

    maybe you should ask your good friend and former mayor what he thinks…

    1. Tia Will

      DP

      Relevance ?
      I am good friends with many surgeons who are faster to operate than I am, and some who would be slower.
      All this means to me is that people have different perspectives…..even on wart removal ; ).

        1. Tia Will

          DP

          True, but I was frustrated by the previous configuration of 5th street. At one point I was involved in a “fender bender” there when the driver behind me did not realize that I was slowing to allow a pedestrian to cross. The design was clearly not optimal, however, change is also not optimal for many people. Patience and the willingness to listen and respect all sides of an issue are skills that I have gradually acquired during 5 or so years of administrative work where I have encountered plenty of “obstruction”. Some obstruction leads to better outcomes, some does not.

          Patience and consensus building almost always results in better outcomes overall.

          Frankly is right that we will not really be able to assess the full impact until the students are back. So although I am pleased, this remains a wait and see situation.

          1. darelldd

            >> I was frustrated by the previous configuration of 5th street. <<

            The folks who have resisted the redesign seem to ignore the problems we faced with the original layout. Odd how that works – how we are generally more forgiving and resigned to the issues we've become accustomed to.

  5. Michael Harrington

    In 2001-2002 staff were falsifying data used in the modeling studies. Tracy caught them red handed, and I verified the details. It’s the same mindset in that department that led to the fall 2011 water project and rates mess. Continues today.

  6. Frankly

    So far so good. But the students are not back yet. I suspect that there will more complaining when the number of cars, bikes and pedestrians hit maximum levels at rush hours during the school year, and that it will exceed the capacity of the reduced lanes and traffic will back up. But we will see.

    One more observation. I have already seen several near misses with cars turning onto or off of the new 5th street and almost running over pedestrians. It seems to me that the pedestrians are less cautious now… crossing the street almost as soon as they get there instead of waiting for traffic to be completely clear.

    Again, we will see when school starts again.

    But so far, so good.

      1. Frankly

        The difference will be cars backed up to the point that the lights change at 5th and B and 5th and A… but eastbound traffic cannot move. That is called gridlock. I expect it to happen and frustrate drivers.

        And then more will change their destination route putting them on more of the cross streets to 5th street… and future exacerbating the gridlock.

        But if I am wrong I will gladly admit it.

        1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          “But if I am wrong I will gladly admit it.”

          Frankly,

          You should give some weight to the engineering models for this sort of thing. What they demonstrate–and have been proven true from the experience of other cities with road diets–is there is a point of impaction beyond which a road diet will slow traffic throughput. However, given the peak traffic loads on 5th Street, this road diet will not normally cause a backup relative to its 2×2 configuration, even at peak load.

          I qualify that with “normally,” because it is possible on one or two days a year, perhaps Picnic Day or a Graduation Day, when there is a huge amount of out of town traffic on top of our normal Davis traffic, that the traffic load does back up more with the road diet than it would otherwise. But even then, it would be a much safer slow down than what we had pre-road diet.

          1. Anon

            Actually the models showed that side streets may become clogged from cars backed up, increasing wait time. However, the hope is that these drivers will start finding other streets to turn onto 5th, which may or may not help relieve the congestion on side streets. But only time will tell.

      2. darelldd

        >> it’s not like 5th street during rush hour with the students here was tolerable <<

        DP – You and I don't always agree, but you certainly just posted what I was thinking!

        How quickly we forget what we previously accepted as normal when judging the "new." No change is ever perfect. And lacking perfection, it is so easily derided as being "bad."

        Best way to solve congested traffic and serious road injuries is to get people out of their cars. But we seem to be more focussed on continuing to pound that square peg into the round hole for our perceived convenience.

        1. Anon

          Actually a new transportation commission has been formed, and I have no doubt will work on increasing the modeshare of public transportation and bicycling.

          1. darelldd

            The new transportation commission has not yet been formed. That happens in October.

            And… we’ve had commissions working on the modeshare issue for many, many years. Commissions we’ve got. it’s the folks out on the streets that still need to be reached. Because without their support, commissions don’t get much traction.

          2. Alan Miller

            There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, that anyone could do to improve bicycle mode share more than CONVENIENCE. That “C” word is key in public transportation of all types. And there is nothing, I mean NOTHING, that could improve bicycle mode share more than opening up the Central Artery of town to bicycles, ALL bicycles, not just those of us who rode 5th Street for years because by law it was ours, despite the dangers, because not having bike lanes on 5th Street was wrong, and I mean WRONG.

  7. Michael Harrington

    Some friends have said they saw long back ups of cars heading east where the four goes to two lanes near A and B

    Wait for the students to return and we shall all see …

    1. Dave Hart

      Hey, Michael, you should think about organizing your peeps to get out there and drive their cars 20 mph and then you can prove the road diet to be a failure.

    2. John

      Michael, yesterday I drove from L Street to B Street at 4:30. It took me 120 seconds with one red light at F Street included in that transit time. When I passed through the B Street through A Street complex traffic coming east was encountering no stops.

      My return trip from Sycamore/Russell to L Street was at 6:30 with far and away the most traffic I have experienced during any of my trips this week. There was a line of at least a half dozen cars in each lane of Russell at the A Street light which changed from red to green as I approached the western-most cars. Both lines began moving pretty in much the normal way traffic light lines begin moving. The cars in the right lane peeled off to the right and went down B street, while the cars in the left proceeded through on Fifth Street all moving at about 20 mph. Both the F Street traffic light and the G Street traffic light forced the line to stop. Thanks to the miracle of the iPhone stopwatch app I clicked off the whole B Street to L Street distance under those circumstances in 182 seconds.

      The key to optimally navigating the A and B squeeze is going to be knowing whether you want to be on 5th Street or B Street when you are done. If the former, you will move into the left lane on Russell well before you reach the light at A Street. if the latter, you will move into the right lane on Russell well before you reach the light at A Street.

  8. Tia Will

    Michael

    As a resident of Old East Davis, I have frequently encountered long back ups of cars heading east at this juncture prior to any changes.
    What will be of interest is if someone actually does a before and after comparison of the transit times in this area as well as just the “B to L” stretch timed in the posted graph.

  9. Barack Palin

    The jury’s still out, let’s at least wait a couple of months after school starts and we’ve been through a couple of busy weekends before we call this a glowing success.

    1. John

      It doesn’t need to be a glowing success. If the car travel times through town are simply equal to what they were prior to the change, then it will have been worth doing.

      1. Barack Palin

        Is it okay with you if some of us holdout and wait until the final verdict is in? We don’t know yet what the final car travel times will end up being, do we?

          1. Barack Palin

            Car travel times do count, if it were all about safety then all we’d have to do is install speed bumps every 50 yards on every street in Davis. But since we know that’s not practical a balance has to be achieved.

          2. Dave Hart

            Auto travel times are the only metric for people who only drive and are always leaving home too late to take their time such that every second counts. On the other hand, I think the metrics include not only transit time and accidents (as Don mentioned) but increased bicycle traffic, and a randomized survey of residents regarding their relative satisfaction before and after the changes. I haven’t biked Fifth Street yet, but three or four times driving has been calm and actually pleasant compared to the former Daytona Speedway feel.

          3. darelldd

            Of course “car travel times” should count. But I hear from some that it is the ONLY metric to call the project a success or failure (sadly, that is how the state and fed rate road improvements as well). But you know what – we need to count how many PEOPLE are moved through the corridor. Not how many cars. And we need to consider the injuries. And the convenience and safety of pedestrians. The convenience and safety of bicycle transportation. And all the other quality of life benefits to the community.

            My point: there’s WAY more to this than counting the cars that get from A to L in X amount of time. Because using similar extreme logic as Barak Palin, all we have to do is block off the cross streets, unplug the traffic lights, increase the speed limit to 60 mph, and we can get cars through there like nobody’s business. Success!

            I think we can sum the whole thing up with “quality of life.” We want to move people safely and conveniently – no matter what their choice of transportation.

          4. Barack Palin

            “Because using similar extreme logic as Barak Palin, all we have to do is block off the cross streets, unplug the traffic lights, increase the speed limit to 60 mph, and we can get cars through there like nobody’s business.”

            Please show me where I stated that.

          5. John

            Barack, when you volunteer to be a target as often as you do, is it any wonder that every now and then someone takes you up on your volunteering.

            darrel’s tongue is so clearly tucked into his cheek that I’m surprised that you have risen to the bait.

          6. Barack Palin

            What, no more Tony Stewart stories from you? Should I look both ways in case Jimmy Johnson comes racing down 5th St.
            LMAO

          7. Frankly

            Auto travel times are the only metric for people who only drive and are always leaving home too late to take their time such that every second counts.

            So, what do you do for a living? Every second does county unless you are a pampered govm’t employee or retired… or maybe already well enough off that you don’t have t work as hard.

            ALso, cars stopped in traffic emit more carbon.

            You argument reminds me of those for higher taxation on the rich. Who gets to decide how much money is too much or how much extra time is insignificant?

            The proponents of the road diet plan claimed that it would not slow traffic. Were they lying like some of us accused them of?

          8. John

            I’m California loyal through and through, so I’d be looking for Jeff Gordon.

            Plan ahead and allow enough time for a “normal” transit time and you won’t need either Johnson or Gordon behind the wheel.

          9. John

            So far Frankly my experience has been that it has not only not slowed traffic in terms of transit time it has reduced transit time, while at the same time reducing automobile speeds when passing through the corridor. I find myself going 5-7 miles per hour slower than I used to when I travel along 5th street. The reason is pretty straightforward, I expect to have green lights now, and even if I hit a red light, the cycle time to a new green is incredibly short. Before, I wanted to avoid red lights in the worst way because the cycle time from green to green was more than double what it is now, so I hustled from one light to the next, trying to get to that next light before it changed.

          10. darelldd

            @ Barack Palin –

            You wrote:
            “Please show me where I stated that…. or anything close.”

            Where did I lose you?
            1. I never said that you stated that. I said “using similar extreme logic…”

            2. And your bit of “extreme logic” is from the post above where you state, “if it were all about safety then all we’d have to do is install speed bumps every 50 yards on every street in Davis. ”

            In other words, you gave an extreme example of creating safety by making the street useless. And I followed your lead by giving an extreme example of how to make car travel times much shorter by making the street useless. Neither one makes any sense, and of course that was my point. Apparently I was being too subtle, and I apologize.

          11. darelldd

            Frankly wrote:
            > The proponents of the road diet plan claimed that it would not slow traffic. Were they lying like some of us accused them of? <

            Nope. Bicycle traffic is so much faster now, that it is hard to even compare to how we had to cross town before. I literally arrived at my regular destination this morning a full four minutes earlier than I have in the past. And it was completely due to directly using 5th street finally. Four minutes. That's money in the bank. Those redesign proponents were on the money, and brilliant in their foresight and study.

            You do know that cyclists are part of traffic, right?

    2. Alan Miller

      >let’s at least wait a couple of months after school starts and we’ve been through a couple of busy weekends before we call this a glowing success.

      I bicycle, drive, and walk across this corridor. On A and C I’ll call this a glowing success now.

  10. Michael Harrington

    I’ve been for trying Steve’s plan for 14 yrs. I trust his skill and judgment completely on all things roads and historic resources let’s give it a try through next summer

  11. Tia Will

    BP

    ” But since we know that’s not practical a balance has to be achieved.”

    It would seem to me that the advantage in this country for as long as I can remember has been almost exclusively in favor of the automobile. There are exceptions in some of our large cities where public transit is favored in planning. However, I am not aware of anywhere where the choice of the bicycle holds advantage over the choice of the automobile. Almost all planning and expenditures have been designed with the automobile as the primary form of transport with all others considered almost as an afterthought. It is precisely because Davis has chosen to attempt to achieve a balance by promoting alternative transportation modes ( rather than an automobile hegemony) that there is controversy at all.

    1. Barack Palin

      Tia Will, apples and oranges, I’m talking about the balance of safety vs. the value of convenience and the need for cars getting people to their destinations in a timely fashion. You’re talking about the balance of cars vs. bicycles and other forms of transportation. We could slow cars to a crawl in the name of safety but as I stated that’s not practical, is it?

      1. John

        The value of convenience also needs to be balanced against the value of personal planning. How hard is it to budget two extra minutes of travel time to arrive at a downtown location? How valuable is less than two minutes of your personal time if the safety of a passenger in your car or a pedestrian on the street or bicyclist on a bicycle is diminished because you haven’t planned that two minutes into your travel?

        In today’s news Tony Stewarrt has graphically shown us the impact of unplanned actions behind the wheel of a car.

        1. Barack Palin

          LOL, so you’re going to compare Tony Stewart on a sprint car race track to our situation in Davis? When you make it harder and take longer to go downtown shoppers have other alternatives. Just ask the downtown merchants if they want to make it more difficult for most of their shoppers to get downtown.

          1. Dave Hart

            So far, transit times are within, literally, seconds of what they were before the changes. Are you seriously trying to make the argument that if someone is delayed, and let’s go overboard, by a whole minute that they are going to spend an extra half hour to make a round trip to another community to do what they were going to do downtown? If that’s the case, I guess gasoline prices are still way to low to affect people’s behavior let alone the extra time they have to burn because of perceived traffic congestion.

          2. darelldd

            >> Just ask the downtown merchants if they want to make it more difficult for most of their shoppers <<

            May I assume that you are implying that "most of their shoppers" arrive by automobile?

            I find that many of the dowtown merchants* still think that most of their money comes from people who driver cars into town. So asking our merchants may not be the best source of information.**

            *Along with many drivers, and even posters on this thread.
            ** Yes there are recent studies showing otherwise. No I'm not going to link to it here.

            We need to make it safe and convenient for *people* to get into town, if we want them to spend money. This is different from making things only convenient for drivers at the expense of safety and convenience to non-drivers. As John says, we need balance. This new design has made great strides in that balance. Make no mistake about it though – This thing is still primarily planned around the automobile, so we haven't upset the applecart completely.

          3. John

            Paying attention while driving is paying attention while driving. A life lost due to failing to pay attention while driving is a life lost, no matter how you look at it.

            “When you make it harder and take longer to go downtown”

            How is it now harder to go downtown?

            Regarding taking longer, so far you have indicated that you want to hold your judgment until the students get back in order to put 5th Street into a full load situation, and I agree that reserving judgment until then makes sense. However, based on what we have seen thus far it appears that there are going to be substantial portions of each and every day where travel to downtown will not take longer.

            The student affected peak loads we both are waiting for will happen during the morning and evening rush hours. Here are four rush hour questions for you:

            — When was the last time you went downtown to go shopping during morning rush hour?
            — What percentage of Davis’ downtown businesses are even open during morning rush hour?
            — When was the last time you went downtown to go shopping during evening rush hour?
            — What other alternatives did you have for those rush hour shopping trips?

      2. Tia Will

        BP

        I think that this is where we will just have to agree to disagree. I do not think that there is anything sacrosanct about getting somewhere at the speed of an automobile. I think that we would in fact be a lot safer and a lot healthier if we were to give up a little of our haste, leave earlier and incorporate exercise into our lives instead of speeding to work in our car so that we can speed to the gym prior to speeding home. We have taken an extremely unhealthy mode of transportation and turned it into our norm. I think that our society made an enormous mistake when we made the private automobile a shibboleth of our culture. Fortunately, we are beginning to see alternatives and I believe that we will all be better off for that.

      3. Alan Miller

        >I’m talking about the balance of safety vs. the value of convenience and the need for cars getting people to their destinations in a timely fashion.

        Falling into one’s own trap, the convenience and cross-town speed of bicycles ignored.

  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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