Disconnect Between Bicycling Priorities and Infrastructure on East Covell


The city of Davis, concurrent with the Cannery development project, commissioned a $25,000 East Covell Corridor Plan (ECCP) in late 2012. Interestingly enough, East Covell is probably the least “Davis” street system we have, but the city sought “the perspective of a consultant that could offer a nontraditional and expert opinion of optimal transportation design solutions that specializes in active transportation.”

Staff would contact the Dutch Cycling Embassy – a public-private network that serves as an “intermediary between the demand for Dutch expertise and the Dutch parties that can deliver this service.”

Consequently, the city of Davis was connected with the firm, Mobycon, based in Delft, Netherlands, and specializing in active transportation.

Staff writes, “In addition to the evaluation and prioritization of ECCP’s recommendations, Mobycon’s third party analysis also included research and findings regarding the types of bicyclists and their primary and secondary destinations along the corridor.”

The study area consists of the Covell Boulevard corridor between F Street on the west and Birch Lane on the east. It considers access and circulation to public facilities near the corridor including schools, parks and shopping.

Among the more interesting findings is the disconnect between Davis’ bicycle mode share and Davis’ street and bike path layout.

From the Mobycon report: “Although the City of Davis focused on implementing good cycling facilities for many years, the network structure for the City of Davis still seems oriented around the car: the grid-based structure, often with meandering residential streets within it, make up for good car accessibility and traffic flow. The relatively wide streets, the smooth asphalt and the proximity of parking to destinations do little to encourage other transportation modes over cars.”

In another section, the report notes: “Davis’ bicycle network is very extensive and finely meshed, with a variety of on- and off-street facilities aiming at connecting the main activity centers to resident and mixed-use neighborhoods. The bicycle share is extraordinarily high for American cities, and is on par with some Danish and Dutch cities. Cycle distances are rather short and destinations are mostly accessible by good cycle facilities.

“There is however room for improvement. The city of Davis has a few major barriers in its layout preventing short (direct) or safe (crossings) trips by bike. These are the highways, the railways and the main arteries. East Covell Boulevard is one of them. A good bike network ensures that trip distances by bike are shorter than by car, thus stimulating the use of the bike. Shortcuts through neighborhood streets (no dead ends for bicycles) and under- or overpasses across barriers like railways or highways help shorten these routes.”

Staff notes, “Mobycon has divided their recommendations into two categories: The ‘Now’ category that prioritizes recommendations that should happen in the near term and the ‘Wow’ category that prioritizes recommendations that should be considered long term.”

The following tables were developed by staff to illustrate the Mobycon recommendations.

Mobycon-Now Mobycon-Wow Mobycon-Other

The staff will take input from the public and council and return in October with a final presentation and report of the East Covell Corridor Plan, outlining staff recommendations and implementation timelines.

—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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  1. Dan

    I’m curious why the city seems to be ignoring the advice of acknowledged experts in the field, for which the city paid a large sum of money. I ride my bike down East Covell to work almost every day, and the danger points highlighted by the report are real. The solutions they propose are a little unorthodox, but Davis did not get to be where it is by blindly following convention.

    I recognize that we are not in the Netherlands, and so not everything suggested by Mobycon can simply be ported over. But the staff comments do not make sense to me.

    That said, I agree with DavisBurns that a map and some definitions would be very helpful. I know what is being discussed because of my familiarity with the route, but the average reader may not be as familiar.

    1. darelldd

      Where’s the like button? Yes, so true. Just installing a round-a-bout isn’t a solution. It must be properly done, and the one on 5th is a disaster as you say. One barely needs to blip the steering wheel at full speed to get through it heading West. And don’t even get me started on how few drivers understand how the thing works…. or that they need to let my bicycle into the lane before at some point before the circle!

      Location of pedestrian (well, multi-use) crosswalks just adds to the disaster. The only saving grace is the lack of real traffic in that area on most days.

    2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      “I ride my bike down East Covell to work almost every day, and the danger points highlighted by the report are real.”

      Although I don’t ride East Covell everyday, the main problem I have when I bike from Sycamore and West Covell to Mace is the frequent red lights. They are timed for cars, which makes sense, since there are far more cars using Covell than bikes, but (especially on my road bike with cleated shoes) I don’t want to have to stop 7 or 8 times just to bike 4 miles. Another problem for me as a cyclist with the signals on Covell is how quickly they go red in favor of the side street traffic. One car pulls up to J Street, as I’m riding down the overpass (going east) and the light immediately goes red for Covell. Same thing at Catalina, Wildhorse, Oak, etc. This probably annoys car drivers, too, but at least when the light goes green for them, it stays green long enough for all the cars to pass. On my bicycle, I ride up 4-5 seconds after the last car goes through and the signal has turned red already.

      One consequence of the massive number of stop lights on Covell–I’m old enough to remember when there were just two (on at Pole Line and one at F Street)–is that thousands of cars going from North and East Davis to Woodland or vice versa bypass Covell and take Road 29. I feel sorry for the old residents of Road 29, who moved there when it was a quiet country road. It is now a major rural highway. And I feel sorry for myself, because I ride my bike on Road 29 between 113 and Road 102 all the time (took it very early this morning), and there are always a gazillion cars racing past me going 65-70 mph.

  2. DavisBurns

    I googled Dutch junction and watched a you tube video of how they work. I assumed channelized right turn means there is a separate lane at the intersection for cars to turn right. Interesting they recommend a roundabout rather than a Dutch junction but a map is still needed to connect the description with a location. I live a block off west Covell and the bike trip from Oak Street to Nugget is not the best riding experience. If I go over the overpass, the bike lane separates me from traffic but seems like an afterthought. If I use the tunnel under the railroad tracks I wander around an apartment complex and access Nugfest from the south side rather than Covell. Is that the tunnel they refer to as the H street tunnel? It needs work–can be wet and muddy and I’ve had near misses with other cyclists on the west side–visibility isn’t great, bikes are quiet and we surprise each other.

  3. DavisBurns

    Here is a link to a Dutch roundabout with a separate track for bikes. Bikes have the right of way.https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/priority-for-cyclists-on-roundabouts-in-the-netherlands/

    I realize this report is talking about a mini roundabout for cyclists but still not sure where that is meant to be.

    Having lived in England long ago, I am comfortable with roundabouts but the ones we have in Davis are so small, I find them a bit disconcerting. It was interesting to read in the above link that more volume of traffic moved through the roundabout than a signaled intersection, noise was reduced as well as emissions from vehicles.

    At one point there was talk of an above grade crossing from the cannery over the railroad tracks to F Street. Did anything come of that?

    Speaking of maps, I’ve been to city council meetings and the maps they display are sometimes out of focus and always too distant to see the details. They could post them on their website or even spend a couple of bucks and have a dozen printouts for is so we can actually follow the conversation.

    1. Jim Frame

      At one point there was talk of an above grade crossing from the cannery over the railroad tracks to F Street.

      I find it hard to believe that this was ever seriously considered. The required rail clearance — 23’4″ as I recall — would necessitate either very long approach structures (impractical on the Cannery side and nearly impossible on the F Street side) or something like spiral ramps. Neither would be very appealing to cyclists or pedestrians.

  4. Anon

    Roundabouts here are sometimes not well placed or engineered, e.g. the one near the police station. That one is a disaster, right where a lot of students and seniors cross the street. The roundabout is not properly centered, so that on one side buses have difficulty getting through, and on the other side there is not enough of a curve to slow cars down. The one on Anderson by Covell is a necessary roundabout that works well.

    1. darelldd

      Where’s the like button? Yes, so true. Just installing a round-a-bout isn’t a solution. It must be properly done, and the one on 5th is a disaster as you say. One barely needs to blip the steering wheel at full speed to get through it heading West. And don’t even get me started on how few drivers understand how the thing works…. or that they need to let my bicycle into the lane before it at some point!

    2. DavisBurns

      Even the one on Anderson seems a bit small but it does work better than the one by the police station is really really too small. I wish I could post a picture of the Dutch Junction intersection. I think it would work. Well it does work. They have used them for many years. For the folks that think the sharks teeth and bike boxes are unique to davis, they are in other countries too.

  5. DavisBurns

    The cannery website says
    “The undercrossing is proposed east of the railroad tracks, beneath the East Covell Bridge and the F Street Channel”. Facilities along the west edge of the cannery and E Covell Blvd would converge and cross under the eastern end of the E Covell Blvd grade separation over the UPRR tracks.

    I’d like a picture of that!

    In looking at their pictures of the Cannery/Covell intersection, I can’t see how the cars will turn left when exiting the development. And it doesn’t look bike friendly at all. And at the new Cannery/J street intersection the Dutch Junction would be an improvement. Would post picture but it’s difficult with the ipad.

  6. Alan Miller

    First glance the recommendations look good, surprisingly so for a group not from town.

    I testified at a City Council meeting on The Cannery that the Faro Avenue rail crossing should be planned for in the design of The Cannery. A footprint for a bridge over the railroad tracks in The Cannery directly opposite Faro Avenue would allow a through route across Covell Village to allow direct bicycle traffic from Donner Avenue east of Pole Line via an underpass under Pole Line to Faro Avenue via an overpass. This would be an incredible addition to the off-road Davis bicycle circulation, connecting greenbelts in the NE sector to greenbelts in North Davis, keeping bicycles off Covell Blvd and traveling instead off roads 1/3-mile north.

    One person testified at the Cannery hearing that there was no need to build an overpass because they were moving the railroad. NOT TRUE. UNDERSTAND, THAT is NOT cetain and if it is ever funded is WAY in the future and INCREDIBLY expensive. We cannot forgo necessary city bicycle infrastructure to entertain the remote possibility of the fullfillment of some mega-developer’s wet dream of an insanely expensive, taxpayer-subsidized, unnecessary county boondoggle. We must plan and build this bicycle overcrossing with the tracks in place.

  7. DavisBurns

    Watched the city council meeting and presentation by the Dutch fellow. I am very impressed by the Dutch junctions and even the roundabout. I would like to see Dutch junctions at F street and Pole Line. Great investment in these consultants.

    1. Alan Miller

      Speaking from the meeting right now, agree on the Dutch study. What a concept: they looked at bicycle flow first, auto secondarily. Early on he said that if you provide only auto facilities, people will use autos; if you provide facilities for multiple-modes, people will use multiple modes. So simple, so common sense, yet so lacking, even still to a great degree in Davis.

  8. DavisBurns

    Yes, guys it was like we died and went to heaven! If you build for cars, cars will come, build for bikes, bikes will come! Yes it was a rare experience. Davis likes to be first so let’s do it and be the first city in the country to build roads that pit bikes first! We they showed the aerial view of F St and Pole Line, I could see how much better they would be with the Dutch Junctions. We went to bed happy,

  9. ryankelly

    I remember a bicyclist that was killed by a tomato truck that made a right turn from Rd. 102/Poleline to Covell Blvd and ran over the cyclist that was crossing Covell. The argument at the time was that the intersection would have been safer if the intersection had been “developed” with a channelized right turn lane. The cyclist would be in the median waiting for the light to turn and the truck would have turned right behind her. The intersection would have been even safer for pedestrians and cyclists if there was a “no right turn on red” at that intersection, allowing people to cross the right turn lane over to the median. The solution that was found, and how it is today, was to discourage pedestrians and cyclists from being on the right hand side of Poleline and to steer them to the bike path crossing on the east side of Poleline.

    I don’t understand how removing these channeling lanes would make it safer.

    1. Barack Palin

      “I don’t understand how removing these channeling lanes would make it safer.”

      I agree, and to add to that it much more convenient for cars to have that right turn channel. This shouldn’t be all about what’s more convenient for bicyclists, drivers should be considered and have a say too.

    2. DavisBurns

      Barack, why shouldn’t it be all about bicyclists? So far, its been all about cars. It isn’t like we want to put CARS on the edge of the road way and run them off the roads with our bikes. Now that would be wrong. When bikes have priority ONCE, you complain. Now you know what it has been like forever for bikes.

      One of cyclists biggest dangers are the cars that hit them when the car decides to turn right and can’t see the cyclist on the edge of the pavement. A right turn lane just makes it worse. The Dutch junction makes it safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Google Dutch junction and watch how they work on you tube. One video is worth a hundred thousand words.

      Here is a link for Dutch Junction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA

      Here is a link for roundabouts with cyclists having the right of way. It works! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEXD0guLQY0

      1. Barack Palin

        No, any road design should take into account what’s best for both drivers and cyclists. In fact, when I drive around town I see many more cars on almost every road I travel than I do cyclists. So why, as you say, do you now want priority? All I can say is that’s not the right attitude that’s going to find solutions. That roundabout with cyclists having the right of way looks like an invitation for multiple accidents. Now the Dutch Junction looks a lot safer, but I can’t buy into it if cyclists also have the right away. On less crowded streets than Covell I can see the Dutch Junction working, but no way in my estimation does that work on a busy street like Covell especially with bikes having the right away. Look at that video, there’s a near accident when a car has to brake hard to keep from slamming a bike.

      2. Anon

        Guys, guys, neither cars nor bikes should have “priority”. It is a matter of “sharing” the road to accommodate all modes of transportation! I watched the two videos. Loved the Dutch junction idea – fairly simple to implement. The roundabout would be much more difficult as it requires quite a bit of space, and the appropriate intersection to do it in. But I would keep an open mind.

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