My View: B Street Safety Over Convenience?

B-Street-3While we applaud the Davis City Council for looking toward better conflict resolution models with regard to safety concerns on B Street, it would appear we need to start with properly and adequately diagnosing the problem.

Yesterday morning after writing on the council meeting, I drove the route a few times. One of the problems is that B Street narrows around Seventh Street and so the road goes from a fairly wide road that has parking, a full bike lane and a striped buffer to a segment that has a bike lane next to parking with no buffer or margin for error between the parking, the bike lane and the traffic.

My video shot from my dash cam, shows the transition and the potential for problems.

Notice how the at the end of the block you have a high profile SUV followed by a truck with a trailer. During times of heavier traffic, with parents biking with their children, these present hazards. There is no margin for error and there is only a narrow space between the bike lane and oncoming traffic.

Reader submitted photo of a bicyclist just before Eighth Street riding behind her child.
Reader submitted photo of a bicyclist just before Eighth Street riding behind her child.

That problem is illustrated in this photo that a resident provided the Vanguard, which shows a kid and a parent biking down the street and the very small margin for error between the parked cars and traffic.

Reader submitted photo of a trailer that protrudes into the bike path along B Street
Reader submitted photo of a trailer that protrudes into the bike path along B Street

We are, of course, assuming that parked cars are going be to the curb side of the bike lane lines, not parked between the bike lane lines. This trailer is legally parked, however, its rear wheel is at least one third of the way into the street, in the bike lane – imagine there being a child trying to bike alongside a solid stream of traffic.

One thing that becomes clear from watching both the video and looking at these photos is that the problem here is not necessarily created by residents wanting to park in front of their homes. Council made the point that people with limited mobility are not going to be able to park away from their homes – but the problem here appears to be vehicles that have purposes other than transporting residents.

One step toward a solution might be council examining the parking uses along this stretch more closely to see which vehicles and residents have legitimate needs to park on this stretch of the street.

The current configuration forces the kid on his bike, who may be wobbling rather than simply riding his bike, right out next to vehicle traffic. Then the kid has to confront vehicles protruding into the bike lane, as well as the potential of car doors opening.

So you have created a situation where the kids don’t feel comfortable riding in these conditions, and the parents don’t feel comfortable allowing their kids to ride in these conditions. If the parents do not feel comfortable with their kids riding to school, they don’t ride. They end up going by car to school instead of biking.

One expert explained there should be two standards for a good width of a bike lane. The first is that the bike lane needs to be wide enough to enable two bicyclists to ride side by side in the bike lane and have a conversation. The second, and probably most critical for this situation, is the bike lane needs to be wide enough for a child to ride on the inside (away from traffic), with the adult on the outside (next to traffic).

The photo above shows a woman and her child biking down the street. The person who shot it saw them at first side by side in the bike lane, but when they crossed Seventh Street, the bike lane narrowed, she pulled back and got behind her child.

During the meeting on Tuesday, city staff told council that there was no guidance on the width of bike lanes. However, that is not true. The California Manuel of Highway Design has a chapter on bike lane widths.

The manual states that a curbed street with prohibited parking “is generally the most desirable configuration for bike lanes, as it eliminates potential conflicts resulting from auto parking (e.g. opening car doors).”

“As indicated, if no gutter exists, the minimum bike lane width shall be 1.2 m. With a normal 600 mm gutter, the minimum bike lane width shall be 1.5 m. The intent is to provide a minimum 1.2 m wide bike lane, but with at least 0.9 m between the traffic lane and the longitudinal joint at the concrete gutter, since the gutter reduces the effective width of the bike lane for two reasons.

“First, the longitudinal joint may not always be smooth, and may be difficult to ride along.

“Secondly, the gutter does not provide a suitable surface for bicycle travel. Where gutters are wide (say, 1.2 m), an additional 0.9 m must be provided because bicyclists should not be expected to ride in the gutter. Wherever possible, the width of bike lanes should be increased to 1.8 to 2.4 m to provide for greater safety. 2.4 m bike lanes can also serve as emergency parking areas for disabled vehicles.”

In the Complete Street Section of the City’s General Plan Transportation Element, it states, “Where limited street space exists, priority should be given to non-motorized modes to protect the safety and comfort of these more vulnerable users. Deviations from street widths in Table 2 to favor motor vehicles should be location-specific and result from either constrained right-of-way and/or safety considerations.”

Then it gives width guidelines:

Traffic-Guidelines

So the city’s standard is 7 feet for a bike lane width, but that goes up to 8 feet if it is adjacent to a curb.

The interesting fact is that the city recognizes that this is not simply a safety issue, but it is also an issue of “comfort.” Part of the problem with biking that stretch is the lack of comfort that bicyclists feel. As more and more people drive talking on their cell phones, we see more and more that distracted driving leads to more accidents than drunk driving.

If you are biking through that narrow stretch and a distracted driver is answering the phone – looks down and doesn’t see the bicyclist, the bicyclist is put in danger. The issue of comfort manifests itself in people avoiding that section of road and, because B Street is the safest passage past Eighth Street, they may avoid biking at all.

While I understand that there are legitimate concerns about where people with mobility issues are going to park in that stretch, it seems clear that the problems there are really not caused by people with mobility issues but by people parking vehicles for other reasons.

I can understand the council’s desire to use conflict resolution tactics and maybe that will enable residents who park work-related vehicles on that stretch to understand the problems those practices create, but if Davis wishes to be a safe community for bicyclists, the situation has to change because the status quo is not working.

—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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34 Comments

  1. Barack Palin

     the problem here appears to be vehicles that have purposes other than transporting residents.

    I agree, other than the vehicles that are used for other things than just transporting people I didn’t see a huge problem for the bicycles.  Maybe the city can come up with a solution for just those that park those types of vehicles on that road.

  2. DavisBurns

    Several people mentioned a large white truck parked in that section.  I think it lives there.  California allows trailers wider than is legal for vehicles.  That’s the boat lobby mostly but it means landscaping trucks can be oversized too…well all trailers like the one shown here.  I doubt it was parked illegally.  It’s just wide.  As another poster mentioned a landscape trailer with something sticking out killed a cyclist near davis.  If you’ve ever ridden near Berryessa on Sunday afternoons in the summer, you know what a hazard those wide trailers are.

    1. darelldd

      The trailer in the image is parked legally. Nobody disputes that. In fact, it could stick out over a foot more than it is in the image – and still not violate CA state law. And as for parked trucks – even if the tires are “only” a foot or two into the bike lane (legally), the mirrors (wide ones for towing for example) can stick out another foot or more – right at head level for cyclists.

        1. darelldd

          Ouch. I’m guessing that truck wasn’t parked! I have been *touched* by the mirror of a moving truck. My left tricep. Man, did that freak me out. Of course this was well before the 3-foot passing law, so I’m sure it was totally safe and legal….

        2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          Probably the second most infamous killing of a cyclist in Davis–surpassed only by the death of Ellie Gerhardy decades later–happened in the late 1970s on the (then much narrower) Mace Blvd. overpass. I don’t recall the name of the bicyclist. But what happened, as I recall, is he was biking south on the far right side of the roadway when a workman’s truck, also going south, passed him. There was some sort of heavy pole in the back of the truck, and it swung out and clipped the back of the bike rider’s head. I assume, because no cyclists wore helmets then, he was not wearing a helmet. However, I am also not sure if a helmet would have saved him. After that bicyclist died, calls in Davis arose for a much wider overpass with better bike lanes, and eventually, though not quickly, we got the current, much better overpass.

        3. Alan Miller

          I was fortunate in that the mirror was a pivoting type and only the bottom of the mirror hit my head and it just flipped up a bit.  Sure freaked me out, though!  The driver didn’t stop, although I’m sure he heard the noise.

  3. DavisBurns

    The maximum vehicle width is is 102″.  This includes trailers BUT the distance between tires can be 108″ and mirrors can extend 10″ on either side of the vehicle.  It’s the wheels and mirrors that put us at risk.

    1. Miwok

      DavisBurns,

      I think you mean 108″ max, Tires are 102″ on the outside, makes it hard to get 108″ inside a 102: tires.:

      35100.1. For purposes of subdivision (a) of Section 35100, the
      following apply:
      (a) The metric equivalent of 102 inches, 2.6 meters, meets the
      requirement of Section 35100.
      (b) The width measurement of any vehicle with side walls shall be
      made from the outside wall of the two opposite sides of the vehicle.

      35100.5. The total outside width of a cotton module mover operated
      on the highways pursuant to Section 35555 and the load thereon shall
      not exceed 130 inches in width. However, a county board of
      supervisors, with respect to any or all county highways within its
      jurisdiction or any portion thereof, may by resolution prohibit or
      limit the operation of cotton module movers exceeding the maximum
      width specified in Section 35100.

      35101. When any vehicle is equipped with pneumatic tires, the
      maximum width from the outside of one wheel and tire to the outside
      of the opposite outer wheel and tire shall not exceed 108 inches, but
      the outside width of the body of the vehicle or the load thereon
      shall not exceed 102 inches.

      1. DavisBurns

        I said the body of the vehicle can be 102″ wide max however the distance between the tires can be 108″ max.  In other words, the wheels of the vehicle can be 6″ wider than the body.  We are agreeing with each other.  I read the same thing you posted.

  4. Anon

    So I have some questions:

    1.  Exactly how wide is the bike lane in question on B Street at the narrowest part?  Is it at least 1.2 m wide?  If not, exactly how wide is it?

    2.  Is it illegal for an oversized vehicle to encroach into a specifically designated bike lane?

    3.  If encouraged and willing, where would someone with an oversized vehicle be able to park nearby that would not encroach into a specifically designated bike lane?  Are there any restrictions for parking oversized vehicles?  We have this problem in our neighborhood.  One guy literally parks a full size bus in front of his house, narrowing the lane in front of his house to one lane only.  People have to literally take turns getting through if they are going in opposite directions.

    4.  Is there any possibility, where the bike lane is narrowest, for the vehicle lane to be narrowed and still allow for Unitrans buses to get through, or is the vehicle lane as narrow as it possibly can be?

    1. darelldd

      I’ll take a stab.

      1.  Exactly how wide is the bike lane in question on B Street at the narrowest part?  Is it at least 1.2 m wide?  If not, exactly how wide is it?

      About 5′. So a foot wider than CA’s absolute minimum, and two feet narrower than Davis’ own standards. Note that the West side bike lane includes the gutter pan, reducing the paved lane to about three feet.

      2.  Is it illegal for an oversized vehicle to encroach into a specifically designated bike lane?

      No. As long as the vehicle or trailer is otherwise legally parked, it is not illegal to obstruct the bike lane according to CA law.

      3.  If encouraged and willing, where would someone with an oversized vehicle be able to park nearby that would not encroach into a specifically designated bike lane?  Are there any restrictions for parking oversized vehicles?  We have this problem in our neighborhood.  One guy literally parks a full size bus in front of his house, narrowing the lane in front of his house to one lane only.  People have to literally take turns getting through if they are going in opposite directions.

      I don’t know about restrictions for oversized vehicle parking. It is definitely a challenge as you’re intimately aware!

      4.  Is there any possibility, where the bike lane is narrowest, for the vehicle lane to be narrowed and still allow for Unitrans buses to get through, or is the vehicle lane as narrow as it possibly can be?

      Unitrans buses already run on streets that are narrower than the narrowest part of B Street. Without issue. For reasons unknown to me, Public Works tends to want to make streets wider than Unitrans requires.

  5. hpierce

    As another poster mentioned a landscape trailer with something sticking out killed a cyclist near davis.

    If you are thinking of an incident I am aware of, it was in the 70’s… an ag tractor, with a rack of harrows/discs in tow, overtook a bicyclist on Road 32-A, just east of Mace Blvd (Co Rd 104).  A tragedy, to be sure.  There were no bike lanes on that road then, but there was a centerline, which most drivers are loathe to cross.  There was ~ 1 foot of pavement between the fog line and the edge.  The “out-rigged” harrow/disks clipped the cyclist ‘upside the head’.  May or may not have had a helmet in those days, but in any case it is doubtful that it would have mattered.  As it was told to me, maybe second/third hand, the driver of the farm equipment thought they moved to the left to clear the cyclist, and was unaware that a collision had taken place.  As was told to me, the equipment operator was never charged for any crime/neglect.  It apparently was a true “accident”.

    This story is opposed to “Ellie”, who died near the NW corner of Pole Line & L.  The ‘killer vehicle’ was a semi-truck tractor (no trailers) headed to Hunt/Wesson cannery.  The investigation of that crash (notice, I DID NOT say “accident”), resulted in the truck driver being charged (as a felony, as I recall), and I think he was convicted.  Many still opine that it was a design problem with the intersection (and blame the City or county, and it was said during the Covell Village considerations, that there would be many more “Ellies” if development was allowed there), but having seen the crash reports, back then, I remain convinced that the driver of the vehicle was indeed criminally negligent.

    1. Anon

      As I remember the “Ellie” incident, the truck driver fled the scene and was found at the Cannery washing evidence off his truck.  Had he remained at the scene, I doubt the charges would have been as severe.  The reason I say that is I believe he was driving a semi-truck, making a right hand turn from Pole Line onto Covell.  Ellie had the right of way technically, but I could envision the possibility it would have been almost impossible to have seen her while sitting way up high in a semi-truck sitting on the left hand driver’s side, while she would have been right beside the truck way down low and difficult for him to see.  Depending on when the light turned green could also have been a factor.  I am not holding the semi-truck driver blameless, but that intersection IMO was dangerous because of the right hand turns of truck traffic.  Hunt-Wesson after Ellie’s death forced all truck traffic to take a back route to the plant as I recall.

    2. darelldd

      Odd to me that “thinking he’d moved to the left to clear the cyclist” removes the neglect component. Passing too close to another road user (close enough to cause a collision) is still a crime regardless of intent.

      In a less tragic sense, it is like a cyclists thinking that he’d come to a complete stop at the stop sign. He’d intended to stop. And thought he did. So we’re all good.

      I greatly appreciate the care you take in using accident and collision. Accident is always subjective. Collision is objective and should be used in almost every situation. I get tired of “accident” being consistently used as a synonym for traffic collision. It is as if all these collisions are pre-ordained, and unavoidable. Regardless of intent, many “accidents” are avoidable with more care, lower speed, better driving skills, improved visibility, less impairment, etc. And they’re all collisions. And sometimes people die.

      1. hpierce

        Ok, you twist my words, and appear to say I side with the driver.  I did not say he was not negligent.  I said he was not charged as being negligent.  Nice shot at me, though.

        1. darelldd

          I was taking a shot at nobody, hpierce. I was commenting on the situation that you were describing. The only comment that was aimed at your telling of it was to show genuine appreciation for you care in the use of accident and collision.

          I’m truly sorry that my comment came across as “twisting your words” and taking a shot at you. Nothing of the sort was intended, and this is not some sort of contest for me. Taking shots at commenters is not something with which I typically waste my time. Clearly I need to make the meaning of my comments more obvious. I can only ask that you re-read my comment with a mindset that is not expecting personal criticism.

    3. sisterhood

      I recall that afternoon very well as I was about five cars back at the intersection, arriving just as the emergency vehicles arrived. Such a senseless and preventable tragedy.

    4. DavisBurns

      I mentioned an earlier poster who talked about a cyclist killed by (what I remembered to be) a landscaping truck. Don’t know which of us got it wrong but I appreciate the correct information.

  6. Miwok

    From the fact the Staff did not consult the State Manual, and the obvious need for parking on that street, it seem the only way for the City to make the 7-8 block “comfortable for cyclists is to make it a one way street, or take some space out of people yards to make it wide enough for two way traffic?

    I don’t know what the Manual says about having two way bicycle traffic on a one way street, maybe that is guiding the squeezed configuration now?

      1. Miwok

        I advocate taking out a row of houses, but the City will scrape a yard first because people cannot aim their vehicles as haphazardly as they like. If the street is dangerous, use another. But I know we are not talking about my safety, they want to be safe in other people’s streets.

        I just like extreme solutions that solve the problem for the future, not having to do it twice, and spending the money twice to do it.

        Restripe, Widen, Widen again, finally rip something up!! Yeah!! Pay for it three times.

        🙂

  7. Mont Hubbard

    One thing that becomes clear from watching both the video and looking at these photos is that the problem here is not necessarily created by residents wanting to park in front of their homes. Council made the point that people with limited mobility are not going to be able to park away from their homes – but the problem here appears to be vehicles that have purposes other than transporting residents.

    I disagree.

    Parked vehicles that have purposes other than transporting residents are the most egregious, dangerous problem but they are not the only problem.  B street is the same width (38 feet) all the way from 7th to 14th.  And it is identical to the width of 8th Street, from B street to the railroad. Parking was long ago removed from 8th Street here, presumably because it was recognized that there simply isn’t enough room for parking and safe transportation. 8th Street works beautifully in this neighborhood, as well in fact as elsewhere along the 8th Street corridor. There is enough room for cars and bikes to move smoothly and comfortably without parking, but not with it.

    1. darelldd

      Parked vehicles that have purposes other than transporting residents are the most egregious, dangerous problem but they are not the only problem.

      As well, I will add that one of the vehicles that might appear to have a purpose other than transporting residents – a large pickup truck that is daily parked so as to at least partially obstruct the bike lane – is in fact one of the residents’ “transportation” vehicles. In today’s age of single-occupant truck and SUV commuting, you can’t really tell by looking at a vehicle what it’s use might be. Now a cargo trailer on the other hand…

    2. hpierce

      Have to call you on an “untruth”, Mont, even if it is inconvenient to your argument.  The right of way and the physical road improvements are narrower between Seventh and Eighth, than between Eighth and Fourteenth. That is a fact (and measurable).  But there are “deniers” all over the place. Would be glad to demonstrate this (roadway width) to you if you wish.

      1. darelldd

        hpierce –

        Could you mean that the General Purpose lane is narrower between 7th and 8th? I’m not sure what is meant by “right of way” and “physical road improvements.” The paved street itself between 7th and 8th is the same width as 8th to 14th. The difference is that 7th t0 8th has three lanes: General Purpose  (narrower here than North) plus bike lane, plus parking lane (these last two combined into one in the North). But as Mont and the staff report correctly states, the entire street is 38 feet wide from 7th to 14th.

        This  business of trying to fit too many “lanes” into a constrained space is the crux of this one block. The problem with the OTHER blocks is trying to use one lane for two conflicting purposes.

  8. Mont Hubbard

    Have to call you on an “untruth”, Mont, even if it is inconvenient to your argument.  The right of way and the physical road improvements are narrower between Seventh and Eighth, than between Eighth and Fourteenth. That is a fact (and measurable).  But there are “deniers” all over the place. Would be glad to demonstrate this (roadway width) to you if you wish.

    hpierce

    Silly me. It would indeed be inconvenient to my argument if it were an “untruth”. I had thought this for a long time based on numerous conversations with staff. And here are two quotes from the recent staff report background and analysis section on B Street:

    ” 7th Street to 8th Street   This section is constrained with a 38-foot curb to curb width”, and

    “8th Street to 14th Street   This section of the corridor is also 38 feet wide curb to curb”

    So thinking I was guilty of an “untruth” we just (an hour ago) went out to the street and measured the width of B Street at 7th, 8th, 10th, 12th and 14th, and also the width of 8th Street between B and C.

    All are exactly 38 feet give or take a few inches measured curb to curb (or to drip line when the curb is rolled). You might want to measure it yourself before submitting your retraction about my “untruth” and your mistaken width of the street. Where did you get your “information”?

     

     

  9. DavisBurns

    I like the idea of a reduced speed limit.  Hope someone brings it up when the meetings between residents and cyclists happens.  It is (dare I say) an innovative solution. I would add, it would need to be strictly enforced with nice fat fines for speeding…but probably they cannot give higher fines for one stretch or road.

    1. darelldd

      I like the idea of a reduced speed limit.

      Thanks for the positive feedback. Rest assured that I will be bringing up my suggestion at the community meeting. To that end, I just drove* (!) B Street from end to end in order to answer a few questions for myself. Timing, speed, distance, etc. It was… enlightening. B Street is almost exactly 1 mile end to end. 7th to 14th is almost exactly a whopping 0.5 miles. It is not hard to spend more time at red lights, than the time spent actually moving. Slowing down in this corridor is not going to be a significant inconvenience to anybody – though I’m certain it will seem like it on the surface. I’ll be interested to see how the idea is received.

      * In a solar-powered EV, so don’t turn me in.

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