My View: Mace Before the Redesign Was Dangerous for Kids and Bicyclists


Following my commentary on Mace from Thursday in which we called for El Macero residents to pay for their fair share of the roadway revisions that they were demanding, I received a letter in response which asked: “Why would El Macero have to pay for redoing a redo that didn’t need to be done?”

She raises the subject point: “In the first meeting we had with the city the manager said they have a grade for every street and intersection in Davis. When asked what our grade was on Mace he said it was a B!  Not a D! Not an F but a B. We were doing fine. No one consulted us about any changes and in fact they didn’t consult the county.”

I would first be tempted to respond: why should the bulk of Davis residents have to pay for roadway changes that do not need to be made at this point?  What we have seen for the most part is that traffic congestion occurs along Mace when traffic is at its worst on I-80.

For several weeks following construction, the roadway impacts seemed to be reduced, as traffic along I-80 ramped down from the height of ski season.

However, this past week, the road was again congested, at least temporarily, on Mace.  I noted after several weeks of smooth sailing going from Harper to South Davis in the other direction – southbound – that the traffic was backed up.  Again, I note this because clearly southbound traffic backing up on Mace is unimpacted by any road re-design.

I saw Facebook posts at 4 pm complaining about traffic along Cowell being backed way up, but by the time I drove through that intersection at 6 pm, it was clear in all directions.

It is worth noting that traffic was bad on Thursday pretty much everywhere. I had to drive from downtown out to Harper and Montgomery and then back to West Davis – the traffic as the result of the closure on L Street has generated traffic back ups all week.  It took three light cycles to make a left from Fifth onto southbound Pole Line around 5 pm.

In short – it seemed like traffic was just bad on Thursday evening.

But demands to restore Mace Boulevard seem premature at this point.  Staff warned in their staff report that, given traffic algorithms and Waze and other app technology, creating more capacity could result in the apps “routing more cars through the corridor … resulting in similar congestion problems.”

In other words, increasing capacity may simply encourage the algorithms to direct more traffic through the corridor.  We may make these changes, spend all this money, and it may not help at all.

The demand to fix things before we understand them could result in great costs that produce no clear relief from the problems of congestion.

But I want to especially call out the letter writer for the argument that the redesign “didn’t need to be done.”  Perhaps from the standpoint of a resident without children, who primarily drove through the corridor, she would be correct.

What was nice about Tuesday was we heard other voices as well.  For instance, a mother who had served on the Pioneer PTA as the bicycle program chair.  She pointed out the need to keep track of all the people using Mace, “not just the cars.

“When I was chair of the bike program, we didn’t actually encourage more kids to bike and the reason was because we didn’t want to cause more safety issues because putting small kids out on Mace when there isn’t protection between the cars and the kids is a little dangerous,” she explained.  She said, “It’s four lanes of traffic and it’s a very fast road.  People use it like a freeway.”

She pointed out it has been very little time since the road has been in use without construction.  “I would really like to see what this is like for the remainder of the school year and really pay attention to what the traffic patterns are going to be like,” she said.

Another South Davis resident came to public comment to thank the council for the improvements on Mace.  He told the council that the complaints about Mace “are not factual now that the construction is complete.”

He did acknowledge that “it was frustrating when the construction was going on.”

He noted that he lives to the west of Mace and has kids that he would like to be able to bike to school.

“Mace before the project was terrifying,” he said.  “There was no way that most people who live west of that street were going to allow their kids to go north or south on that street and then cross it.”

Another man who lives on the corner of Mace and El Macero is on the PTA of Pioneer with two children at the school.  He also voiced his support for the project as it current is, as a South Davis resident who uses Mace all the time.

“I’m very happy with the improvements that have happened to the road,” he said.  “Until now we haven’t really had reason to voice our support because we’ve been happy with the changes.”

He said, “How it was before… it was terrifying.  You would ride down the side of road and there would be tomato trucks screaming past you at 60 miles per hour within three feet of you.

“I took the kids on the bike path yesterday for the first time and it was glorious,” he said, noting the safe space, wide area and separation from vehicles forced to slow down.

These are just some of the parents’ views that were really expressed for the first time on Tuesday night.  As we noted, for the first, the views expressed during public comment were almost evenly split.

But the idea that there were not problems on Mace before the redesign is based on one perspective – the perspective of older residents, those without kids, and those who were not going to be biking or walking along Mace, particularly with young children.

Those from Pioneer living along Mace have a very different view.

My point on Thursday was that El Macero residents were demanding changes at the cost to Davis residents without offering to pay a fair share.  Neither they nor Supervisor Jim Provenza stepped up to offer a way forward in terms of cost.

The letter writer argued: “This was not thought through and it isn’t the fault of the El Macero residents. If anyone should be sharing the cost of the fix, it should be the city council members and the city workers that went to the Netherlands and voted to fix a road that wasn’t broken.”

Except that view is subjective and limited to the view of automobile users, rather than families and bicyclists.

At this point, rather than throw more money at this problem, I would urge the city to take the view of Gloria Partida and Lucas Frerichs – fix the immediate problems but also wait and see how the road actually performs over time before we make further changes.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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12 thoughts on “My View: Mace Before the Redesign Was Dangerous for Kids and Bicyclists”

  1. Bill Marshall

    “In the first meeting we had with the city the manager said they have a grade for every street and intersection in Davis. When asked what our grade was on Mace he said it was a B!  Not a D! Not an F but a B.”

    David… please tell me that an adult didn’t really write that?

    Confusing LOS delay with a “grade“…  LOS has little to do with ‘safety’, crash incident rates, or perceptions of safety… particularly for bicyclists and/or pedestrians… and folk like that want to tell the City how to design an intersection and/or street?

    There is a LOS E, but have never heard of an “E” grade…

  2. Craig Ross

    I was surprised by how many parents finally got up to point out that Mace wasn’t all fine and dandy before.  They had been intimidated previously.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Craig… altho’ the intersection was/is, not demonstratively dangerous/unsafe (look at ‘collision/crash’ data for over 20 years), it was a concern to many parents… and therefore passed on to their kids [and yes, I became sick and tired of the “how many children must die” BS that many citizens have embraced when they want things their way, many years ago]… so I reject the argument that the intersection was/is inherently unsafe… not demonstrable… and, there is no intersection/street design that can protect against “stupids” by drivers/bicyclists/pedestrians, etc.

      That all said, the intersection was identified (still?) as one where the City/DJUSD implemented a crossing guard program… to allay fears, and to perhaps deter some “stupids”, by controlling bicyclists and peds (crossing guards cannot legally “control” cars… if they tried, would lead to other “stupids”)… crossing guards, extremely low paid, often recruited from folk that are not necessarily ‘on their best game’, (sensory, knowledge, judgement) actually adds a potential for “stupids”… one of the main factors in crashes… the others are distractions (including too much signing/striping), criminal behavior, drug/alcohol, cognitive disabilities… human factors… can’t engineer around those, as much as folk would like to believe/demand they do.

      Minimizing paths of travel, number of conflict points, simple/clear signage/delineation ARE proven to minimize occurrences of crashes (hope all have learned that “accidents” are extremely rare)… the design of the ‘revised’ intersection tends to minimize conflict points (my opinion is, it also introduced others, but reduction overall), reduced exposure distance/time of exposure, but also complicated the signing striping (arguably).  Going back to “square one” is a “stupid”, in itself… coming up with a reasonably optimal (there is no ‘perfect’, folks) design will take time and practical experience, and be approached incrementally… and not done by vox populi!

      In my ‘not so humble’ opinion and experience…

      1. Alan Miller

        crossing guards, extremely low paid, often recruited from folk that are not necessarily ‘on their best game’, (sensory, knowledge, judgement) actually adds a potential for “stupids”…

        Well, now you’re gonna get the crossing guard defenders on you a**.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Yep… I can deal with that… it’s the truth

          Some were really good, but, with many problems with selection (by a vendor – so much for privitization) there was a high ‘attrition rate’… ask anyone involved in the program… there were some I’d trust with my safety… others I would not trust with the safety of a despised enemy… reality… even the vendor acknowledged problems, due to the “low-bid” mentality of City and DJUSD… the main rep (not mgt), I and others involved dealt with, was very responsive, first time we noted problems she investigated and dealt appropriately with it… there were several of us who monitored the training, and field performance of individual guards… they would all back up my statements… one was Tim Bustos, bike/ped coordinator at the time.

          There were ‘guards’ damn near sleeping on the job… there were many who were good… reality…

          Does anyone know if we still have crossing guards via a vendor?

          When I was growing up, we had ‘school safety patrols’ made up of 5th/6th graders (yeah dating myself, big time!).  Never had a crash involving students… we were unpaid, but highly motivated… something along the lines, ‘except for our attention, go I (or our sibs/friends)…’ CSAA trained us…

        2. Edgar Wai

          “When I was growing up, we had ‘school safety patrols’ made up of 5th/6th graders”

          When I was growing up, we had the same thing. They wore uniforms like scouts, but in different color. It was one of those public service-oriented after school activities/clubs.

    2. Alan Miller

      They had been intimidated previously.

      While yes they didn’t speak out in numbers, why would you assume ‘they’ were ‘intimidated’ as the reason?

      By whom? With what power? And if so, how did they get past that intimidation?

      1. Dave Hart

        On Next Door, the social media venue where all of the ‘organizing’ to dismantle the Mace Blvd improvements is centered, the overall tone went from bad to worse over time.  Use of CAPS to shout is one example and then there are the words chosen:

        “swindle of taxpayers money” “Brilliant thinking ! Spend spend spend.” “I’m in for a recall.”“Signage and stripes. What about our lane back. Oh ya the city would have to give the free money back. Make your vote count boot them out !”  “Yes time to get new politicians in Davis.”“The project is a blunder of money and the city should be audited for the way it was spent. And forced to give it back and make the corrections” ” They should be held liable for fraud and abuse of tax payers money”“So Poof. Vote them all out for not doing what is right for the public and find new ones that will. Look at making the council members represent the people not themselves !”“The citizens were clear rip it out !” ” “Oh, come to the Thursday meeting and watch the City officials wriggle around and avoid giving a straight answer to any significant question.”“I was thinking we should find out the mayor and the councils’ addresses and go blockade their streets at commute time. See how they like it.”“I like to keep a low profile, but I’ve finally had it with all the arky-malarky.”“The City is hoping we’ll be mollified and they can wriggle out of restoring Mace, We can’t relent or back down.” ” :“I don’t countenance fools and have zero patience with OFFICIALS and their word parsing.”“Let’s explore a RECALL campaign ??!!! Me = I’m sick and tired of POLITICIANS of every ilk”“Now in the future maybe THE CITIZENS, IF they go to council meetings, planning meetings, public comments, etc. BEFORE a project gets passed WE can stop THE POLITICIANS from doing what we don’t want.”“Bigger idiots = every city staff or politician involved”“My dog is smarter than the current traffic planners and engineers. Everything that comes to mind about this Mace Blvd. mess starts with F and ends with stupid.”“NOW they are going to do anything to try and quiet what is turning into a tidal wave of angry voters.”  ” “We are probably stuck with the re-configuration forever WITH some minor tweeking to try and appease the local peasants. But let’s hope for the best and if THE COUNCIL fails us, we shall see them in the next election.” ” Hope city council members don’t give themselves a little raise any time soon.”  “My dog is smarter than the current traffic planners and engineers. Everything that comes to mind about this Mace Blvd. mess starts with F and ends with stupid.”   “In response to an email I sent to Jim Provenza – telling him just what was needed to “correct” this mess (basically: #1 remove all new construction #2 repave and re-stripe as it had been)”“It’s folly if we cannot hold them to undoing it ALL. No tweaks. No adjustments. It’s ALL got to go.”

        So, yeah, the discussion was a troll’s delight. There’s no way most people posting under their actual name would want to jump in there and try to suggest that Mace Blvd needed some work to shift it from a hostile transportation environment for anyone not in a vehicle.  When someone would occassionally post in support, they would be hooted down. Everyone cannot expect to be as thick-skinned as the average Vanguard veteran. I’m as surprised as anyone at those El Macero residents and others nearby decided to take the time to support the project.  It speaks to how un-neighborly the critics have gotten over this issue.


      2. David Greenwald Post author

        One person who spoke up at a previous meeting was booed by a large mass of people – no one else spoke up in favor of the project. Several people told me that they were intimidated by the group and their conduct. I witnessed something like this myself at the most recent outreach meeting – when the city staffer suggested that going back to the original design was impractical, he was loudly booed and heckled. You don’t think that’s intimidating?

        1. Alan Miller

          Yeah, that is.  Didn’t realize that this group of ‘older white adults’ in Davis were acting like the group of college students at the ASUCD workshop on campus against an ASUCD resolution to honor Natalie Corona.  Anyone who spoke in favor, even when they acknowledged the concerns of these students, was shouted down and screamed at by a loud mob.  It wasn’t a workshop, it was a mob scene.  The ASUCD senators did nothing to control the mob, largely because the president left early, and those who took over were sympathetic to the mob.

          But those are students and a student government.  What you described happened in a City-run workshop?  And those running the meeting allowed such behavior?

        2. Edgar Wai

          As much as the city try to make the scene fair for everyone to speak, since the workshop was set up to listen to complaints to the city itself, the city was not in a good position to censor the anger of the complaints. The angry people could say that the city was being disingenuous.

          Maybe a third party moderator needs to be there. But ultimately, I think the ones supporting the project need to speak up to support the city council who is tanking the fire caused by the people complaining thinking that they were the only people the city was serving.

          The city should be the mediator. For everything the city tries to do, there should be a resident behind that agenda. When people complaining don’t see that resident behind, they don’t trust the city.

        3. Dave Hart

          In defense of the city, at the first meeting which I attended, I really don’t think they have ever encountered such hostility at a public meeting and were unprepared for it.  They need training on setting ground rules (no interrupting when someone has the floor, two minutes time limit, some sort of system to systematically recognize speakers) and making sure that anyone who doesn’t want to adhere to them is asked to leave.  Once 90% of a group agrees to ground rules, it is self-enforcing. Believe me, such a system works.  I’ve been there and done that in meetings that were even worse.  Even so, I think the city handled the meeting pretty well.  Yes, mob with pitchforks and torches pretty well characterized about 10% of the crowd but people like that have a corrosive effect on civility.


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