Guest Commentary: Mace Mess – Calling It What It Is

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By Char Henwood

Here’s what it is, folks:  the Mace Mess is a very bad design.  It was bad when conceived in 2010, bad when the design was completed in 2013 (without a traffic study), and bad when installed (against South Davis residents’ strenuous objections) in 2018-2019.  We’ve lived with it for a year, and it is still a bad design.  At least one bicyclist has been seriously injured and ended up with a plate with 10 screws in her forearm.  She was not hit by a car – the bike trough got her.

Here’s what the Mace Mess is not:  It was not and is not a response to a safety issue.  There were no bicyclist/pedestrian car-involved accidents on Mace in the 10 years prior to the installation of the Mace Mess.  Residents have reported over 120 traffic incidents to the City Council since March of 2019 following completion of the Mace Mess project. From the perspective of South Davis residents, it appears that none of this information has been given to the design team that is theoretically developing an improved design to fix Mace.   It’s a miracle only one person has been seriously injured so far.

The Mace Mess is/was not an attempt to promote a safe bike route to schools.  The initial Mace project was intended to improve the sidewalks and to repave Mace and the bike lanes.  The safe route to schools rhetoric was tacked on ex post facto to get grant money from SACOG.  With SACOG and BTSSC input, the project was expanded to turn Mace, a major artery for South Davis, into a “residential” street, and to “force residents out of their cars” because South Davis residents are “too car-centric.”  Agricultural businesses South of Mace that use Mace to get their equipment across I-80 were never consulted.  The City admits they did not do a traffic study; they just barged in with a doctrinaire attitude and strong-armed the project to completion.  Now we have a dangerous design that the City would rather not fix because they might have to repay SACOG some part of $3M in grant money.  BTW, South Davis residents have not been able to get answers to questions about SACOG’s position on modifying the current (need I repeat it?) VERY BAD design.

The Mace Mess is not a pitched battle (as represented by the bike lobby) between young parents concerned about their children’s safety and ancient and vociferous residents who don’t care if other people’s children are injured.  Older South Davis residents sent their kids off to Pioneer and other Davis schools without concern and know that there was never a safety issue on Mace.  The bike lobby seems to want bicyclists to believe that the bike lanes will be taken away if Mace Boulevard is restored.  This is not what residents asked for and it is puzzling when people who are looking directly at proposed corrections with bike lanes represented on the slides react as if the bike lanes will be taken away.  The City has cherry-picked input on the Mace Mess bike troughs, when in fact for every bicyclist who has said they like the bike troughs there have been as many (plus some representatives of bicycling clubs)  who have pointed out that they are dangerous.

South Davis residents who drive (even the old ones) do not get up in the morning determined to run over bicyclists and pedestrians.  South Davis residents understand how navapps work.  South Davis residents understand that congestion on I-80 and navapps are big contributors to congestion on Mace.  South Davis residents just want Mace redesigned so that congestion clears as quickly as possible.  In short, we want the City to fix what it broke – Mace Boulevard.   It is pretty hilarious (and/or infuriating, take your pick) that the consultants’ possible solution that provides the second-best travel time on NB Mace is close to the original configuration, and that that the possible solution that provides the best improvement in NB Mace travel time is the old configuration plus a traffic light at Montgomery.

Until the last few months, the City has been reluctant to admit they made a terrible, expensive mistake and to accept the responsibility to fix it.  Claiming that the Mace Mess is solely the result of I-80 traffic and navapps, thus providing the City with a much-desired excuse to not fix what they have broken, is irresponsible.

And if the Mace Mess isn’t fixed, someone is going to be seriously injured or worse because it’s a VERY BAD DESIGN.


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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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4 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: Mace Mess – Calling It What It Is”

  1. JosephBiello

    Just a random question – looking at that pic it seems there is enough room for 2 lanes for cars (getting rid of that painted no go zone), a slightly narrower cement buffer and a slightly narrower bike lane.   Could have probably narrowed the sidewalk a little.  2 car lanes, 1 separated bike lane.  Wouldn’t that work?

  2. Craig Ross

    For the most part the problems on Mace have little to do with the redesign.  You might be able to tweak on the edges, but without fundamental change along I80 or Waze, it’s not going to change much.  I suspect the neighbors will recognize this after it’s too late.

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