Guest Opinion on Bicycle and Pedestrian Access on the West side of the Cannery Development
By Rachel Aptekar
The city of Davis should require that The Cannery development include a bicycle and pedestrian overpass (or underpass) to F Street north of Covell Boulevard, across the railroad tracks and the drainage channel. Such a connection, while expensive, is definitely possible, and would be a long-term asset to the community and the city.
While the Davis Bicycle Commission and Davis Bicycles! have made important recommendations regarding grade-separated bicycle connections across Covell to the south of the development, it is also critical for the community that there be a bicycle and pedestrian route to the west.
In April, the Open Space and Habitat Commission recommended that The Cannery developers be required to put in such a bike and pedestrian route across the railroad tracks and drainage canal to F Street.
The Cannery project proposes building 547 units on 100 acres. However, the existing neighborhoods between F Street and Highway 113 already contain many thousands of residences on a much larger acreage.
Without a bike and pedestrian connection across the tracks north of Covell, children in these two areas of North Davis — who likely will be attending elementary, junior high and high school together — would need to take the following route to get from one part of North Davis across the tracks to the other: bike a mile or so south to Covell, cross Covell southwards, cross the railroad tracks (either on the Covell Boulevard vehicle overpass or through the H Street tunnel), then cross back over Covell a second time heading north, and finally bike a mile or so back north to get to their destination.
This would involve biking up to an extra 2 or 3 miles and crossing Covell twice just to get across the tracks from one part of North Davis to another. Many kids would just end up being driven by their parents instead! And many adults would just drive themselves.
From recreational and open space perspectives, a bicycle and pedestrian access across the tracks north of Covell is important for Cannery residents to have reasonable bike access to the Northstar soccer fields, Covell Park tennis courts, the North Area Pond habitat and the North Davis Channel currently undergoing habitat restoration/revegetation in a combined Putah Creek Council/city of Davis project, as well as numerous other playground and recreational amenities along the existing North Davis greenbelts.
Such a crossing also would provide bicycle access for the many thousands of existing households in North Davis to the proposed urban farm and farm market on The Cannery property.
From the perspective of convenient bicycle access to businesses, and encouraging people to bike rather than drive for short trips, such a railroad-crossing also would provide the new residents of The Cannery neighborhood with a greenbelt access route for almost the entire route to the businesses at The Marketplace at Covell and Sycamore and the Covell Professional Center at Covell and Anderson, and would provide the thousands of existing North Davis households greenbelt access to the new businesses at The Cannery development and, through The Cannery greenbelts, to the existing businesses at Oak Tree Plaza.
Certainly, building a railroad crossing to F Street will be expensive, and there is a narrow footprint of land available along F Street, but it can be done (“landing” either at the vacant triangle of land just north of All-Star-Rents on F Street or on the vacant city land just east of the North Area Pond drainage and habitat area.
I was very impressed earlier this year by the forethought of a previous City Council who, in 1990, built a bicycle tunnel under Drummond Avenue in South Davis, which was then filled in for 23 years. That bike tunnel was recently unearthed when building of the New Harmony housing development finally allowed the completion of a large greenbelt loop in South Davis, of which the buried bike tunnel was a key linkage!
I hope that our current City Council will exercise similar forethought, and require that this development include a bicycle and pedestrian route to the west.
The choices that the city makes now are building the Davis of the future. Now is the opportunity not only to provide excellent bicycle and pedestrian linkages from The Cannery project to the rest of the city to the south and to the west, but also to improve linkages for the existing neighborhoods and businesses in Davis thorough bicycle connections to, and through, The Cannery.
If we do not take advantage of the current opportunity to create a direct bike linkage between The Cannery project and existing areas of North Davis west of the railroad tracks, the opportunity will be lost, perhaps forever — or at least for years, maybe decades or generations, depending on potential future plans for the development of the Covell Village land, and voter approval of any development plan on that property.
Now is the time to build this bicycle linkage!
We should build the best possible Davis for the future, and require The Cannery developers to include a bicycle and pedestrian crossing across the railroad tracks and drainage ditch north of Covell Boulevard.
— Rachel Aptekar has been a resident of Davis for more than 20 years. She is former chair and member of School Site Councils and PTA executive boards at Valley Oak Elementary, North Davis Elementary and Holmes Junior High, and has served as school representative to the Superintendents Parents Advisory Committee for three different school superintendents. She is past chair and current member of the Davis Open Space and Habitat Commission, and teaches biology and environmental science.