As road construction projects in Davis finish up this fall, the city will take advantage of the freshly paved roads to beef up bicycle infrastructure with new road markings and routes in an effort to continue encouraging residents to bike throughout town.
With UC Davis back in session, ushering thousands of bike riders back into the city, Dave Kemp, the city’s active transportation coordinator, wants to make sure all students — and residents — recognize and understand how to safely use the new infrastructure and markings.
“I just want to give a sense to people of how to use them and why they’re there,” Kemp said.
Perhaps the most common new marking bicyclists and motorists can expect to see on the road are shared bicycle markings, or sharrows.
A sharrow is an image of a bicycle with two arrows above it painted into vehicle lanes in the road. The symbol signifies a “shared-lane environment” between bicycles and cars.
“It’s really a safety awareness tool that traffic engineers use to identify bicycle corridors when there isn’t enough room to put in a bike lane,” Kemp said.
The markings mean bicycles may use the full lane, according to Kemp. It also encourages bicyclists to position themselves safely in the middle of lanes that are too narrow for vehicles and bicycles to travel side-by-side.
Sharrows can be found on First Street, which was recently repaved and repainted with many new markings, and they soon will be installed on several streets downtown and other widely used bicycle-corridors in the city.
All sharrows painted in front of schools will feature a green background in order to improve their visibility. Kemp says all schools that don’t already have bike lanes in front of them will receive sharrows.
Dual buffered bike lane
First Street also features another new type of bicycle infrastructure soon to be more common in Davis: the dual buffered bike lane.
Buffered spaces on both sides of the bike lane, Kemp says, offer bicyclists riding along a roadway extra room from the vehicle lane on one side and space between the on-street parking on the other. This eliminates the hazard of the “door zone.”
“It broadens the diversity of riders that we get cruising our streets because it creates a more comfortable environment to ride,” Kemp said.
Kemp says the lanes also act as a traffic calming measure, as the larger bicycle infrastructure often narrow the vehicle lanes on the road. The city staffer also wanted to stress cars may cross the buffered bike lane in order to access the parking area or to make right turns.
The new-and-improved bike lane on First Street has already been completed and the city also plans to install them on both sides of B Street between Fifth and 14th streets once roadwork finishes up there.
The B Street corridor improvements, embarked upon by the city to flatten out the road, should be finished this month and will cost about $800,000, to be paid for through the city’s general fund and Community Development Block Grant funds.
The First Street pavement improvement project cost the city a total of about $647,000, mostly paid for through the city’s street maintenance and repair fund and its sidewalk, curb and gutter maintenance fund.
Two-Way Protected Bike Lane or ‘Cycle Track’
One of the new features associated with the Drexel Bike Boulevard project, under construction now in front of Holmes Junior High, 1220 Drexel Dr., will be the two-way bicycle track running up from Drexel along the west side of J Street to the H Street tunnel.
Rather than bicycle lanes in both directions on opposite sides of the street, the two-way bicycle track entirely separates two-way bicycle and two-way vehicle traffic with a barrier of flexible bollards that keep vehicles from crossing into the bicycle lanes.
Under the new configuration, bicyclists, often students from Holmes, heading for the tunnel from school will be able to safely ride across J Street at the signalized intersection at Drexel, turn north off of Drexel onto the west side of J Street and travel up to the tunnel.
Kemp says those using the track should ride on the proper side of the two-way lanes and stay within the boundaries.
The only other idea, so far, for another bicycle track in Davis is at Sycamore Street and Villanova Drive in Central Davis.
The Drexel Bike Boulevard project, in general, will improve bicycle and pedestrian safety throughout the corridor running in front of Holmes Junior High.
Estimated to cost the city about $333,740, with funding coming in the form of a $159,000 SACOG grant and $174,740 from city funds, it’s expected to be complete by the end of this month.
After 10 years of planning and public discourse, the city finally will break ground on the Fifth Street redesign, or road diet, that will entirely reconfigure one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares by taking out two vehicle lanes and replacing them with bike lanes.
In addition to the lane reconfiguration, the project also will add a painted median, turn pockets and marked crosswalks, all in an effort to improve bicycle and pedestrian access and safety.
But in terms of new bicycle infrastructure, the Fifth Street project will offer two new types of markings, and they’re both green.
The first type is an on-street green marking, or green bike lane, painted along sections of the road where there is potential conflict between bicyclists and vehicles.
The purpose, according to Kemp, is to alert both modes of transportation that these locations on the road are utilized by both bicycles and vehicles.
For example, on Fifth Street at an intersection where a car can turn right off of Fifth through a bike lane that continues on through the intersection, that area would be painted green.
“Where ever we have these bicycles and motor vehicles sharing space we’re going to use these green markings to identify the conflict zones,” Kemp said.
Finally, the last piece of bicycling infrastructure is something calling a bike box.
A bike box is a large green square painted at a signaled intersection at the front of a vehicle lane, but behind a crosswalk, where bicyclists are directed to stop.
The box is positioned in the front, with cars not allowed to enter while waiting at a red light, so that bicyclists can move up to the front and increase their visibility to drivers on the road.
“Here we’re prohibiting a motor vehicle from entering into the green area,” Kemp said. “The primary purpose of the bike box is to get rid of the right hook type of crash where, at an intersection, a motorist and a bicyclist are traveling along and a motorist decides to take a right.”
The boxes as part of the Fifth Street project will be found on both the south and north sides of Fifth at B streets and the south side of Fifth at A streets. Kemp expects the boxes to be installed in January.
The Fifth Street project will cost the city about $1.9 million, paid for with a Sacramento Area Council of Governments grant, worth about $836,000. The other large piece of funding, about $800,000, will come from the city’s transportation and transportation roads funds.
— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash