To: Supervisor Provenza:
Thank you for your prompt reply to my email in which I recounted my witness to yet another public safety problem created by the Mace Blvd. “reconfiguration.” For your information, I am attaching the email that I sent to City of Davis officials after the first “fire station” meeting a couple of months ago. That email summarizes a number of aspects of the public safety and traffic crisis created by the “reconfiguration” (with the notable exception, of course, of new problem I called to your attention: the enticing skateboard challenge created by the bike lane barriers soon to be augmented, I understand, by “signage” slalom poles). Despite multiple meetings with and comments from residents, petitions, and "concern" and vows to fix the mess expressed by the City, yet the project continues.
I appreciate your invitation to join your small group for discussing and strategizing about this situation. In my opinion, anyone who was involved in the conception, development, promotion, touting, or defense of this “reconfiguration” has disqualified himself/herself from participating in this matter any further; those who caused this travesty cannot be trusted to effectively undo its damage. Please consider the following as my contribution to your “strategizing” which, in the end is really quite simple, as you will see.
(1) It is clear that there are no easy or inexpensive fixes or tweaks that will eliminate the significant public safety and traffic problems that this ill-conceived and fanciful “reconfiguration” have created, however well-intentioned. City officials should recognize and express this, accept responsibility for it, and not cast blame on prior administrations, the Dutch, or anything or anyone else. (However, do not wait for such expressions before fulling implementing the strategy discussed below.) The “reconfiguration” was an ill-conceived design from the start that did not reliably consider, among other things, the following:
- The main purpose of Mace Blvd is vehicular transportation. It is a main vehicular thoroughfare for residential South Davis and El Macero, and agricultural lands to the south. Bicycling along this vehicular thoroughfare is a secondary use and the nominal pedestrian and bicycle users have long been accommodated by the concrete sidewalks and marked bike lanes, as well as the pedestrian lights, signs, and crossing guards at the intersections between Montgomery Lane and Chiles Rd that were all in existence prior to the “reconfiguration.”
When Harper Junior High was constructed, children’s bike routes were deliberately channeled away from Mace Blvd (the direct route from our area) over the new bike overpass. It was recognized at that time that bike-riders, especially children, should not be encouraged to use the Mace Blvd thoroughfare.
There has not been, is not now, and will not be in the foreseeable future any use-justification for the elimination of entire lanes of Mace Blvd to create dedicated, concrete-bound, excessively wide, bike lanes nearly as wide as car lanes and wider, as has been done with this “re-configuration.” As discussed further below, this lane elimination and the wide concrete bike lane barriers have created serious public safety and traffic problems while achieving no improvement in the utility or safety of Mace Blvd.
- The “reconfiguration” did not reliably take into account how Mace Blvd has been, and is actually now being, used by vehicular traffic; if the planners did understood this, the “reconfiguration” was a deliberate attempt to create chaos. During the three decades in which I have lived and raised bicycling children in El Macero, I have been witness to the use of the Mace Blvd thoroughfare by local residential, as well as farm-related, vehicular traffic. There has been in recent years, and continues to be, significant residential development along both the north and south sides of the affected reach of Mace Blvd, a population that relies on this vehicular thoroughfare. The seasonal farm-related traffic was adequately accommodated with the pre-“reconfiguration” lane structure such that the farm implements and double articulated-tomato and other trucks could proceed slowly in the right lane and passenger traffic could use the left lane. Realistic suggested remedy for the increased traffic caused by traffic apps rerouting impatient drivers around a reach of I-80 via Mace Blvd is addressed subsequently.
The Cowell and Chiles intersections had been working smoothly and appropriately for the traffic on Mace Blvd as noted by City officials during the first “fire station” meeting. Traffic back-ups that occurred were caused largely by the traffic-metering on I-80.
Children bicycling to Pioneer Elementary School from El Macero used the North entrance and had a dedicated bike lane to turn onto Cowell where there was a traffic light and crossing guard. They reported that there were no safety problems. Children who cross Mace Blvd to Pioneer School have had traffic lights as well as crossing guards to guide and protect them for as long as I can remember.
- There was no record or history of chronic or serious vehicular or bicycle accidents in the area that City officials could cite as justification for an extreme bicycle-centric “reconfiguration” of Mace Blvd with the associated unequivocal, and extreme detrimental impacts on vehicular traffic, emergency access to multiple neighborhoods, and other aspects public safety along Mace Blvd, much less how such a hypothetical, though not realized, risk would be remedied by this particular “reconfiguration.” This project was nothing more than a solution looking for a problem, and a windfall of money begging to be spent on some sort of showcase project; in implementing this solution the City has created innumerable public safety and traffic problems that had not existed, not to mention wasting millions in taxpayers' (no, not “free”) money.
- Most significantly, this “reconfiguration” did not reflect any understanding of how it would adversely affect the emergency services provided by the South Davis fire station to much of the South Davis and El Macero. Thoroughfare constrictions, convolutions, and obstructions incorporated into this “reconfiguration” have been installed right in front of the singular South Davis fire station as well as along the entire main thoroughfare from the fire station to South El Macero and much of South Davis. Not only do the “reconfiguration” features significantly diminish the ability of emergency vehicles to expediently enter and leave South Davis neighborhoods including El Macero, they also significantly reduce and in some cases completely eliminate the ability of traffic to make way for the emergency vehicles to pass around them. The lane reductions have resulted in more frequent bumper-to-bumper traffic that is impassable by emergency vehicles. The new concrete barriers on both sides of the roadway in both lanes has made it impossible for traffic to move over to allow emergency vehicles to pass. Furthermore, the “reconfiguration” leaves emergency vehicles no emergency “shoulder” areas that they could access in an emergency. There is absolutely no question that the ability of the South Davis fire station to provide emergency services to El Macero and the other growing South Davis neighborhoods is significantly adversely affected by each aspect of this “reconfiguration.”
I found the assertion made by the new fire chief truly astounding – he claimed that the “reconfiguration” wouldn’t be a problem because the horns and lights on their vehicles could clear traffic and they could re-route if necessary! His assertions certainly did not reflect an understanding of the impasse to emergency vehicles created by barrier-bound bumper-to-bumper traffic in either direction in this reach of Mace Blvd that could not be cleared by horns and lights. To my horror, they also did not reflect his understanding of how an emergency vehicle would have to “reroute” in order to service much of El Macero and Mace Blvd area neighborhoods, in an emergency situation. The reality is that to reach the North entrance of El Macero (one, short, formerly-two-lane, block from the Fire Station) when Mace is bumper-to-bumper with traffic, emergency vehicles would, at best, be rerouted over about a mile and a half of residential streets to El Macero Drive, where there is a blinking red light that should allow entrance to North El Macero. In addition, this re-routed access through El Macero to the south El Macero area would be notably slower than direct access via Mace Blvd and South El Macero Drive.
The next alternative re-route for emergency vehicle access would be via Montgomery Lane miles farther and even less direct. If emergency vehicles accessed Mace via Montgomery, they would not be able to proceed northbound on Mace Blvd because of the bounded one-lane, bumper-to-bumper traffic with no shoulder access.
Either re-routing scenario would significantly slow emergency response to all of El Macero and neighborhoods to the west of Mace Blvd. Even if emergency vehicles were able to reach these residents in a timely manner, they would be significantly slowed or, indeed, prevented from exiting the scene to hospitals or elsewhere by, again, bumper-to-bumper traffic along Mace Blvd with no alternative egress and no options for traffic to make-way for emergency vehicles, even with lights and horns blaring.
In sum, owing to each and every each aspect of this “reconfiguration” South El Macero area residents on both sides of Mace Blvd are effectively blocked from the formerly assured rapid emergency service – both to the scene of an emergency and from the scene to a hospital for emergency attention. And the fire station is one block away!
Further, the “reconfiguration” effectively eliminates the only thoroughfare for this entire area of South Davis for larger-scale evacuation in case of major emergency such as fire.
- Whatever the concept of “traffic calming” means to City officials, it clearly does not mean smooth-flowing traffic and safe accommodation of vehicular traffic and emergency service vehicles that have long used this thoroughfare. If this “reconfiguration” indeed achieved the goal of “traffic calming,” the goal was folly.
- Prior to the “reconfiguration,” the only measures that would have been needed to truly improve the utility of this area of Mace Blvd to all users, and not in any way decrease public safety for bicyclists, pedestrians, vehicles, or emergency responders would have been the following:
1) widen Mace Blvd to the extent possible in all areas north of Montgomery Lane,
2) repair or replace the concrete sidewalks along Mace Blvd,
3) repave and re-stripe the roadway and bike path on Mace Blvd,
4) paint the bike lanes with green stripes if the City believes that to aid bike safety,
5) install a permanent, standard traffic lights at the Mace/Montgomery intersection and perhaps time it to disadvantage drivers taking “short cut” rural roads to circumvent parts of I-80.
Optional improvement might have been achieved with the installation of a second permanent, standard traffic light at an intersection on Mace Blvd south of the Montgomery Lane intersection. This could have further aided making this rural “short cut” sufficiently annoying and time-consuming so as to dissuade drivers and apps from continuing to recommend it, again without disadvantaging and threatening the safety of local residents. Of course, before considering, much less implementing, such additional traffic lights, the local agricultural users of this thoroughfare would have to be consulted concerning potential unintended consequences that are not obvious to the in-town local users.
One additional suggestion for those concerned with their children crossing Mace Blvd to attend Pioneer even with the lights and crossing guards could be to give them the option to enroll their children in Montgomery Elementary School to avoid that situation entirely.
Please do not further insult the area residents who have had this nightmare “reconfiguration” thrust upon them, many of whom have no voice in City elections. Do not launch or continue any public relations campaigns to tout the wonders of this “reconfiguration,” to try to convince people that they will really come to appreciate this “reconfiguration,” or to espouse that a bit of striping, signage, curb-lowering, traffic light timing adjustment, or any other modification short of eliminating the “reconfiguration” will correct matters. I assure you such will do nothing but provide even more fuel for their most justified ire.
WHAT MUST BE DONE FOR REMEDY IS THE FOLLOWING:
- Immediately HALT all further work on this project, including paving and striping, as there is no sense spending even more money doing work that will just have to be removed.
- REMOVE – not lower, modify, paint, or add signage to – ALL of the concrete bike lane barriers.
- RESTORE the prior lane configuration with 2 lanes in both directions, and dedicated turn lanes as were present prior to “reconfiguration.”
- REMOVE – not nudge, paint, tweak, reduce the height of, or otherwise adjust – the entire sea of rock islands built with the “reconfiguration.”
- RESURFACE the restored areas of Mace Blvd and re-stripe the lanes with the prior vehicle- and bicycle-lane configuration. If desired, paint the bike lane with green stripes if the City has evidence to demonstrate that that improves bicycle safety.
- SUGGESTED New Signage, if desired, along Mace Blvd to remind users of the following:
- “Cross only at Crosswalks and as Allowed by Lights or Crossing Guard.”
- “Bicyclists: Dismount Prior to Crossing and Walk Bike across Street before Remounting”
- “Watch Out for Cars, Trucks, Busses, and Emergency Vehicles”
I look forward to the complete restitution of the safety and functionality of Mace Blvd. and of the ability of emergency vehicles to again reliably service the neighborhoods of South Davis.