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Debrief on Debris in the Bike Lane?

South-bound Pole Line just south of East Covell. Convenient to pick-up, not so convenient for people who want to use the lane
An hour earlier - most bikes are not equipped with headlights and the person on a bike might not see it.

UPDATE: The piles I've described in this post which were on or near the East Covell corridor have been removed. There are some others in the bike lane on Loyola between the entrance to Korematsu Elementary and Alhambra, and still nothing either here or in general to communicate to people driving motor vehicles that people on bikes may deviate from the bike lanes....


Last week's storm was the worst in ten years by many accounts, with serious damage to trees and property, a significant loss of perishable food and other problems caused by lack of power.

Obviously city staff, private contractors and others had their work cut out for them and certainly we applaud their efforts, though many cheered PG&E field staff and they pooped on their bosses (and shareholders).

From what I saw, arterial streets in Davis were cleared for the most part by January 28th, the day after the storms mostly ended. When out then to photograph the weird non-standard lane design on Lake at Russell I passed the dangerousafety radar speed sign on East Covell Blvd. that I blogged about last week.

I noticed that street sweepers had made at least two passes on the traffic lanes of East Covell, because there was a consistent line of debris that started a  foot or two into the bike lane from the number two lane. I noticed the same, um, edging on other arteries.

East bound 5th St, between the police station and Alhambra. Yard waste is often piled up here during main leaf shedding season, and someone's not gotten the message that it's both illegal and dangerous.

In the winter in Denmark - or at least in Copenhagen - bike lanes are cleared of snow BEFORE traffic lanes are cleared. It's not just about optics: Bikes have a tougher time with snow than do motor vehicles. Similarly, people riding bicycles have to ride around branches that motor vehicle operators can at least pass over slowly. If bike lanes on arteries are blocked with branches and other significant debris - and it's hard to a person on a bike to tell if something's dangerous or simply very annoying in them - they may have to divert into a traffic lane -- just like with the radar speed sign.

The radar speed sign is gone - perhaps as of Monday or Tuesday, I don't know why and they didn't get back to me - but the bike lanes are arteries such as E. Covell and 5th St are still there, a week later.

To be clear, I'm not all j'accuse about the situation, because everyone's clearly overwhelmed, also due to power outages that impacted City administration. But it seems fair to ask about priorities: What's the sequence for such extraordinary events? Traffic lanes on arteries first, then collectors (which seem to be done), then local streets? How do bike lanes fit in, at all? Is there a plan, even an improvised one?

Unfortunately the City already has a chronic problem with yard waste in local streets (legal under certain conditions) and in bike lanes (never normally allowed when living trees are shedding), and from what I saw this morning on 5th St roughly between the police station and Alhambra makes it clear that some of the same offenders in the neighborhoods on the north side of 5th are also taking an advantage of this situation. 

While it's understandable that some bike lanes may be blocked by debris that fell on them during an exceptional weather event, debris must not be collected and piled in bike lanes. Ever! It's dangerous to require a diversion out of the bike lane, perhaps especially when there's no communication to drivers about the situation.  Please write the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission at <btssc@cityofdavis.org> to tell them your opinions (about my opinions).

Enjoy my photographs and video from Wednesday morning (I re-checked Wednesday evening and all were still present; the ones that are intentional piles were prepared no later than Tuesday evening. )


Video: East-bound East Covell near Birch Lane. The traffic lanes were cleared, but was the debris removed or put in the bike lane?


Barbara Linderholm

Two points: First, any cyclist biking around in the dark with no light is being extremely foolish & irresponsible...get and use a good headlight if you will bike in the dark!
Second, it would be great if windfall debris were picked up sooner after a big storm...meanwhile the debris must be collected someplace, and that place must be accessible to crews who will come to collect it. Which leads me back to point one...cyclists need to take responsible steps to protect themselves by obtaining and using a good headlight when riding in the dark.


Indeed, what *is* the priority? It seems clear that we first ensure that people in cars can move around freely. This happens in an immediate, emergency-response sort of way. And only then do we consider the obstructions to walking and riding a bike.

If something big falls into the travel lane, the obstruction is IMMEDIATELY removed from the lane. Frequently it will be cut up, and piled into the bike lane indefinitely. The small stuff that falls or blows into the travel lane is magically swept aside (typically into the bike lane, or at least shoulder) by the normal action of fast cars on big rubber tires. A person can easily drive a car at normal speed through a debris field that would be impassible by a person on a designed-for-pavement bike.

In the meantime, whatever fell or blew into the bike lane remains there, and is joined by all the debris that is naturally or purposefully cleared from the travel lanes and adjacent properties.

Davis is clearly a Diamond-level car-friendly town. I'd like to see more effort put into supporting our Platinum-level friendliness.

Todd Edelman

Barbara: I erred in writing “most bikes are not equipped with headlights.”

To repeat a comment I received elsewhere on this: "While that may very well be true, it is irrelevant at best. At worst, it invites the inevitable and avoidable 'well, if a 'biker' chooses not to use a headlight (or helmet, or reflective clothing, etc) then that 'biker' clearly doesn’t care about his own safety, and perhaps deserves to die.' [Barbara, I am not saying that you wish death on anyone, but this response is a taking it just a bit further than "extremely foolish and irresponsible", isn't it?]

Second, it implies that adding a headlight to a bike is a big part of fixing this little annoyance. And it is not. From vast personal experience, an excellent headlight only marginally and only sometimes helps me avoid these. People in their CARS with huge headlights run into them!"

To add, "someplace" is clearly the problem here. There's no clear guidance, or least none that respects other Davis regulations. In the specific situation above the debris could have been moved to the adjacent parking lot. In others it could be simply left on the grass to naturally biodegrade, and branches placed so they're easy to pick up. But in any case, nothing in bike lanes, travel lanes or sidewalks.

Todd Edelman

Darell: About the debris in the bike lane and my assumption that it was the result of street sweeping, this is based on what looked like a clear line - the edge of a street sweeper's path - not so many hours after the storm ended. So the comparison with the snow clearance elsewhere is not quite as precise. I am of course familiar with the normal action of vehicles that makes everyday debris move to the side of a fast road.

Alan Hill

For me to have a headlight equivalent to a car, I would have to carry a very large, expensive and heavy battery . That’s not happening.
I agree that the city needs to review their priorities if we want to take pride in being a Platinum city for biking. That would start with maintenance of bike lanes and extend to design of bike lanes. When I ride around town, I am sure the design engineer has never ridden a bicycle!

Todd Edelman

Thanks, Alan. As you know, there are some very good bicycle lights, designed for urban use. With a special lens and other features these work surprisingly well. But these cost upwards of $150. Obviously many cannot afford these, and they shouldn't have to. Yet no automobile comes without lights.

If people who drive cars complain about people riding on bikes without lights, perhaps they will support a 1% tax on the sale of every new car. This would provide at least $250 for someone else to purchase nice lights. But will that actually make things safer?

Velocity on roads is best controlled with speed design, not speed limit signs. Perhaps lights are also a type of speed design element.

So... perhaps a better idea is for cars to drive around inside towns with lights no brighter than what's required for bicycles. That will likely make a lot of them slow down, especially when it's raining. That will make things safer, and create a demand for smooth roads with speedily-removed debris.

Todd Edelman

I clicked on the "Winter Storm Info" link smartly displayed at the top of the home page of the City's website.

It links to a page for which I have pasted relevant sections here on a Google Doc: https://tinyurl.com/1b4siobx

The text I've bolded and changed to red seems to indicate that "bike lanes" are a priority. Isn't debris in them an "immediate hazard"? Aren't they "roadways", or a component thereof?

Note that some Greenbelt paths have been taped off. That's correct action, but nothing similar has happened with bike lanes. As of yesterday there was nothing to e.g. suggest that people drive motor vehicles slower.

Curiously, I suppose, we're told to report bike lanes blocked by e.g. tree-shedding & green grass front yard narcissism seasonal debris on the non-emergency portal. But these are an immediate hazard to people on bikes. Last year a police officer told me that he sees leaf piles he just drives over them. But based on the City's webpage, seasonal debris is a 911 call, not a Go report.

Again, I realize that City staff and contractors are at capacity, though I hope they clear bike lanes ASAP. Right now either priorities are not being followed, or they need to be strengthened.

Ron O

In a town with as many trees as Davis has, branches and leaves are going to end up in the location closest to the sidewalk.

But yeah - I'd agree that they should be cleared as quickly as possible, on thoroughfares with bike lanes. Windstorms are usually predicted in advance.

In neighborhoods (which are not arterial thoroughfares), it is far less important. (Which no doubt comprise the majority of streets in Davis.)

And for sure, it seems ironic to create a safety hazard by putting up a safety sign (automated traffic/radar speed check station) in a bike lane.

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