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Improving Mack Road (a little)

July 18, 2018

The central city isn't the only part of the city getting some bike love as the result of ongoing road resurfacing projects.

While bicyclists get used to new buffered bike lanes on 24th Street and Elvas Ave. and a new protected bikeway on J Street, this week City of Sacramento crews started work to resurface 2 miles of Mack Road between Valley Hi Dr. and the Morrison Creek bridge just west of Deer Creek Dr.

When the roadway striping is eventually repainted, the existing bike lane will be enhanced with a 2-foot painted buffer, like the new lanes recently installed on 24th Street and Elvas Ave. near downtown. The space for the buffer comes from narrowing the existing traffic lanes, which are more than 20 feet wide in places (the City’s minimum standard for the width of a striped traffic lane is 11 feet).

As with the recent bikeway improvements installed in Midtown, Curtis Park, Oak Park and East Sacramento, this project is funded with state gas tax revenues specifically earmarked for road rehabilitation projects. The City has a policy of installing planned bikeway improvements whenever a street is resurfaced. With striping already included in the resurfacing budget, adding bike lanes costs almost nothing.

Buffered bike lanes on 24th St. between 2nd Ave. and Broadway

The new buffered lane will add some lateral space between bikes and moving vehicles, making Mack Rd. a little more comfortable for bicycling. Accommodating bikes on Mack Road is important because it’s the only continuous east-west street for more than a mile to the north and south and it's the area's main destination for shopping as well as service jobs.

Will the new bike lanes solve the problems bicyclists experience on Mack? It will help slow down traffic, which is the main factor in fatal collisions throughout the city – even drivers will benefit from this project.  But the speed limit on most of Mack Road is 45 MPH, a speed at which nearly every collision involving a bicyclist or pedestrian is fatal.  A year ago a cyclist died in a collision on Mack Road at Summersdale Dr.

Speeding is a major problem on Mack Road. Like most of the main roads in the South Area, Mack Road has very long blocks between signalized intersections -- more than a half-mile between the signals at Valley Hi Drive and Center Parkway and nearly three-quarters of a mile between the signals at Deer Creek Dr. and Brookfield Dr. at the west end of the project area. Long distances between signals and very wide traffic lanes make it easy and inviting to drive considerably faster than 45 MPH.

There are several alternatives to installing this type of bike lane that come with big caveats. A protected bikeway could provide a little more separation between bikes and cars, however, this kind of facility isn't recommended for a street that has the number of driveways seen along Mack Rd. Plus, there is no curbside parking anywhere along Mack Road, so creating true physical separation would require installing a median, which is far beyond the City's budget for a road resurfacing project.

A completely separated, off-street bike path might be the safest solution for a street this busy. Installing one would require the City to buy the necessary right-of-way on both sides of the street for at least 2 miles. That assumes that owners were willing to sell and the City could afford to buy, not including the cost of construction.

A cheaper and safer solution might be to look for an alternate route that parallels Mack, however, the nearest continuous east-west streets are Florin Rd. more than a mile to the north and Cosumnes River Boulevard about 1.5 miles to the south. The lack of continuous east-west streets other than these major arterial boulevards is a significant obstacle to improving mobility and safety for bicyclists throughout the South Area.

For now, enhancing the existing bike lanes on Mack Road is a worthy first step, recognizing that making arterial boulevards accessible for bicycling remains a huge, complicated and necessary challenge.

If you value this kind of information and SABA's work in our region, please consider becoming a SABA member.

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