Bicycles may soon be banned from certain Sacramento sidewalks if a city ordinance that went into effect last summer sees implementation.
Since last year, city officials have had the authority to ban bicycles from Sacramento sidewalks - they just haven't done it yet.
As bicycling grows in popularity, many cyclists uncomfortable with riding in busy streets are taking to sidewalks. City officials want to make sure people walking on those sidewalks are safe.
"Streets were often built with only two users in mind: pedestrians and cars, and we now have three users," Flo Cofer said.
She is on the Sacramento City County Bicycle Advisory Committee (SACBAC).
"We don't want to force bicyclists to be on the street with cars, where they may not feel safe, especially if the cars are moving at high speeds," she said, explaining the city's goal. "At the same time, we don't want them to be on sidewalks in certain places because the pedestrians are moving much slower and the collisions can also cause injuries there."
Sacramento's Active Transportation Program Specialist Jennifer Donlon Wyant said the city is beginning to explore which sidewalks might be candidates for prohibiting bikes.
"We want to make sidewalks safe for pedestrians. We understand that that's incredibly important," Donlon Wyant said, "particularly in our urban, developed areas."
In the same breath, she acknowledged the city of Sacramento has incomplete infrastructure when it comes to bicycles.
"We want biking infrastructure comfortable for someone who's 8 and someone who's 80," she said.
That means putting bike lanes on streets where traffic volume and speed may make cyclists feel unsafe.
A bike lane can be as simple as a sign designating a street as such - usually seen in low-traffic residential neighborhoods - and as constructed as a protected bike lane with a raised median separating cars from bikes.
What many people are used to seeing are the white stripes near shoulders, marking that area as a bike lane.
Jeanie Ward-Waller is policy director for the statewide California Bicycle Coalition.
"Part of the issue I think we're encountering in Sacramento with the sidewalk riding is there just aren't enough safe places to ride on, particularly main streets in Sacramento," she said.
She said even roads with striped bikes lanes can intimidate cyclists if the traffic is heavy and fast enough.
"People will choose to ride on the sidewalk where there isn't a safe place to be on the street," she said. "We don't encourage people to ride on the sidewalks, but we're also not going to tell people to be in the street with traffic where they're not comfortable riding."
The city ordinance allowing officials to ban bicycles on select sidewalks (10.76.010 Riding bicycles on sidewalks) also requires that those sidewalks be along roads with bike lanes or low traffic. A non-striped street with heavy traffic like the Broadway corridor, for example, couldn't have bikes prohibited on its sidewalks.
But the city has plans to reduce the Broadway corridor from a four-lane road to a three-lane road as part of its Complete Streets plan, Donlon Wyant explained, and the extra space will be used to create bike lanes there.
Jim Brown is executive director of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates.
"In a perfect world, you are designing and operating a street so that everybody can use it safely, so there's space for bicycles, space for cars, and, of course, that leaves the sidewalks for pedestrians," Brown said. "I think the city is thinking about this in the right way."
He and other bicycle advocates agree a sidewalk isn't the best place for a cyclist - but if the road along that sidewalk is dangerous, cyclists shouldn't have to use it.
"The issue came up several years ago, when an elderly pedestrian was hit and injured by a bicyclist," Brown explained.
No decisions have been made yet as to which Sacramento sidewalks will be off limits to cyclists. The city is still in the assessment phase at this point, but city officials say that when they do decide, there will be plenty of signage to let bicyclists know where they can and cannot go.
"The goal here is not criminalization. The goal here is to provide safety for everyone," Cofer said.
In the meantime, the city does have more bike lanes in the works. Donlon Wyant said three or four bike lane projects will be announced for the downtown area later this summer, and North 12th Street from the American River to C Street is slated for a major bike lane project, although ground won't break on that for a few years.
"We're definitely improving things for walking and biking, with a key focus on safety," Donlon Wyant said. "Safety is our number one priority."
She cited the city's Vision Zero traffic safety philosophy. Earlier this year, Sacramento City Council members approved the adoption of a resolution, stating, "The City of Sacramento will work collaboratively in a data-driven effort to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2027."
The city offers urban cycling classes for free. It is a one-time class held once a month. Classes for this month and next month are both booked, but the fall classes are still open. Sign up HERE.
Don't have a bike? No problem! The city is launching a new bike sharing program, and you can register now HERE. You'll start seeing the blue and white bicycles at hubs around town. Rent them, use them and return them at any of the hubs. It will cost $4 an hour. There's also a mobile app. The city calls it an affordable, healthy and environmentally friendly way to get around Sacramento.
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