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Bike advocates say unsafe intersection near Sac State needs revamp

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Every morning, Sacramento resident Brian Lambert bikes through the trio of intersections in front of Sacramento State, and it’s one of the most stressful parts of his commute from Tahoe Park to North Highlands.

“The area is pretty complicated and not something you want to cross,” Lambert said. “Right there at H Street and Carlson, if you have to turn and there’s another lane coming from the other direction, it’s pretty scary.”

The route, called the Carlson Corridor, connects Sacramento State, the American River Parkway Bike Trail, River Park and East Sacramento, and saw two cyclists deaths in the last two years alone. Those accidents and continued complaints from bicyclists drew the attention of the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, who have compiled a two-part improvement plan that focused on a redesign of the infrastructure they believed was problematic for cyclists.

“The intersections weren’t designed with bicycles in mind, they were designed for high speed,” SABA Executive Director Tricia Hedahl said. “We’re working to come up with solutions that lower the speed and number of conflict points. We want drivers to know something has changed and they need to pay attention.”

SABA held a public meeting about the corridor on May 17 that drew more than 70 people. River Park Neighborhood Association Board Member Steve Harriman was one of the those in attendance.

“One of the fatalities last year could have had to do with the cyclist not being able to see the signal because it was behind him,” Harriman said. “If we put in a better signal at the intersection at H Street, it might eliminate some of the danger.”

Harriman said that most people agreed that something must be done to improve the area.

“The number one goal for our neighborhood is safety,” Harriman said. “There are really only two entrances to our neighborhood, and we’d like to see them safer.

Part one of SABA’s proposed improvements, the paint-only plan, is the less-expensive option and proposes to add the city’s first green-painted bike lanes through the intersection, as well as “bike boxes,” designated cyclist waiting areas at the head of an intersection that give riders a protected space to make left turns.

The plan also calls for intersection crossing marks, buffered, larger bike lanes, high-visibility crosswalk and advance stop bars and yield lines that will prompt drivers to stop behind the intersection.

Paint Only Plan.

[See a larger version of the image here]

Hedahl said SABA is currently in talks with the city to come up with funding for the plan.

“The city’s general funds for transportation have had a lot of stipulations on them in the past, but they are becoming less restricted,” Hedahl said. “That’s great, because it means that projects like this one may have more options for funding.”

Part two, the full-improvement plan, is the more costly option and involves intersection redesign mainly at H Street, but Hedahl said J Street will remain almost the same. It builds on the previous improvements by “squaring up” H Street and Carlson, or reducing the three lanes on H Street to two and using the reclaimed space to give Carlson a protected left turn lane onto H Street.

Full Improvement Plan.
[See a larger version of the image here]

“I do agree with taking out the lane,” Lambert said. “The area gets really confusing.”

The last part of the full-improvement plan calls for a separate, two-way bike path that runs along H Street, something Hedahl said she believes will be a great improvement.

“If you are coming out of CSUS, there’s a tunnel, and if you were to continue north, that puts you on the wrong side of the road,” Hedahl said. “You really should be where a bike lane should be. Students take the easiest path available: They use the crosswalk, but then go backward on the bike lane and will often take that sweeping turn on H Street and still be going the wrong way.”

Until changes are made to the intersection, Hedahl said she encourages people to send SABA and the city feeback, and urges both bicyclists and motorists to respect each other and follow basic traffic laws. She said she expects the paint-only plan to start by next year.

“The most notable thing I’ve seen is the amount of support we’ve received,” Hedahl said. “People really want to see this happen.”

For more information about Carlson Corridor, plan visit carlosncorridor.com

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