Written by David Greenwald Monday, 03 December 2012 07:02
While the council expressed interest in creating a task force made up of downtown business and the broader community "to identify issues and solutions for addressing downtown parking issues," the Vanguard is not convinced that parking solutions should be the top priority for the downtown.
Vanguard offices have been located in the Davis Downtown for nearly a year now, and as a result, on nearly a daily basis, I have had to travel from the city's periphery to the core. At times that has been a treacherous and problematic trip.
Twice in a four-day period, as a pedestrian, I was nearly struck by vehicles. The first time was prior to a council meeting just before Thanksgiving. It was 5:30, dark and I had just purchased a burrito at Chipotle when I walked across E Street at the crosswalk, mid-block.
I'm nearly halfway across the street when I realize the vehicle coming from the south was not going to slow or stop. I had to stop, close enough to make contact with the vehicle as it whizzed by.
A few days later, on a Friday, I was walking across Second Street at the corner crosswalk, on E Street headed North, and was about a quarter of the way through the parking lot holding my one-year-old baby, and I saw a car making a left and realized that it was not going to stop. I ran slightly into the center of the lane and glared back.
As I mouthed a "hey, what the hell are you doing" she emphatically raised her hand to apologize. She clearly was not paying attention and felt badly that she put us in jeopardy. My thought was hey, I'm glad you apologized, but your lack of attentiveness to the road put myself and a baby in jeopardy.
While these are extreme examples, the truth is that the road network in the core is problematic and it is actually rather remarkable that there have not been more accidents. I have repeatedly been almost hit crossing the street, more often by bicyclists running the stop signs.
A few weeks ago, I was on a police ride along in the city of Davis, and the officer got out of his police vehicle and we stood at the corner of 3rd and F by Bistro 33. We were watching for bicyclists running the stop sign. What we saw at a crowded intersection was appalling.
Bicyclists blowing through the stop sign, not waiting their proper turns, not using proper lighting, all of them creating hazards.
The same night that I was nearly hit on foot, as I drove to the council meeting, I ended up having to stop my car mid-turn as a bicyclist rode through the crosswalk without looking. Later I had to stop short as a pedestrian jumped in front of my vehicle.
The city of Davis has created a series of four-way stops in the downtown. In light traffic, four-way stops are good ways to control intersections and slow traffic. The problem is that at critical times the traffic is heavy and there are multiple vehicles stopped at the intersection, sharing it with bicyclists who are not following traffic rules - and pedestrians who ostensibly have the right of way but often do not give cars enough lee time, meaning that they will cross and a car will have to stop in the middle of an intersection.
No one knows the precise order of operations and two modes of transportation really are not following the rules. With turns and the multiple modes of transportation sharing the intersection, it is mass confusion. I have seen so many near vehicular collisions and vehicle-bike and vehicle or bike/pedestrian collisions that it is amazing we do not get more collisions and injuries and fatalities than we do.
Frankly, the fact that we have not is more blind luck and, perhaps, divine providence than skill in street design.
There are also some critical intersections which lack four-way stops, that are problematic. One is at First and F. The southbound F St. traffic has a stop sign. The parking lot to the south of the intersection does. The westbound, on First St., traffic also has a stop sign, but not the eastbound.
So, technically, the eastbound First St. traffic, much of which turns left onto F, has the right of way. But many vehicles going west on First St. don't know it. The result is that they will cross in front of turning vehicles that technically have the right of way.
It is obvious the reason that there is no stop sign there on eastbound First St. is that it would back traffic up back to the Richards Underpass. But in solving for that problem, the engineers created a hazard.
Similarly, at Second St. and C St., the C St. traffic has a stop and not the Second St. traffic, but half of the time the C St. traffic assumes, despite the signage, that the Second St. traffic has to stop. All of the other intersections are four-way stops, but not that one.
Then up at D and Fourth St, you have the same situation where the Fourth St. traffic does not stop, but the D St. does. Adding to the problem, there is poor visibility when there are parked cars obstructing the view of southbound D St. motorists.
The question is, what can be done? One possibility is to exchange some of the four-way stops for traffic lights. But I spoke to a friend and he said that when G and 3rd St used to have a traffic light it actually sped traffic up as they attempted to get through the yellow lights.
One possibility would be to get the cars out of the core of town. The problem with the proposed E and F and 3rd and 4th Street parking garage is you actually bring the traffic right into the core. Cars have to either go through Fifth Street to E or F to get the parking garage or, if they are coming from the Richards underpass, they have to drive up E or F St to get the parking garage.
One idea that seems to be getting more traction again is the idea of an Olive Drive Parking garage that goes over the train tracks and allows people to end up at First St. and F St. They could then either take a trolley or walk to their destination.
Another idea would be to make the streets one-way and single lane. I understand that they used to have the streets one-way and two lane. That was apparently a problem as the traffic was able to speed up. By making them single lane, it would create enough congestions to slow down core traffic and it would limit the interactions at intersections to two traffic directions rather than four.
Each idea has some drawbacks. I prefer a way to limit vehicular traffic in the core.
What is clear is that parking is probably not the most pressing priority, but if done properly, it could be part of the solution if they can find a way to get the parking out of the middle of the downtown.
The proposed E and F, 3rd and 4th parking structure actually brings more traffic into the core. That could be handled however, if we make some of the streets one-way, limiting interactions.
---David M. Greenwald reporting
Brian, the future is now.
From yesterday's Enterprise:
This fall, UC Davis welcomed a record number of new undergraduates, including a first-year class that is more globally diverse and academically impressive than ever before.
“By attracting an increasingly talented and diverse entering class, UC Davis is clearly a compelling option for more and more outstanding students,” Chancellor Linda Katehi said. “Our new undergraduates and entire student population are tomorrow’s leaders and vitally important to our future.”
Among the most important overall trends:
* The university’s overall enrollment — including graduate and professional students — increased by 647, or nearly 2 percent, from last fall’s 32,653.
* New freshmen (5,208) are up 10.7 percent from last fall’s 4,705, and their number is second in size only to the 5,513 who enrolled in fall 2006. Their average GPA increased from 3.88 in fall 2011 to 3.96 this fall.
* New transfer students, most of whom come from California community colleges, reached a record high of 2,888, compared with last fall’s 2,770, a 4.3-percent increase. Their average GPA for college studies increased from 3.34 to 3.36.
"Their average GPA increased from 3.88 in fall 2011 to 3.96 this fall."
If you didn't know about grade inflation, where seemingly 90% of students at most high schools get straight-A's, you might think today's kids are twice as smart as children were 30 years ago. Alas, it's all a mirage. High school graduates (not unlike 30 years ago) still write poorly, have no math skills, have little grasp of American history, have a poor understanding of geography and basic sciences, and are woefully ill-prepared to enter the work world with their great grades and empty educations. Almost no one in the education industry ever gets fired for poor pedagogy.
32 percent of U.S. public and private-school students in the class of 2011 are deemed proficient in mathematics, placing the United States 32nd among the 65 nations that participated in the latest international tests administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). ...
California, the home of highly skilled Silicon Valley, has a math proficiency rate of 24 percent, the same as bankrupt Greece and just a notch above struggling Russia. By the time we get down to New Mexico and Mississippi, we are making comparisons with Serbia and Bulgaria. ...
Proficiency rates among African-Americans and Hispanics are very low (11 and 15 percent, respectively). But if one compares only the white students in the U.S. with all students in other countries, the U.S. still falls short: only 42 percent are proficient, which would place them at 17th in the world compared with all of the students in other nations. The only positive sign is the majority of Asian students in the United States (52 percent) who score at or above the proficiency level.
--Newsweek, Aug 28, 2011
”What (a cop and I) saw at a crowded intersection was appalling. Bicyclists blowing through the stop sign, not waiting their proper turns, not using proper lighting, all of them creating hazards.”
I agree that this is a problem, especially in downtown, where there is a heavy mix of pedestrians, cars and bicycles. I think the best solution is to impose a heavy fine on bike riders who fail to stop. I Googled this and found someone who says the fine in 2010 was $220. I suspect that there are likely $40 of court fees on top of that (in order to build Yolo County’s new Taj Mahal).
If the DPD prioritized enforcing these laws* and riders had to pay hundreds of dollars (more in most cases than their bicycles cost), the behavior would cease. But since riders are not caught nearly 100 percent of the time, now, they don’t think about paying the price for breaking stop sign laws.
*It is probably not allowed by state law, but I'd love to see Chief Black have the authority to deputize a special civilian force with the ticketing all bike riders who fail to stop at stop signs (or red lights) in the core area. The fines would give the City enough money to pay the civilian enforcers, and our sworn officers would be able to respond to more serious problems in Davis.
”One idea that seems to be getting more traction again is the idea of an Olive Drive Parking garage that goes over the train tracks and allows people to end up at First St. and F St. They could then either take a trolley or walk to their destination.”
This might work. However, the experience of the parking garage on 4th Street between G and the railroad tracks suggests it won’t. Visitors to the downtown want to park very close to the store or restaurant they are going to. They seem unwilling to park in that free and usually empty 4th Street garage and walk a few blocks to their destination. I am also doubtful that a trolley would be used or would be efficient.
As to the now-dead idea of a parking garage between 3rd and 4th and E and F Streets, it was never for more shoppers or more restaurant patrons. It was to be for more upper story downtown residents and office users. But its fatal flaw (aside from cost) was that the owners of the properties on 3rd and 4th never bought into it. If they had (or if the city had the balls to take their properties in eminent domain), a good plan could have been made for the entire block.
A good plan would have been one three-story building, with retail/restaurant users on the ground floor on all four sides, offices on the second floor and apartments on the third floor. Three stories of covered parking could have been in the interior, with rooftop parking above.
Instead, with the owners of the proximate properties in opposition, the city proposed a bad plan wedged into where the street-level lot now is. It was too tall, it harmed the neighboring commercial sites and it added very little additional parking at a very high price.
"High school graduates (not unlike 30 years ago) still write poorly, have no math skills, have little grasp of American history, have a poor understanding of geography and basic sciences ..."
It shocks me to speak with college graduates in Davis about American history. I am amazed at how little they know, and how much of what they think they know is entirely wrong. Most of the problem emanates from the low standards in our schools. We don't pay teachers to teach. We pay them to attend. But a secondary problem is that in order to know history, you have to read books. Americans, even college graduates, are too lazy to read.
This comes from a New York Times news story last year:
American students are less proficient in their nation’s history than in any other subject, according to results of a nationwide test released on Tuesday, with most fourth graders unable to say why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure and few high school seniors able to identify China as the North Korean ally that fought American troops during the Korean War.I'd bet my life savings that if we paid teachers to teach history based on how much history their students learned, the students would learn a lot more than they do now, paying teachers to attend, and guaranteeing bad teachers a job for life and no incentives to improve.
Over all, 20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders and 12 percent of high school seniors demonstrated proficiency on the exam, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. ... fewer than a third of eighth graders could answer even a “seemingly easy question” asking them to identify an important advantage American forces had over the British during the Revolution ... only 2 percent of 12th graders correctly answered a question concerning Brown v. Board of Education, which she called “very likely the most important decision” of the United States Supreme Court in the past seven decades. ...
Many teacher-education programs, Ms. Salvucci said, also contribute to the problem by encouraging aspiring teachers to seek certification in social studies, rather than in history. “They think they’ll be more versatile, that they can teach civics, government, whatever,” she said. “But they’re not prepared to teach history.”
I agree that enforcement appears to be a key to changing bicyclists behavior (not just in the downtown). I do think that some form of education could also help but the ways of delivering a useful education program are not at all clear to me.* I know Dave Kemp's draft 5-year bike plan has a greater focus on education and we really need to focus on this in my view.
The university is using an online "bike school" approach to educating cyclists about laws but it is offered only for those who have been cited for a bike-related violation on campus.** My understanding is that the DPD has balked at using a similar program in the City (but I am hoping that it is not a dead issue).
I think Davis Bicycles!, the City of Davis and the University are having some success in equipping bikes with lights but a ride of Sycamore from campus (my typical way home from downtown) at night shows the level of non-compliance is still high.
I smile at Rich's suggestion for "deputies" but I think we should look into this. Some of us biking busy bodies DO stop folks engaged in egregious behavior when we see it. Unfortunately all we can do is wag our fingers and sound like a bunch of old geezers: "Now sonny, you need to stop at those stop signs, dammit." But true enforcement is limited by the number of officers we have on patrol. While the DPD has stepped up enforcement this fall with special targeted enforcement days, we clearly have a long way to go.
* My wife is a student advisor on campus and she helps with the orientation of international students coming into the school in which she works. On her own she put together a short bike education session for incoming students and is helping them access lights. I wish something like this--using student advisors in various departments/schools--could be source of small group--dialogic--education on the main biking issues.
**However, anyone can access the online course (I do not have the link here but maybe someone can post it)
I have lived in Davis 13 years. Parking is NOT a problem relative to practically any other place I have been and I go to a lot of places in N. Calif. in the course of a year. It's only a problem of impatient people who want to be able to park on the same block as their destination and who are not prepared t spend the sometimes necessary five mins to look for a place. So is it that Davisite are just lazy and impatient or is it that the DBBA is under some illusion that more parking will dramatically increase business? We have parks with statues of dogs, with meteors, and prospectively an overly expensive JPA water system. Why are so many Davisite and council members always looking for ways to spend money when there are real needs out there like our schools?
"From what I've seen downtown if we hired another cop or two they would more than pay for themselves with all of the bike rider tickets they could deal out."
One new entry-level cop (starting monthly salary $5,446.27) costs us about $115,000 a year in total compensation plus the costs of his vehicle and equipment and training and so on.
If he works 225 days a year, he would have to write tickets worth $2,556 a week to Davis to break even. I have no idea if Davis cops come anywhere near that or exceed it or what.
I also don't know what share of the $220 stop sign violation fine goes to the City of Davis. I don't know if any of it goes to Yolo County or to the state or to the buy-rich-rifkin-a-toupee-fund.
A question for the Vanguard: how much money each year is Davis collecting from traffic tickets? And is that amount 100% of the fines levied (not counting the court-cost add-ons)?
> However, the experience of the parking garage on
> 4th Street between G and the railroad tracks
> suggests it won’t.
I lived here for a few years before I found out I could park in that garage at night. Since then I have asked dozens of people about it (even people that grew up in Davis) and none of them knew that the garage was open to the public. Maybe Davis needs to spend some money on better signs.
> All incoming UCD students should be required to take
> a course in bike safety in their first quarter here.
This will be a big waste of time and money, the problem is not that the kids (with an average High School GPA pushing 4.0) don't "know" they have to stop at stop signs it's that they don't "feel" like stopping at stop signs (or buying a light, or waiting until a car passes to cut across the street or giving pedestrians in the cross walk the right of way)...
South: Then the first thing the instructor should review is the penalty structure for violations. I don't agree that it would be a waste of time, but I understand it might be hard to implement. UCD would have to buy into it. But local bike groups could perhaps provide the course material and even make a little money by contracting to teach the classes.
When I moved here I had very little bike safety experience. I grew up in a place where it wasn't an issue. So I totaled my new bike within a month, repaired it, and then it got stolen. I spent the rest of my undergraduate career as a pedestrian.
"This will be a big waste of time and money."
For most entering students I think South of Davis is probably right, that it would be a waste of their time and a waste of the university's money. Much depends on where the student grew up and whether he understands that the traffic laws for cars apply the same to bicycles.
If all the "bike safety course" did was explain to freshmen these three things, I see a benefit in having it: 1) that, while riding their bikes in Davis, they cannot violate any traffic laws which apply to cars; and 2) that cops in the City of Davis will cite them for any violations on their bicycles; and 3) that the fines begin at around $400 (when you incluce all court fees).
"The problem is not that the kids (with an average High School GPA pushing 4.0) don't "know" they have to stop at stop signs it's that they don't "feel" like stopping at stop signs (or buying a light, or waiting until a car passes to cut across the street or giving pedestrians in the cross walk the right of way) ..."
Agreed. And I think the way to change their "feelings" is to catch them, cite them, fine them and spread the word that Davis cops are serious about enforcing these traffic laws.
SouthofDavis said . . .
"This will be a big waste of time and money, the problem is not that the kids (with an average High School GPA pushing 4.0) don't "know" they have to stop at stop signs it's that they don't "feel" like stopping at stop signs (or buying a light, or waiting until a car passes to cut across the street or giving pedestrians in the cross walk the right of way)..."
If my recent experience with a UCD Medical student (riding his bike in dark maroon scrubs) is any indication, I agree. After he blew through a stop sign directly across my path, I turned left to drive along behind him and when the traffic was clear in both ways, I pulled up along side him and signaled for him to stop so we could talk. I had rolled down my passenger side window. Rather than stopping he yelled, "Get the f**k away from me!" He then gave me the finger and then spit on my car as sped off.
No amount of classes are going to change that kind of mindset. He clearly felt entitled to do whatever he pleased. I pity his poor patients.
Parking is only a problem if you expect to park closer than is necessarily reasonable to your destination, as Herman alluded to.
As for bike-stopping enforcement, yes if they gave out fines ranging from $220-400 the practice of not stopping would largely cease. However I find these fines excessive if based on the strictest interpretation of coming to a COMPLETE stop. It's the situation and the attitude that matters and although laws are not written that way they certainly are and can be enforced that way. I am all for citing people who clearly are not yielding right of way and behaving recklessly.