Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Day 9: Bike Culture

When Mr. E and I lived in Madison, our apartment was about 1 mile south of campus, so we could walk or take the bus.  Campus parking was almost non-existent for students (even for grad students), so another major transportation choice was the bike.  The area around the UW had great infrastructure to handle the hordes of bike commuters, including clearly marked bike lanes on the busiest streets and even some bike lanes that had a barrier to protect the cyclists from the drivers.

Here in Sacramento, we've noticed a growing bike culture over the past 10 years, primarily for the casual cyclist who lives on or near the grid that comprises Downtown and Midtown Sac and even parts of East Sac.  The City has gradually been making changes to create "complete streets" that allow much better and safer multi-modal transportation options to co-exist peacefully (this includes not only bikes but also pedestrians!).

Over the past few years, several of the busiest one-way streets have been put on "road diets" that slimmed them down from 3 to 2 lanes for car traffic and added bike lanes on each side next to the curbside parking. 

The only downside to this infrastructure change is that most of the work has been focused in Midtown, the area roughly bordered by 16th Street on the west, 29th Street on the east, the freeway overpass on the south, and the American River on the north.  This is fabulous for folks in that area but not so great for those of us who live west of 16th Street in Downtown Sac - it's rather frustrating to lose those narrow streets and dedicated bike lanes simply because you live at 9th & Q and the lanes don't extend that far!

However, another recent change shows some promise - the addition of green-painted bike lanes all along both sides of Capitol Mall from the Tower Bridge to the State Capitol.  I'm not sure exactly when these appeared, although I noticed them a few months ago (the photo shows them in progress, towards the western end approaching the Tower Bridge, which isn't pictured).  Even though there's no barrier to protect cyclists, the differential color marking is certainly more effective than a simple white line and a graphic sign on the street itself to indicate the bike lane.

I'm hoping more of this treatment appears around the City to embrace bikes as a preferred mode of transportation.  With the relatively flat landscape and comfortable climate year 'round, bikes are a great option to leave the car at home, especially for those of lucky enough to live on the grid.


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