Local residents filled the Davis Community Chambers to near-capacity on Friday to listen to street design expert Dan Burden present ways to make Fifth Street safer and more usable for all who use it.
Burden’s plan is what he terms the “Road Diet.” It would slim the number of lanes on Fifth Street to two or three, manage the same level of traffic flow, increase safety for everyone and create more space for bicycles and pedestrians.
The area of concern is what is known as the “Fifth Street Corridor,” that four-lane part of the road that reaches from A Street to L Street. Those who ride bicycles into or across town are probably aware it has no bike lanes, and it is also has one of the highest rates of traffic collisions in Davis.
This fact has not escaped Davis Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor, who attended the workshop.
“The primary issue is safety,“ said Saylor. “Fifth Street accounts for a significant percent of the crashes in Davis every year. So a few years ago we started trying to look at ways that we could reduce that number. Within a month or two we will have a few options available to present to City Council for consideration.“
Burden, founder of Walkable Communities, says that the old approach to creating roads is not sufficient for modern needs.
“Our history of road design is to maximize car capacity by widening lanes, and by adding lanes,” said Burden. “The result is the marginalizing of the pedestrian while increasing the danger for cars and cyclists.“
Burden’s solution is “the Complete Street – meeting car capacity needs while creating opportunities for all the needs of the community,” he said.
Among the proposed benefits of the Road Diet:
Sustain the same level of traffic.Improve driving safety and reduce car speed, create bike lanes.Easier, faster and safer for pedestrian crossing.Beautify the area, improve community space and improve property values.
Saylor said he understands that Fifth Street is a major thoroughfare used by many motorists, but recognizes its function goes beyond that.
“It’s also a residential neighborhood, and people need to cross that street to get to Downtown Davis,” he said.
Bill Emlen, city manager of Davis, told the Davis Vanguard that a full-scale renovation of the Fifth Street Corridor would be around $1 million. This may cause some in Davis to worry about availability of funds. Saylor says there are options available.
“We’re working at federal grants normally available that make cities liveable and walkable,” said Saylor. “If they aren’t available then the funds would have to come from within, and that would be a harder nut to crack.“
Some local businesses have expressed concern already, saying the plan would limit cars and customers to their downtown businesses. Saylor said he understands why they’re concerned.
“It’s an interesting issue on both sides. The question is what is the community’s readiness for change?” Saylor asked. “Many businesses are running on tight profit margins. And so they have a reason not to embrace change.“
Steve Tracy, vice president of the Old North Davis Neighborhood Association, is a strong supporter, and worries that misinterpretation of this plan will stop it from going ahead.
“There is no bogeyman here,” Tracy said. “This is a win-win situation. This is good for the drivers, it’s good for the bikes and it’s good for the locals.“
TOM MORRIS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.