For many Davis bicyclists, yard waste on the side of the road can be a potential safety hazard and a troublesome obstacle. Yet, following a meeting at the Davis Bicycle Advisory Commission, there is little reason to believe the obstacles will be cleared away any time soon.
The City of Davis Public Works department presented to the BAC the results of a Yard Waste and Bike Lanes Survey Project, a yearlong study of yard waste “pile placement” on a dozen Davis streets, to establish the degree to which they obstruct the path of cyclists.
The survey revealed that yard waste blocks bicycle lanes more on narrow streets than on any other, especially on certain parts of B Street. A large majority of yard waste violations occurred on the stretch of that road between East Eighth Street and 14th Street.
Yard waste was deemed in violation if it left less than 4 feet of clearance for bicyclists on single-striped bike lanes, or if it touched or crossed the line on double-striped bike lanes.
According to Sue Gedestad, assistant public works director, who organized the survey, available space is a prohibitive factor on narrow roads.
“The width of the street plays a big role,” Gedestad said. “Where do you put the piles of yard waste if there is not enough room on the side of the road to accommodate the bicyclists?”
Finding a solution to this yard waste problem is something the city has been trying to solve for a number of years. In April 2007, the city council approved the development and implementation of a yard waste containerization pilot program for selected streets in Davis. The city initiated the pilot to address “bicycle safety as well as the impact on storm water systems by yard waste left loose on the street,” according to the yard waste survey.
The Davis Natural Resources Commission had made recommendations to the city that yard waste piles should be stopped because of the damage caused to drainage storm water quality.
“The NRC was pushing for that idea because they said vegetative matter was affecting water quality,” Gedestad said. “Yet they had no tests as evidence of that.“
Despite extensive public outreach for the pilot containerization program, the plan did not go over well with the public, who expressed strong opposition.
“Common concerns were that the containers were too cumbersome, impractical or that there was not enough room for them,” Gedestad said.
According to Jack Kenward, vice chair of the BAC, using containers would have been a commonsense solution to the problem.
“I have a neighbor – I live at Village Homes,” Kenward said. “She’s an old lady who takes out one cart with garbage, then goes back and brings out a pile of newspapers as well. And then there are residents on the other side of town who don’t want to put a cart to the side of the road once a week.“
According to the survey, the city returned to the original yard waste system in response to the strong opposition, by which time the NRC had said that the impact of yard waste on storm water was no longer a factor.
The trouble for bicyclists remains in certain roads across town. In June 2008 the city of Davis began to implement “double-striping” for bicycle lanes, which helped push piles further to the side of the road. Yet this created potential violations of a city ordinance that says yard waste must be no less than 18 inches from the curb.
To BAC member Virginia Matzek, double-striping is not a feasible solution.
“There are simply roads that are too narrow to make this work, which is like saying double-striping works as a solution, except for when it doesn’t.“
Gedestad said the city will continue to make efforts to educate residents about proper procedure for yard waste pile placement. But for now, no changes will be made.
TOM MORRIS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.