There are lots of ways to spend a quarter of a million dollars, and with the municipal budget continuing to find itself in a poor state, one would expect that expenditures are scrutinized and prioritized.
Since this is Fresno, we know there’s nothing higher on the priority list than finding yet another way to widen a street. An upgrade, as it’s usually called, although the only thing being upgraded are vehicle speeds. And even that is questionable.
On December 15th, the city council took up the routine issue of approving a contract for a local company to expand an intersection to provide the ever-so-important right turn lane.
The S. Clovis and E. Kings Canyon Road Traffic Signal Modification Project will install a westbound right turn pocket at the intersection of Clovis Avenue and Kings Canyon Road. Installation of the turn pocket is expected to improve the efficiency at this intersection.
Yes, one would expect a dedicated turn lane to improve the efficiency of those looking to turn right in their private vehicle….
But what of everyone else?
In my calculations, this “improvement” negatively impacts many people.
Pedestrians lose out in two big ways. Well, three, if you include the fact that $250,000 could have probably built a whole lot of sidewalk in places without any…
1) Those crossing Kings Canyon find themselves with an even wider road to cross, and so an even less pleasant experience. Pedestrians crossing Kings Canyon must already walk past 7 lanes, and now it will be 8 (one of the lanes is an unstriped bus bay). That’s 96 feet, just to make it across a road.
2) And now they’ll have to deal with a lovely right turn lane, in which turning right on red as quickly as possible is almost the law. Those crossing north will have to be on their toes if there is a large vehicle in the right-through lane, because anyone wishing to turn right in the new lane will speed past the crosswalk line to get a good view.
Situations like this are extremely common. Some jackass in an SUV or pickup decides that he should stop halfway across the crosswalk. The vehicle in the next lane, looking to turn right, has no way to see if any cars are coming, nevermind the crosswalk. So he has to drive all the way into the crosswalk to look left, blocking, or even hitting crosswalk users.
Under the current design, a car in the right lane going straight does not allow those turning right to do so on red. The city calls this inefficient. For a pedestrian, it means they don’t have to worry about someone speeding into the crosswalk, craning their head to see if it’s safe to go without stopping.
So longer crossing distances AND added danger? What a way to spend $250,000!
Cyclists? Conditions worsen for them as well. There’s no bike lanes here, even though the road is wide enough. The widening does not appear to include space for a bike lane, so cyclists actually lose out on space. Many cyclists here use the sidewalk as well, and right turning vehicles are even more dangerous to cyclists using the crosswalk. In California, cycling in crosswalks is explicitly legal, so if a cyclist was moving east in the crosswalk in the above capture, he could be in front of the white vehicle and be invisible to the black vehicle which would be moving into the crosswalk.
How many bike lanes would $250,000 have painted?
And how about vehicles, whose efficiency we apparently value the most?
They’re not necessarily all winners either. Constant right turns-on-red aren’t very safe, especially for those making a u-turn. I’ve witnessed many instances in which a driver is so busy looking left for a space to turn that they don’t realize there’s a car right in front of them turning.
Here’s an example. Driving looking to turn right is so intent on looking left to see if he can turn, he misses the giant pickup u-turning right in front of him. If you don’t see this happen a few times a week, you’re not paying attention.
But safety obviously isn’t a consideration here, so how about the mission to speed drivers as quickly as possible? Well, a wider intersection actually means more delays. For Clovis Ave traffic, the yellow light timing needs to be extended to take into account the additional 12 feet. That’s wasted time. More significantly, it makes the pedestrian timing last longer. The newest MUTCD states that a pedestrian walks at 3.5 feet per second^. An extra 3.5 seconds will have to be added to the cycle for pedestrians to cross the added lane. That may seem insignificant, but it makes a lengthy traffic cycle take even longer, at well over 30 seconds needed to get a pedestrian across. As the intersection gets wider, cars actually spend more time stopped.
And the “best” part?
The intersection, where speeding traffic is a priority, is right by the proposed Fancher Creek development.
For those outside of Fresno, this project is supposedly meant to be a transit-oriented (TOD), walkable, urban paradise, and terminus of the future BRT line. A place where all the new-urbanism buzzwords can come together.
That’s what the press releases say anyway. Reality says otherwise. Nothing says “TOD” like “widen the roads!”. That, and the fact that the only ground broken on this “urban village” has been a cookie-cutter suburban CVS.