The blog “A View from the Cycle Path” uses the word “unravelling” to describe the approach used in the Netherlands to segregate cars and bikes, in order to create a safer, more pleasant, and faster cycling experience. It seems self-evidently a good idea; cycling along a quiet local street is very pleasant. In a more perfect world, we could ride along this quiet street all the way to our destination (or at least just around the corner from it). But in reality, in Sacramento, the local street inevitably crosses–or worse, ends at–a larger one.
Hopefully that road is a “minor collector,” with only two traffic lanes, generous bike lanes, and reasonably comfortable traffic volume. On a nice day, car drivers are soothed by the 15-20 foot wide lanes and don’t exceed 35 mph. You can make progress towards your destination–follow it over the railroad tracks, freeway, drainage canal, or subdivision boundary that cuts off the local roads. Pass a park and an elementary school. Eventually, though, your luck will run out.
You will find yourself at an arterial road, with no direct alternative (or sometimes ANY alternative–try to travel any direction but southeast by bike from Luther Burbank high school)
You are at the shore of an island of local streets, cut off from the market across the street by a moat of speeding traffic. If we want people to walk and bike, these islands need to be united. I plan to learn some GIS and hopefully create a map that depicts the islands, but I suspect that the most realistic way to join them together into larger islands is to focus first on the minor collectors.
These streets must be easily crossable by walkers and bikers, without second thought. Children must be able to safely cross them. Actual traffic speed should not exceed 25 mph, and there should be medians at intersections such that there is no need to cross more than one traffic lane at a time.
Improvement of the “minor collectors”, as I believe they are called by the city, would stitch together many of the islands. It would allow more people to walk and bike to school or the park. But the islands, though of greater extent, would now be bordered by even larger, faster streets. Most centers of employment, shopping centers, and high schools are along them. This is the next problem.
How can we “unravel” bikes from cars, if many (if not most) of the important destinations are along what amount to freeways?