Road diet for Freeport?

Scary stretch could get bike lanes, less room for cars

For Matthew Urner, a Sacramento City College student, riding his bicycle down Freeport Boulevard can be a near-death experience. Between the moving vehicles and the parked cars, there is just not enough room for cyclists.

“I almost got smashed by a large truck on Freeport. It’s not so bad by Broadway, but it gets uncomfortable and dangerous the closer you get to City College. What am I to do? The bus doesn’t run when I get out of class.”

Zach Waddle, who rides his bike to work at the bike shop, Bicycle Business, also knows how scary the ride down Freeport can be.

“Oh, it’s horrible. From where 21st [Street] turns into Freeport Boulevard at the railroad track to Sutterville [Road], there are no bike lanes—at all,” he said. “You have to watch your back.”

Urner and Waddle aren’t the only ones feeling the squeeze on this commute. According to Linda Tucker, spokesperson for Sacramento’s Department of Transportation, there are about 21,000 vehicles on this road daily, alongside the significant bike traffic.

After years of complaints from Sacramento City College and McClatchy High School students, community members and bike advocates, they decided something needed to be done. So they are putting Freeport on what they call a “road diet.”

The Freeport Bike Lanes Project would cut the number of car lanes from four to two along the stretch of road from Vallejo Way to Sutterville Road. Bike lanes would then be added to either side of Freeport.

In August the Sacramento City Council approved a traffic study and environmental review to see if this plan would be feasible.

The study will consider whether to keep or eliminate on-street parking, and the possibility of including a turn lane.

Mark Abrahams, president of the Land Park Community Association, weighed concerns about greater traffic congestion against hopes that people will ride their bikes more.

“There will be bumper-to-bumper [traffic] in the morning, it will be backed up. If there’s a turning lane, it will be easier,” Abrahams said. “Part of that will be relieved because people will use other streets. The trade-off is safety and promoting bicycle use and other forms of transportation.”

Carmen Doonan, who has been a stakeholder representative for the neighborhood regarding the project, agrees that adding bike lanes and a turning lane will increase safety on the busy road.

“It will increase safety for bikers, pedestrians and for drivers. It will help streamline traffic. Trying to turn anywhere is pretty risky but with a turning lane, it will be easier,” Doonan said.

Tucker says the project funding—about $300,000—would come from funds already set aside to repave that stretch of Freeport. The city also has some money set aside for bike-lane projects.

If the plan is approved, construction should be completed in 2013.

Abrahams and Doonan agree that they need community support before they can continue with any further plans. “The concern is that this is our only chance, if we do want to make changes. So we’re trying to be creative and think what could be possible, what people would be interested in, in the community,” said Doonan.