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Let me first say that the newly reconfigured intersection in the Booth/Keystone/California intersection is a greatly improved design, particularly for pedestrians. The wide sidewalks and "multi-use" path on the south side makes walking along that stretch a less harrowing experience. The fact that the bike lane along California Avenue heading east clearly enters the path with markings and green paint makes it an obvious spot for cyclists to continue up the little hill towards Newlands park and the Old Southwest, or "Shire."
After all, it wasn't that long ago that you would see something like this along this stretch of California Ave. Not exactly safe having a sidewalk that narrow and if you weren't fit enough to make it up the hill the only option was to do something like this.
So now the bike lane enters the widened path for pedestrians and cyclists going east. It's a safer option for cyclists for that stretch but unfortunately we now get to the....
As a cyclist continues up the hill as they reach the top and continue onto California and re-merge into the street and marked bike lane, there are no warnings or indications to drivers to expect to see cyclists exiting the widened sidewalk path. This is especially problematic if the cars are turning right onto Newlands Circle. My expectation is that most well-trained urban designers are going to know that one of the most dangerous conflict points for cyclists and automobiles is when cyclists ride on sidewalks and then enter the traffic lane. Given that this really is a widened and glorified sidewalk that cyclists are now expected to use, I expected that there would be some sort of indicator for drivers to mitigate this unsafe, and potentially deadly, conflict point.
The sequence of photos below illustrates this pretty clearly;
AND THE HEAD SCRATCHING....
As you enter this intersection from the north, along Booth Street and heading south, as a cyclist you have a clearly marked lane on the right. But here is the question...as a cyclist, if you want to head up the hill east on California, as a vehicle you should logically get in the left lane to make the turn onto California Ave. But then you are entering the auto traffic lane (which you are legally allowed to do even with the new multi-use path on the right). The problem is there is no access point as you make that left turn onto California Ave. to pop up onto the path. In order to access it you have to proceed straight across the east west lanes of traffic, backtrack a bit to the west, in order to find the green marked bicycle path entrance. The photos below, I think, highlight the conundrum.
The interesting thing about this is that as you approach the intersection traveling on Booth St., it is clear that the RTC expects cyclists on this stretch of road (hence the green marked bike lane). So why didn't they anticipate this rather odd situation to access the new bike infrastructure heading east. Many cyclists do actually use this intersection for just this purpose, me being one of them.
The above photo shows (if you look closely) the green access point for the path across California, on the south side of the street. But the left turn lane enters California on the far left side of the photo so a cyclist would have to ride diagonally across the intersection to make a pretty hard left turn from that angle, onto the bike path. Surely placing another ramp onto the path even 30 feet further east would make some sense in this situation.
As for now I will likely put in a query through Reno Direct to ask about this. But I believe it further illustrates the ways that the RTC or the City seems a bit impaired when it comes to making these kinds of pedestrian and bicycle improvements. Like the Midtown/Virginia Street redesign that so many pedestrians and cyclists pushed for something truly amazing and great and ended up with something better but rather "meh," this intersection at California is unquestionably better than what was there before. But it is obviously not completely thought out in terms of the way the urban space will likely (and legally) be used by cyclists even if a safer modification seems easily within reach.
Here's the PR blurb from the RTC relating to the intersection:
The California Avenue/Keystone Avenue intersection in Reno will reopen on Friday, August 9, at 7 a.m. with new, major improvements by the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County. The project improves safety and access for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians at this high-traffic intersection near Reno High School.
“These are significant, much-needed improvements the community identified in our Keystone Corridor Plan that will enhance the surrounding neighborhood,” said RTC Executive Director Lee Gibson. “These improvements provide better access, mobility and safety for all users.”
In addition to traffic-safety improvements and a new 10-foot multi-use pathway for bicyclists and pedestrians, the RTC widened sidewalks and added pedestrian ramps at the intersection to improve pedestrian safety and access for everyone in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The stairs connecting California Avenue to Foster Avenue were also reconstructed as part of the project."
For over 12 Years I wrote the Reno Rambler Blog covering everything from Bicycle Advocacy, Reno Politics, Popular Culture, and my experiences as a long-time cyclist.