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Downtown Sacramento is going to get more bicycle-friendly over the next year and a half, as the City Council gave the nod for the Department of Transportation to begin planning more bicycle lanes for downtown streets Tuesday night.

“The intent of the project is to create bike lanes on some of the most traveled downtown streets,” said Ed Cox, the city’s pedestrian and bicycle coordinator.

The project will be completed in two phases. The first phase involves painting bicycle lanes on a number of streets that are already wide enough to handle the bikeways without losing any lanes or parking spaces, Cox said Wednesday.

“We’re looking at J Street, I Street, Ninth Street, Fifth Street, 10th Street and Capitol Mall,” Cox said. “We’re essentially repainting them to include bike lanes.”

The second phase will involve removing one lane of vehicle traffic from some one-way streets and painting bicycle lanes on both sides of them.

The streets being considered for phase two are Fifth, Ninth, 10th, G and H.

Cox said the bicycle upgrades are going to be very similar to the way Midtown is set up, and with the project being in its earliest phases, no comprehensive traffic flow studies have been completed.

“Based on preliminary assessments, it seems the streets we’ve chosen will not be badly impacted by taking away a lane,” Cox said.

The funds allocated to the project at the City Council meeting Tuesday night amount to $629,000 of Measure A transportation funds. None of the money will come from the general fund, which currently faces an estimated $35 million – $40 million shortfall.

According to the staff report, the addition of bicycle lanes downtown is in line with the city’s long-term goals as decided in 2002. 

The project’s timeline is not set, but Cox said he hopes the design will be done in time to piggyback the project on the city’s annual street maintenance so there is no extra construction for drivers to navigate.

That annual street maintenance – which typically consists of sealing or re-laying asphalt – typically takes place in the summer.

Cyclists questioned downtown by The Sacramento Press Wednesday afternoon were in favor of the project.

“I was just thinking about bike lanes,” said Charles Davis-Burkes, who was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk of Fifth Street between J and I streets. “I was wondering what would happen if I got in trouble riding my bike on the sidewalk here, but my knee hurts, and I don’t feel comfortable riding on the street with it like that.”

He added that he thinks designated bicycle lanes would be a safer option than riding among the cars.

Cyclist C. Bradfield said he would feel safer with designated lanes downtown.

“There’s always danger,” he said. “Most of the drivers are pretty polite, but some idiots will all but run you down.”

Bradfield said he is a “big bike advocate” and uses the lanes whenever they’re available.

The bicycle lanes will give added safety and promote using bicycles downtown, said Downtown Sacramento Partnership Marketing Director Lisa Martinez.

“I think in general the Downtown Partnership is very supportive of encouraging people in the central city to use multimodal transportation – on foot, in a car and on a bicycle or public transit,” she said.

She added that being able to share the right of way between cars and bicycles will be better for the city in general.

“This is a good step in getting Sacramento to be seen as bike-friendly and really being able to have that as an amenity,” she said.

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.