Ask the County Law Librarian-Bicycles and Sidewalks

Q. I just moved to Sacramento and have noticed many people riding bicycles around town. Biking to work would be ideal, but I’m worried about dealing with traffic in certain areas and would be tempted to ride part of the way on sidewalks. I have a hunch this is illegal, yet I see cyclists doing this pretty often. Could I be ticketed for riding my bike on a sidewalk? – Dan A. Sidewalks are invariably appealing to bicyclists: smooth, level surfaces that facilitate cruising and offer a cushion of safety from approaching vehicles and their drivers, some of whom may still be using handheld devices to talk or text. Despite popular belief, sidewalks can be lawful segments of bicycle routes, but we recommend researching local county and city ordinances, relevant signage, and the area’s official bike routes before risking a potential citation, or worse. Pedestrians will always have the right-of-way on sidewalks, and cyclists should always exercise caution, especially riding in areas with heavy foot traffic. Bike laws are generally a municipal matter, so your research should begin with the local county and city codes: the Sacramento County Code and the Sacramento City Code are available online and in print at the Sacramento County Public Law Library, or your local county law library. Sacramento County Code, Section 10.12.010 (b) states “notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision […]

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Cracks in the system

Marshall Park neighborhood resident Alfred Alvarez was notified by the city of Sacramento’s Department of Transportation that he would be required to make repairs to sidewalks bordering two of his lots on F and 28th streets. Since 2005, Alvarez and city inspectors have disagreed about what can be labelled as a defective or hazardous sidewalk. Alvarez’ sidewalks have been assessed as needing repairs costing nearly $10,000, which under Sacramento’s city code would require him, the owner, to pay for the cost of all repairs as well as administrative and inspection costs required by the city. In response to these estimates, Alvarez stated that repairs would be made “over my dead body.” This issue goes back to December 2005, when Alvarez was given his first notice to repair his sidewalks. He repaired them himself by grinding down uneven spots and resurfaced them for the sake of visual continuity. However, after reinspection, the city deemed his repairs unsuitable and required that complete removal of defective squares in his sidewalks would be necessary. Department of Transportation spokeswoman Linda Tucker said sidewalk repairs are made on a complaint basis and are done to protect the public as well as the homeowner. “It’s a liability issue to the homeowner,” Tucker said. In attempt to resolve issues with Alvarez, Tucker said the city has met with him “multiple times over the […]

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Underground Sidewalks Update at Preservation Commission Meeting

This Wednesday, August 5, Sacramento’s Preservation Commission will hear an update on the "Underground Sidewalks" survey project. This survey has explored much of Sacramento’s surviving underground sidewalk structures, and is preparing a detailed report on their current condition and historic context. An earlier meeting, held in March, outlined what the survey would do( and this meeting will present the initial findings of the survey team and report their progress. The final report on the underground sidewalks should be completed by September of this year. The meeting will be held at Sacramento’s City Hall, 915 I Street, in the City Council chambers on the first floor. The meeting starts at 5:30 PM and the Underground Sidewalks survey will be the first of several staff reports presented at the meeting. A complete agenda of the Preservation Commission meeting can be found here: Sacramento’s underground sidewalks are a side effect of a massive street-raising project, executed from the 1850s to the 1870s and intended to keep downtown Sacramento above water during the region’s frequent floods. Brick walls about 12 feet high were built at the street edge and filled with dirt, but the spaces between the buildings and the street were left open, and were the building owner’s responsibility to cover and fill. Over the past 130 years, many of these spaces have been filled in or demolished by subsequent development, construction and sidewalk repair. This survey, funded by a local […]

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City Will Survey Underground Sidewalks

Date: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 Time: 5:30-7:30 Location: Historic City Hall, 2nd Floor Hearing Room, 915 I Street On Tuesday, March 31, the city of Sacramento invites downtown property owners and community members to a Public Workshop to find out about the Raised Streets-Hollow Sidewalks Historic Survey. Join the Public Workshop, learn about the survey and ask questions. ———————– This survey, funded by a local nonprofit and a matching state grant, is intended to document all of the surviving "Underground Sidewalk" spaces in downtown Sacramento. In the 1860s and 1870s, Sacramento’s Board of Trustees undertook a project to raise downtown Sacramento’s streets above flood levels by building brick walls at the edges of the downtown streets and filling those walls with dirt. This resulted in streets as much as 12 feet higher than their original level. Building owners either used teams of screw jacks to elevate their building to the new street level or simply made their second floor into the new ground floor. Because the building owners were responsible for the space between their building and the street, most built brick vaults over the sidewalk area, leaving the old sidewalk as a covered but accessible underground space. Most of the street raising was done between approximately I and L Street, from Front Street along the river to 12th Street to the east. Over the intervening […]

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