5th Street Redesign


  1. Project specifics and reasons pro and con
    1. Cost
    2. Pro and con, when the project was being debated
  2. History of the Fifth Street Redesign
    1. 1990s-2005: proposal considered, rejected by city
    2. 2008-2010: redesign considered again, council decides in favor
    3. Since 2010: long gestation period
  3. More information and links

Fifth Street through downtown Davis has four lanes, two in each direction. Between B and L Streets, it is just wide enough for the four lanes, with no space on the shoulder for bike lanes, or cars to park, and no separate turn lanes. Due to safety concerns of such a design, the City of Davis is now implementing the 5th Street Redesign, approved by the City Council in 2009.

On September 8, 2009, the Davis City Council voted unanimously "...that a road diet should be implemented on the Fifth Street Corridor providing for the reconfiguration of two traffic lanes with center left turns lanes and on-street bicycle lanes between A and L Streets and directing staff to undertake implementing actions." On April 27, 2010, the Council voted unanimously to approve the project description for the redesign, which allows the city to begin an environmental analysis.

5th_street_telephoto_looking_east_19apr.jpg5th Street shortly after new traffic signals were installed. View is looking east from C Street. The nearest signal pole is located at the fire station just west of E Street, and will turn red to stop traffic only when emergency vehicles exit the fire station. Farther away are signals at F and G Streets. Extra signal head at L Street can be seen far away just above the SUV in the center of the picture.

The first phase of construction (curb cuts for new crosswalks at several intersections) occurred in November 2013. The second phase of construction (new traffic signals and reconfiguring street lanes) is currently underway (as of mid-April 2014). [WWW]Current project information can be found on City of Davis website.

new_signal_5th_G_west.jpgNew traffic signals were installed at the F, G, and L Street intersections during the third week of April. They were deemed necessary because the existing left-turn signal heads were not properly aligned with the middle turn lane when new lanes are re-striped. Construction had been scheduled to be finished in February, but was delayed due to late delivery of traffic signal hardware.

Project specifics and reasons pro and con

5th_redesign_before_after.gifCurrent 5th Street configuration (L), and planned redesign (R) with bike lanes and protected left turn pockets.

Fifth Street and Russell Boulevard are the main east-west thoroughfare through Central Davis. Two car lanes in each direction extend from Arlington in West Davis, through downtown Davis, to east of Pole Line Road in East Davis. Bike paths run along the south side of the street west of A Street and east of L Street, but there are no bike lanes.

This redesign will change the four lanes to:

In addition to adding bike lanes, the redesign will make the street safer by placing left turning cars in left turn lanes, out of the way of through traffic. At present in the four-lane configuration, cars turning left at intersections without stoplights (C, D, E, I, J, and K Streets) block traffic in the left lane.
This lane re-configuration is commonly called a "road diet."


The City was awarded $836,000 in federal grants to construct the project, according to the [WWW]project website. In 2009, before the project was officially adopted by the City, proponents gave the following cost breakdown:

(Costs for the simple project without medians or changes to the curbs may have increased, or the $836,000 may include those extra features.)

Pro and con, when the project was being debated

Proponents claimed:
simulation_picture.pngA screenshot of the [WWW]simulation of the proposal.

Opponents claimed:

History of the Fifth Street Redesign

1990s-2005: proposal considered, rejected by city

The redesigned street, essentially as described above, was written into the City of Davis General Plan circa 1993.

In 2003 the Old North Davis Neighborhood Association presented the plan to the City Council and asked that the reconfigured street be implemented, as described in the General Plan. Split-phase signal timing at F and G Streets was implemented in Feb. 2005. That allows cars to turn left free of oncoming traffic, but it requires opposing traffic to wait through a longer red light phase and increases the wait time in all directions.

The road diet was studied by the city between 2003 and 2005. In the end, city public works staff recommended against the redesign to the city council. The city council voted to direct public works to continue to work on ways to make the street safer. Only very minor improvements to the street resulted, despite a conspicuous lack of crosswalks at most intersections.

2008-2010: redesign considered again, council decides in favor

In June 2008, the city council asked that city departments address the issue again. In September 2008, the Public Works and Planning Departments began a lengthy process to thoroughly study all the problems with this stretch of street (the "Fifth Street corridor"), gather input from all concerned community members and organizations, devise alternatives, present these alternatives, and gather input again from the community.

However, at the city council meeting on May 5, 2009, after many addressed the council asking that the process be shortened, the council voted to narrow the alternatives to only two: a four lane alternative with possible safety enhancements, and the road diet alternative, as described in the Davis General Plan.

During the summer of 2009, Davis Bicycles! and the Old North Davis Neighborhood Association took their message directly to the citizens of Davis that the redesign was needed: with a [WWW]Facebook group, tabling at the Farmer's Market and a petition drive. They actively lobbied the City Council to apply for funding through the SACOG Community Design Grant Program. The application for funding would prove successful.

At the City Council meeting on September 8, 2009, redesign supporters presented over 2,000 petition signatures to the council. (Months earlier, opponents of the redesign presented an opposing petition to the council with a few hundred signatures.) By a 5-0 vote, the council endorsed the proposed redesign. The resolution "endorsed" the redesign, rather than calling for its construction, because the community review process initiated by staff the previous year was still not finished.

On April 27, 2010, the Council voted unanimously to approve the project description for the redesign, allowing the city to begin an environmental analysis.

Since 2010: long gestation period

The project reached an important milestone in October 2012 when city staff, the City Council, and bike/pedestrian advocates of the neighborhoods along the street arrived at a specific design with exact lane widths, and pedestrian safety features: median islands and crosswalks at the C, D, I, J, and K Street intersections (which don't have stoplights). This design was approved by the City Council (item H on consent calendar) on Oct. 23.

In 2011 the city named A.D. Anderson as the consulting firm in charge of creating the specific street design, with [WWW]Alta Planning + Design as a sub-contractor in charge of community outreach. A.D. Anderson is a firm specializing in large, multilane street thoroughfare and highway projects with minimal bicycling and pedestrian amenities.

5thstreet_web_banner.gif The first community workshop under Alta Planning + Design was held on December 12th, 2011.
Project website: [WWW]http://fifthstreetdavis.org/ (Use the link above for current information from the city.)
This site includes information presented at the Dec. 12 workshop, and a form for submitting comments.

More information and links

Some news articles from 2011-13

The following links date from from 2009

Videos of simulation models from 2009 UCD Traffic Engineering study

Background reading on road diets


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2009-08-01 01:40:51   Good page, though this is the kind of thing that will draw lots of comments. So to start off, does anyone know how bus traffic and bus stops along Fifth would be handled under a narrow design? Would busses stop in the middle of traffic to pick up passengers, or would the road have to be expanded to accommodate another lane for the bus?

Also, has any consideration been given to an at-grade crossing of the railroad tracks on L Street to Olive Drive? I'm guessing it could absorb some eastbound traffic, at the very least, from the Olive freeway exit. —BrentLaabs

2009-08-01 02:56:03   This might be under the university's jurisdiction; but the right turn the buses take from Russell Blvd to Howard Way (MU) needs to be fixed. By adding either a right lane must turn right or a dedicated right slip road would allow faster transit times, I've seen buses and cars wait at this right turn for a while. —mperkel

2009-08-01 18:30:54   This is definitely a needed change. The lights at F and G St's are horrible and soooo inefficient. —JesseUnger

2009-08-01 20:00:58   I disagree with Jesse, and think the lights at F and G Streets have been working well since they were put on a split-phase program (with left turn arrows) in 2005. There are a number of very good points about how a "road diet" has worked for different streets in different communities. When I heard the presentation this spring from a "road diet" expert, there were a few things that did NOT work for me. He mentioned the positive effects for businesses, but none of the examples given seemed at all like Hibbert Lumber and their yard. There are a lot of trucks that deliver to them, and a lot of purchases that will never be made from them by bicyclists or pedestrians. He also said that right turners on Fifth would simply find a way to interface with bikes streaming to or from the University during rush hour — and that traffic would be held up if they had to wait.
I don't know that these are crippling flaws, but they made me feel VERY uncomfortable with the demands on 5/5/09 that the process be dispensed with or shortened. I really would like to hear described what the criteria would be for success after making the changes, and what the criteria would be for failure (and reversing the process). I'd also like to hear a much-broader spectrum of opinion about the changes. My concern is that some people who drive everywhere will decide to avoid downtown and patronize businesses on the periphery instead, never expressing their reservations about the "diet." —DougWalter

2009-08-01 21:42:36   I am very much in favor of the road diet. As it is now, I avoid 5th St when I am on a bicycle OR in a car. I take 8th St instead. And I think many others do this as well. So, the argument that putting 5th on a road diet will increase traffic on 8th doesn't really work for me. —CovertProfessor

2009-08-03 11:11:14   My concern: What would be the length of the backup in a one-lane system with the occasional holdups due to the train crossing? Right now, I have seen a lot of backup in the two lanes and am not sure it would not backup all the way to L street if confined to a single lane. Does this proposal address this situation that happens daily? —JeffWood

2009-08-03 18:24:37   I'm indifferent to a change, since I avoid 5th street like the plague, but the amount of traffic flow on 5th street versus other parallel streets is very different. At 5 pm, it is VERY busy on 5th street with two lanes. How will this change if we reduce it to one lane? People aren't going to change their habbits, just look at B st betweem 5th and 1st. I stopped biking that way because I felt unsafe with the crazy drivers at rush hour. The amount of cars has grown too large for the city to handle in its current state and reducing lanes on 5th street will make it worse.

Has anyone consulted with an applied mathematician or engineer about traffic flow? After all, this would be a good project for someone to evaluate. —BrandonBarrette

2009-08-04 06:03:55   Possible SACOG money for project approved by council [WWW]Fifth Street Project Could Get SACOG MoneyDavidGreenwald

2009-08-05 16:32:07   Video simulations from the recent UCD study are now on YouTube; I added the links them (see "More information") above. —RussellReagan

2009-08-14 19:39:08   I don't think we should be selectively bike-friendly: if Davis is going to be 100% bike friendly, then all streets should have bike lanes, or at least should be accessible without fear of being hit by the crazy drivers on fifth. And as someone who lives off of 5th, a bike lane would definitely encourage people to bike downtown rather than drive, which equals decreased emissions. The only thing that would suck would be the actual construction. If they do it, I hope it's a quick process!! —JesBisagno

2009-08-15 17:48:21   As nice as it would be to have bike lanes on 5th from A to L. But as a person who lives on 8th street I have been very much bombarded with a lot of speeding cars and noise from the traffic on 8th. So limiting the lanes on 5th would only cause more aches in other places. I also bike around town and to work in downtown Davis. And have found better routes to avoid bad streets without bike lanes. —MinhTran

2009-08-15 18:30:38   Bike lanes on 5th street are absolutely needed. I've occasionally found myself biking along that street, not realizing that there were no bike lanes, or not realizing that I had just turned onto 5th. It was very dangerous. Bikes are mixed in with traffic there, and it is hard to turn.

If traffic flow is a problem, perhaps the city could try synchronizing the traffic lights, so that cars don't have to stop at every block on many streets. —IDoNotExist

2009-08-16 00:39:52   I feel bad for anyone who will try to continue down 5th street outside of B-L streets as there will be no bike lanes on that part of 5th/Russell. I'm actually not sure about 5th street east of L, but I know west of A street that there is only a path on the south side of the road, which, if you are traveling west, means you have to cross traffic to get to the path. This seems like a tease to bikers. Why not just make all of 5th street like 8th street and keep the fast moving cars on Covell where they belong instead of right down the middle of town. —BrandonBarrette

2009-08-16 01:49:41   There are bike paths on 5th east of L Street, and the one on the south side of 5th west of A street also works well. I rode to school on my bike down 5th from West Davis for several years using the bike path and didn't have trouble. I usually rode through the City Hall Parking lot. Most of the trouble I had was between B and L Street, like at G street a car turning right ran into me. I do support the bike lanes, because the street is already a bad situation. I have seen cars backed up from F street in front of the Fire Stations driveway, and this was in 2007. —NickSchmalenberger

2009-08-20 14:01:09   For the time being, I wish the City of Davis would prohibit biking on 5th street, until a decision is made. Someone is going to get seriously hurt, most likely a freshman. I can't think of a more dangerous spot in Davis to either bike or drive. I've been in Davis for many years, both as a biker and a driver and there is nothing that annoys me more than driving down 5th street at night and having to change lanes to pass two bikers without lights leisurely riding side by side. I rode on 5th once as a frosh and was scared out of my wits. If you're biking, just take 3rd or 8th until the mess on 5th street clears up.

2009-08-22 06:16:48   I would like to see the actual study - as I am not convinced this will not create even more dangerous scenerios. Even in the video, which uses 25% increased traffic as peak traffic, I am not sure represents the real peak traffic load. Further, I see no train tracks in that simulation. My worry is that even in this short simulation, you see repeated areas where the left turn traffic backs up to block the traffic that would be going straight. In order to keep the single lane of traffic moving, the left turns will have to be reduced in length, and that just spells people running that light repeatedly - and that is foreseeable and dangerous - for bicyclists, pedestrians, etc. You are also going to have people 'going around' that left turn lane by entering the bicycle lane. Given the traffic that the road supports (and other roads are not going to be viable substitutes), this plan seems highly unlikely to have the desired effect - outside of a dedicated bicycle lane. I am open to being convinced otherwise. —IdeasAsOpiates

2009-08-22 07:41:46   Dear IdeasAsOpiates. In the case of a public safety crisis like the one we have on 5th Street, I will take facts and real world examples as my opiates. That said, to find the written summary of the model, please click on the link to "summary report" after you go to:


I would direct you in particular to the information and conclusions that begin on page 7.

As to the traffic volumes in the study, yes, they do represent a significant increase OVER the current traffic volumes. The UCD engineers used vehicle numbers in the model that are 25% higher than the current volumes during an evening commute when UCD is in full session. You are correct that this doesn't represent "the real peak traffic load" because it is in fact significantly HIGHER. And the road diet street still outperforms the current 4-lane street.

You are correct the model shows no train tracks. They were omitted in the model the City commissioned as well. It isn't possible to reflect the few random trains that appear in a week on these tracks, rarely during peak hour. We shouldn't compromise the safety of our street because of those rare events, anyway.

If you saw left turn traffic backing up in the video simulations, I think you were either looking at the video of the current 5th Street design, or focusing on F and G Streets. This simulation software is designed to evaluate through traffic on the primary corridor, in this case 5th Street. These videos were prepared using the existing signal setup for northbound and southbound traffic on F and G. Once this street is reconfigured, traffic on these cross streets should get the more conventional signals where the left turn arrows come on for a short time IF there are cars waiting in the left turn pockets. This is a very low volume of vehicles, by the way. The highest left turn count off of F or G is northbound G Street traffic turning left onto westbound 5th Street, 99 cars in the entire peak hour. 1 1/2 cars a minute will not cause much backup, or hold up oncoming southbound traffic much. The F Street left turn volume is 64 cars in the peak hour, about 1 a minute.

You also have a concern about cars hanging out of the left turn pockets when the light is red. You may have picked up this idea from the misguided Chamber of Commerce representative who ridiculed our schematic drawing of an intersection at a hearing a few months ago. He was looking at our image of the intersection of 5th and D, where the TOTAL number of cars turning left off of 5th Street in both directions during the peak hour is 27–less than one car every two minutes. I don't think that level of traffic will back up out of the left turn lane under any scenario. The highest volume of peak hour traffic turning left off of 5th Street at the F and G Street intersections is westbound G Street turning on to southbound G Street–69 vehicles in the entire hour. Again, with the light timing restored to roughly one minute for the full cycle, this is not a situation that will have vehicles hanging out of the turn pockets and blocking the single through lane.

I appreciate your last comment, Ideas, that you are open to input. You have nothing to fear from this proposed improvement to safety, traffic flow, and pedestrian and bicycle access. As hundreds of other cities have learned, there are no losers with this design. Steve Tracy. —stracy

2009-08-23 06:44:34   Brian (or someone else who opposes this thing) - you may want to reword and/or expand the section I moved your argument to. I happen to be a proponent of complete streets in general, and this redesign seems a really good idea to me based on the above-mentioned studies and relative low cost, so my current motivation for actively seeking counter-arguments is low. As Mr. or Ms. Opiates says above, I'm open to being convinced to go to the other side, but I tend to be convinced by facts (for example I don't see how the quoted $25,000 for repainting and <$500,000 for lights could reach the "untold millions" from that addition, so sources or further explanation would be good there). —BrettHall

2009-09-12 01:49:02   Does anyone know what happened at the City Hall meeting on Tuesday? Any progress? —JesBisagno

2009-09-12 03:47:24   There is currently road work on 5th street / Russell. Is this the same thing as the 5th street widening, or just regular repaving work? (There seems to be substantial repaving work going on all over the city...) —IDoNotExist

2009-09-12 08:32:43   Yes, there [WWW]has been progress! And no, the paving is separate. —CovertProfessor

2010-05-01 16:12:21   Looks like they're going to go ahead with the Road Diet. —Flynn

2011-03-24 16:49:37   Great. Traffic is slow enough..let's slow it down even further. The cops have NEVER issued a ticket for riding on the sidewalk through here...no problem....Hey Davis, how about fixing the storm drains instead of wasting money on shit like this? The flooding roads and potholes need immediate attention.... —JoshLawson

2011-09-21 21:48:04   We have ongoing speeding and exhibition of speed problems along the entire E. 8th Street corridor. E. 8th St. is a MAJOR bicycle corridor which connects at least five elementary, middle, and high school communities, the Davis Public Library, plus many UC Davis students heading to "A" St. in designated bike lanes. The posted limit is 25mph which is seldom adhered to. Motorists, commercial vehicles, contractors pulling trailers, garbage trucks, buses and SPEEDING emergency vehicles are all problematic as are "some" unpredictable cyclists navigating this mess. E. 8th St. between "B" and "F" is especially narrow, complicated by dozens of recycling bins, garbage toters and waste receptacles, some of which are left in the bike lane for days at a time. (I routinely call Code Enforcement).

A recent DUI fatality at E. 8th & Miller plus other accidents at E. 8th and "B" Streets necessitate speed enforcement. Is there signage residents can post on their front lawns? (i.e. "Stay Alive at 25mph?) Or are there Safe Route to School Funds to ensure the safety of this vital yet dangerous motor, cycling and pedestrian corridor?

I'm pro-cyclist (been riding since 1973) and pro-commonsense. I believe in "complete streets" wherever possible. However, E. 8th St. is a an unofficial "bicycle boulevard" for hundreds of non-motorists and motorists alike.

Q: Will the reduction of lanes on 5th Street increase motorists and commercial traffic on parallel streets like E. 8th making them more unsafe? Would a new configuration of E. 8th St. be appropriate, perhaps following the model of Santa Cruz, Palo Alto and San Francisco which make motorists drive one-way, yet provide cyclists with bi-directional access? Comments welcome. —fknochenhauer

2011-09-22 14:18:02   New NPR article and audio story about "Complete Streets" for all users of our city streets and expressways. A worthy article: [WWW]http://www.npr.org/2011/05/24/136585282/as-seniors-increase-a-push-to-make-streets-saferfknochenhauer

2011-09-22 14:54:15   Good read about "Complete Streets" as an urban transportation design philosophy: [WWW]http://www.completestreets.org/fknochenhauer

2011-11-30 02:30:40   The thought seems astounding to me that after adding bike lanes on the street and reducing the motorized trafic lanes from four to two, the traffic flow will increase. Wouldn't the traffic flow increase even more if there weren't bike lanes and the street was resigned? Of course people would say, "We want bike lanes!" Has any consideration been given to having elevated bike lanes? —BruceHansen

2011-12-06 16:10:36   Ouch. If there's such a thing as a good time to do construction anywhere downtown, it's summer. Moving it to the fall of 2012 is sad. —TomGarberson

2012-11-01 09:21:38   I live on 5th Street between B and L and I can attest to the high number of accidents that occur in this corridor. Anyone who thinks cyclists do not use 5th because there are no bike lanes is incorrect. Often they use the sidewalk making walking along 5th Street dangerous. Given the safety concerns I have from observing traffic flow, I believe this project is necessary. Safety trumps travel time. —rachelmesser

2013-01-07 12:44:45   This is one of the worst ideas the inept, out of touch city council has approved. What's next putting bike lanes on I80. This embarrassing idea will create so much gridlock at the peak traffic times. There are already various alternate routes that are very close by, screwing up one of the main arteries in Davis isn't a solution at all. In this economy with the already ridiculous rate of taxes we pay to reside in this city it is absolutely irresponsible of this city council to approve spending on this. WHAT A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY. Impeach the council. —PublicEnemyNumberOne

2013-06-12 10:29:01   City Council approves Fifth Street "Road Diet." Whether you like it or not, it's coming this August, 2013. During construction, we'll see traffic impacts on other parallel streets, especially 8th St. After that, who really knows. [WWW]http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/city/council-oks-fifth-street-redesign-plans-construction-likely-to-start-in-late-summer/fknochenhauer

2013-07-18 15:04:19   Not sure how this will all turn out. I personally avoid 5th street when biking and will continue to do so as I like the less trafficked routes downtown. :)

P.S. To PublicEnemyNumberOne, there is a bike lane on I-80...

2013-12-26 09:30:25   To jenb, The only bike lane on I80 is on the causeway and is a complete separate entity that does not effect traffic. This catering to bicyclists is a joke. Maybe the city should fix the parking crisis, or allow other businesses to open shop in Davis so all of us don't have to venture to West Sac, Vacaville or dreaded Woodland. Idiots!!! —PublicEnemyNumberOne

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