Busy City Council: Some Speed Limits Increased, Bike Licenses Stalled

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At yesterday’s City Council Transportation Committee, the Council did approve the LAPD’s recommendation to place a moratorium on the City’s bike licensing program but only after also approving the LAPD’s other recommendation to increase speed limits on four surface streets in the valley.

The LAPD and Council Members present yesterday both feel that raising the speed limits is a necessary step to bringing the roads in line with state laws.  For a municipality to be allowed to enforce speed with radar and laser technologies they need to re-evaluate the speed limits on local streets and set the limits at the speed of the 85th percentile of drivers.  As part of the city-wide evaluation, parts of Saticoy Street, White Oak Avenue, Corbin Avenue and Mulholland Drive were discovered to have speed limits set below the average speed of the roads.

However, many still feel that raising the limits is a mistake.  Jim Anderson, the Pulbic Safety Committee Chair for the Woodland Hills-Warner Center Neighborhood Council complained that raising limits will make the streets more dangerous for everyone, pedestrians, drivers and everyone else.  Anderson also argued that there wasn’t sigifgant outreach to the Neighborhood Councils on this issue.  While the LAPD and LADOT both showed multiple points of contact with the Neighborhood Councils, Anderson complained that the contact came after the decisions were made and were proceeding despite an outcry from the community.

The Committee seemed resigned to no other choice of action other than raising the speed limits.  Councilman Richard Alarcon defended the proposal noting, "We’re not raising the speed of vehicles, they are already going that speed."  When challeneged by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Committee’s Aurisha Smolarski that drivers seeing the limit raised would likely increase their driving speed, Alarcon responded that, "well, then we can ticket them."

If at least 15% of drivers on these roads are breaking the current speed limit, enforcement along these stretches probably isn’t all that strict to begin with.  The Committee moved the increases along for a vote of the full Council with the caveats that votes on the proposals inside of the Woodland Hills communities would not have a final vote until there is greater outreach in that community.  The Council also pledged to fight the state law requiring these increases even though LADOT Assistant General Manager John Fisher stated that even if the law were changed it wouldn’t change the LADOT’s desire to speed up traffic on these streets.

Photo: Jakerome/Flickr

  • Damn, this speed limit increase thing is so stupid. The LADOT acts like their hands are tied, and that they are required by law to raise the speed limit.

    Quite the contrary, the MUTCD law that they are following allows them to use their professional discretion to keep speed limits low in the following circumstances:

    “When qualifying an appropriate speed limit, local authorities may also consider all of the following findings:
    1. Residential density, if any of the following conditions exist on the particular portion of highway and the property contiguous thereto, other than a business district:
    a. Upon one side of the highway, within 0.4 km (0.25 mi), the contiguous property fronting thereon is occupied by 13 or more separate dwelling houses or business structures.
    b. Upon both sides of the highway, collectively, within a distance of 0.4 km (0.25 mi) the contiguous property fronting thereon is occupied by 16 or more separate dwelling houses or business structures.
    c. The portion of highway is larger than 0.4 km (0.25 mi) but has the ratio of separate dwelling houses or business structures to the length of the highway described in either subparagraph a or b.
    2. Pedestrian and bicyclist safety.”
    -E&TS guidelines from pg. 114 in the MUTCD

    An engineer can make the determination to REJECT the speed limit increase and still be protected by the law. The LADOT talks about this like speed limit increases are a single track that can only spiral upward, but the state does give them the legal authority to sidestep speed increases and still use radar.

    I am not a lawyer, but this seems pretty clear.

  • This is unreal. In the wake of LADOT’s horrific DASH accident, the LAPD are literally going to suggest that somehow INCREASING speeds makes a road SAFER for pedestrians or cyclists or even other motorists?

    Sorry to have to say this, but: I can’t deal with this.

    Note to LAPD: Please think about the safety of all people using the street when making assessments about appropriate speeds on a roadway.

  • Allen T

    As long as the LADOT keeps pushing automobile efficiency over all other safety considerations, then more people will die on our streets.

  • C. Phylis

    This fucking stupid. Who do we need to contact Newton?

  • Damien, Don’t forget Fallbrook Avenue for a total of FIVE streets in the West Valley that are up for speed limit increases.

    The proposed speed limit increases come in groups of six. A couple of waves ago, Zelsah was dropped because of community concerns. In this group, Wells was dropped after the community pointed out that the street had speed tables and went past a park, an orphanage and a school.

    The Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council will be convening a Town Hall with the LADOT presenting the speed limit increases to the community. (1.27.09)

    Good Times!

  • Allen T

    Wow Steve, it takes the local community to do the research that LADOT is supposed to do?

    Why am I not surprised (sigh)

  • C. Phylis,

    When we are consistently marginalized by those we elect to protect our interests, who can you contact?

    We’ve got to build our own political network to throw bums out and force those who stay to fight this chicanery.

    I think the mayor’s office would be a great place to send our complaints – he has the authority (I believe) to direct the LADOT to change their official interpretations of various laws. I’m not sure about this, but I think that would be a good political point to rally around.

  • It’s actually CVC 40802, the anti-speed trap law, that requires an “engineering and traffic survey”, not the MUTCD, although the MUTCD could be considered in a valid E&TS.

  • Actually, on further review, “engineering and traffic survey” has a specific legal definition per CVC 627.

    627. (a) “Engineering and traffic survey,” as used in this code, means a survey of highway and traffic conditions in accordance with methods determined by the Department of Transportation for use by state and local authorities.

    (b) An engineering and traffic survey shall include, among other requirements deemed necessary by the department, consideration of all of the following:

    (1) Prevailing speeds as determined by traffic engineering measurements.

    (2) Accident records.

    (3) Highway, traffic, and roadside conditions not readily apparent to the driver.

    (c) When conducting an engineering and traffic survey, local authorities, in addition to the factors set forth in paragraphs (1) to (3), inclusive, of subdivision (b) may consider all of the following:

    (1) Residential density, if any of the following conditions exist on the particular portion of highway and the property contiguous thereto, other than a business district:

    (A) Upon one side of the highway, within a distance of a quarter of a mile, the contiguous property fronting thereon is occupied by 13 or more separate dwelling houses or business structures.

    (B) Upon both sides of the highway, collectively, within a distance of a quarter of a mile, the contiguous property fronting thereon is occupied by 16 or more separate dwelling houses or business structures.

    (C) The portion of highway is longer than one-quarter of a mile but has the ratio of separate dwelling houses or business structures to the length of the highway described in either subparagraph (A) or (B).

    (2) Pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

    The last point is instructive, and if there is a danger to pedestrians or bicylcists, it needs to be made at this stage.

  • Marcus

    Thank god, speed limits everywhere are artificially low.

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