Vroom! Speed Limit Increases in Front of City Council

As mentioned in a post yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee will vote tomorrow at 2:00 P.M. in City Hall on whether or not to raise speed limits on three local streets Chandler Boulevard, Riverside Drive and Beverly Glen Boulevard. In the past day, three outraged pieces have attacked the limit increases and challenged the Council to defy state rules that require the increases for the LAPD to use radar to enforce the law.

There is some debate over whether or not the speed limit changes at Beverly Glenn Boulevard are necessarily a bad thing.  Instead of just raising limits, the proposal seeks to normalize the speed along the road so that the limit is consistent and predictable.  In some areas, the speed limit could actually be decreased.  You'll note as you read some of the coverage of the increases, that some of the articles, notably the one by Stephen Box in City Watch, only refer to two of the changes as "increases" worth fighting.

For anyone that doesn't remember last year's fight over speed limit increases, allow me to summarize what's going on and where we stand.  Last year, a series of increases were proposed by the LADOT throughout the San Fernando Valley.  The shocked reaction of the local neighborhood councils and a coalition of bicycle and pedestrian advocates managed to stall some of the increases, but an arcane state law meant to stop small towns from creating speed traps requires regular engineering surveys that set the speed limit at the upper fifteenth percentile of drivers.  An attempt to change that law by Assemblyman, and now L.A. City Councilman, Paul Krekorian was stopped in committee.

And now here we are a year later, with new speed limit increases moving through the city's Transportation Commission and now City Council Transportation Committee with no fix at the state level in site.

Of more immediate concern, three local streets could become a more dangerous place to walk or ride a bicycle after a vote by the Council tomorrow. At LAist, Zach Behrens, who also served on the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council, explains the individual speed limit raises and some of the issues.

The most drastic proposal is for Chandler Boulevard, where officials want to see a speed limit increase from 35 MPH to 45 MPH along the Orange Line busway and bike lanes (a small section between Vineland and Lankershim would change from 35 mph to 40 mph, too, according to the proposal) . A proposal for Riverside Drive would change the limit from 35 MPH to 40 MPH for its entire length between the Burbank border and Van Nuys Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. And Beverly Glen Boulevard would see some increases and decreases along a short section, between Ventura Boulevard and Mulholland Drive.

LAist, also has a map of the changes and a quote from City Councilman Krekorian, who's new district will see some of the increases.

"I'm very concerned about increasing posted speed limits in my district where people are already driving too fast in the first place," explained Paul Krekorian, the newly elected Councilmember, who as an Assemblyman last year, introduced the Safe Streets Bill--it was later voted down--to give cities more flexibility in changing the limits. "This next round of proposed increases just makes me frustrated that the state legislation that I introduced did not advance because I think it would have given local governments the ability to protect public safety."

Also at issue, the traffic reports weren't up to the Councilman's standards.  The reports barely mention cyclists and pedestrians, even though Chandler Boulevard runs, for a brief time, along the Orange Line busway and bike lanes.

At Westside Bikeside, Alex Thompson posits that this is a major test for the progressive Committee Chair, Bill Rosendahl.  Will he resist the changes and push for a fix to the state law, or will he go with the flow as his predecessor did and let the limit increases go through?

At City Watch, after haranguing all parties involved in the limit increases, Box gets to the heart of the matter.  Because the city designs streets that are meant for cars and not for people, it's natural for drivers to move as quickly as they can.  Instead of just fighting the increases, communities need to fight for better streets.

It's at this point in the repetitious debate over speed limits that I'm challenged to offer other solutions. I typically start by saying "Bulb-outs, speed tables and road diets!" and the resulting confused look on the faces of those I'm talking with tells me that the transportation experts who are in charge of our streets have one tool in the toolbox and it is 50 years old.

Our City is in the middle of a budget crisis. Why don't we put this energy into pursuing funding sources that would allow us to improve the quality of life on our streets, that would allow us to put people to work, that would allow us to work together to make Los Angeles a walkable, rideable, livable city that works for everybody. It's time to put down the old paradigm and to work together to make people a priority.

If you're not planning on making it to City Hall tomorrow, you can either wait and read the results here at Streetsblog, or listen in via Council Phone at 213-621-2489.