Council Moves to Slow Down Traffic in Two Well Off Residential Areas

Screen_shot_2010_05_26_at_6.21.07_PM.pngOverhead shot of the calmed streets in Pacific Palisades.  No, those aren’t apartment buildings.

It’s a common complaint of community groups that they are powerless to slow down speeding traffic in their neighborhoods.  While there are many barriers to reducing average traffic speeds in L.A., state law and the LADOT to name a few, two relatively well-off communities may be on their way to slower cars on their local streets.

In a well-to-do section of Pacific Palisades, residents on two streets, Corona Del Mar and Alma Real Drive thought the speed limit of thirty miles per hour was too high.  After discussing the issue with their Councilman, Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl, a motion was created to lower the speed limit to 25 miles per hour.  The Calfironia Vehicle Code allows for residential streets to have 25 m.p.h. limits, but if an engineering survey determines that more than fifteen percent of drivers drive faster than that limit, then police can’t use radar to enforce the limit.

The survey for this street shows that the speed should be 30 m.p.h.  The residents didn’t care about radar enforcement.  After all, this is hardly a street that sees a lot of traffic cops.  The motion passed Committee unanimously, and can be read here.

The second community was a little more proactive than the one in Pacific Palisades.  Over two months ago a motion to allow the Mt. Olympus Community to install its own traffic calming was stalled in committee because the LADOT had concerns about the placement of the speed humps.  You can read the report from that meeting here.

Over the last two months, those issues were worked out, the motion to allow them to buy their own speed humps and install them was passed unanimously as well.  Installation, could happen as soon as the end of June.

While both of these victories are rare pieces of good news; it’s hardly time to crack open the champagne.  When neighborhoods in the Valley and N.E.L.A. are given control of speed on their streets as these more affluent communities are, then L.A. will be on its way to being a truly livable city.

  • I just don’t understand why we allow people who are speeding to set the speed limit. Why do we let the least vulnerable road users determine what is safe on our streets? Is there an article on the history of why this came to be anywhere?

  • I used to live on a street adjoining Alma Real 8 years ago. There are already speed bumps on Corona Del Mar as you pass the neighborhood park and I could swear there are also speed bumps on Alma Real proper, but it’s been years since I’ve been in the neighborhood.

    The speeders on Alma Real were, at least 8 years ago, predominantly local residents who go up Chatauqua, turn on Corona Del Mar, and then cruise up Alma Real to get to their street or downtown Palisades, rather than go up to Sunset, wait at that light to turn left, then have to turn left across traffic on Sunset again to get to your house/Gelsons/Ralphs/etc…

  • Chris Loos

    @danceralamode

    Only in America. Wait, only in Los Angeles.

  • danceralamode,

    It has to do with state law. When a city wants to use radar guns to cite automobiles for speeding on a given street, the city needs to go through a fairly complicated mandated procedure called an “Engineering and Traffic Survey” (E&TS). There is a whole micro-business for law firms that specialize in challenging E&TS results when their client gets a ticket.

    State law mandates that speed limits on a radar-gun-ticket-streets must be set at the speed that a certain percent of drivers actually drive at and not at an arbitrary level.

    There are two points of attack on this way of doing things:

    (1) The mandated E&TS guidelines make vague provisions for a speed to be kept lower due to pedestrian and bicyclist safety, but with no regular data reporting on pedestrian and bicyclists safety this “consideration” accounts for a paragraph in the E&TS that will state something like “Pedestrian and bicyclists safety has been considered in this analysis” with no real work done on the issue. Developing a real set of standards for pedestrian and bicyclists safety (say, one that took into account the likelihood of a pedestrian surviving the impact of a car crash) would do a lot to allow engineers to make a slower speed limit determination and to stop lawyers from wriggling their clients out of speeding tickets in court.

    (2) The use of radar guns to enforce speed limits is okay, but wouldn’t be nice if the streets themselves were designed such that motorists would drive at slower speeds? The heart of the matter is the standard procedures we have for road building and design. Streets in LA are ideally designed for travel at 15mph above it’s originally posted speed limit – which is insane when you think about it. We design roads for speeders, and when we want to enforce the speed limit we are required to raise it accommodate them! LA lacks a strategic plan four our transportation planning. The LADOT acts largely in an ad hoc manner, always favoring private automobile speed and access over other forms of transportation (unless massive political barriers prevent them from doing so). We need to shift our design standards and our design focus to streets that naturally place cars at or below an posted speed limit.

    This can be achieve with narrowed lanes, tighter road striping, and all sorts of other traffic calming devices and psychological tricks of the trade. Our streets need to have traffic budgeted, not piped through.

    Imagine a small collector street near you being described this way:
    “We’ll have a maximum of 5,000 trips per day on Boulevard X, down from 10,000. our analysis shows that 85% of motorists will be moving at or below 25 mph, by design.”

    As opposed to the current ideal of always increasing auto speeds and volume: “We have improved the flow and speed of traffic on Boulevard X, reducing motorist delay while increasing trips from 5,000 to 10,000 per day”.

  • Yes, ubrayj, I recall you referring to streets previously as a “people moving shit pipes” or something to that effect. Thanks for the history. Everytime I see this subject mentioned I get so angry. (Just like when I watch a traffic stop that doesn’t stop long enough for the little old lady in her walker to get cross.) My next question is this: what do I have to do, where do I need to show up, who do I need to write a letter to, to object to these state mandates and ask them to be reviewed/revised to seriously consider vulnerable road users and the people living in the communities that these A-holes are speeding through?

  • Brent

    The default speed limit in Los Angeles is 25 MPH — in other words, if there’s no sign stating otherwise, that’s the top speed. Maybe the easier way to lower speed limits is just to remove signs.

    And, incidentally, Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills has a posted speed limit of 25 MPH, at least for a good stretch of it in the “Golden Triangle.” I don’t think anyone has ever noticed…

  • Brent

    @ubrayj02:

    In Holland, Hans Monderman removed signs altogether from some roads. He figured if the road itself communicated its requirements, why have signs?

  • Yeah, I don’t know why signs are so central to traffic control wheb the layout of the right of way is really what is causing such high auto speeds and crashes. – think that redoing the E and TS is a tall order. Locally we can fight for more auto-speed-restrictive road designs. I’m an advocate for measuring pedestrian and cyclist safety using a variety of means. Those two things would allow us to slow down cars without having to rely on the LAPD.

  • Brent,
    IIRC, the thought was drivers spent too much time looking at signs. Rather than look for pedestrians, they look for the pedestrian crossing sign, or the flashing light, or whatever signal is in place.

    By removing signs, it places a greater level of discomfort on the driver, forcing him or her to pay better attention to the world outside of the vehicle. I recall one case study where they removed a “curve” sign and the yellow speed caution sign, and accidents on that curve actually decreased.

  • PalaSadist

    This whole thread ignores the fact that under Bratton, the Palisades no longer has any patrol cars, so whether they can use radar or not is kind of moot.

  • Patrol cars as the solution to speeding is not the best way to slow down cars.

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