Vroom! Speed Limit Increases Head Back to City Council, But Do They Have To?
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A trio of speed limit proposals head to the City Council Transportation Committee tomorrow. The proposals total 5.4 miles of city streets that would see a limit increase. Half of those miles would see a dramatic increase from 35 miles per hour to 45 miles per hour. The areas due for an increase are:
- Kester Avenue between Saticoy Street and Victory Boulevard (35 mph increased to 40 mph for 1.5 miles),
- Kester Avenue between Magnolia and Ventura Boulevards (35 mph increased to 40 mph for .9 miles),
- Chandler Boulevard between Lankershim Boulevard and Coldwater Canyon Avenue (35 mph increased to 45 mph for 2.1 miles)
- Chandler Boulevard between Lankershim Boulevard and Vineland Avenue (35 mph increased to 40 mph for .3 miles),
- Clybourn Avenue between Strathern and Cohasset Street (35 mph increased to 45 mph for .6 miles)
A team of advocates including representatives from Los Angeles Walks, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and Ridazz, an online general assembly of concerned cyclists, is planning to lobby the Committee to hold back the limit increases. Councilmen have begrudgingly passed similar increases in the past in an effort to support LAPD traffic enforcement.
Until 2004, speed limits were set at the 85th percentile of driver speed on a section of road rounded to the nearest 5 mile increment. A.B. 529, authored by San Gabriel Valley Democrat Mike Gatto and passed last year, allows municipalities to round the posted speed limit down no matter how the 85th percentile is to a higher limit. For example, if the 85th percentile of drivers is driving at 39 miles per hour, and the municipality considers a 40 miles per hour speed limit too high for that stretch of road, it can “round down” to a 35 miles per hour limit.
Don Ward, one of the organizers of Ridazz, writes a personal story explaining why drivers shouldn’t be allowed to set speed limits based on their driving over what is safest for all users, a process Councilman Tom LaBonge referred to as “voting with their pedal.”
“When I think of the lunacy of setting 45mph speed limits on streets like Chandler or Kester or any of the other residential streets of LA I think fondly of my pops, a depression era man and pure fiscal conservative – may he rest in peace. He refused to drive more than about 25 miles per hour any where in LA. This would drive me absolutely bonkers,” writes Ward.
“To which he would chuckle and go into his spiel about the fact that he had carefully crafted his driving style in order to conserve gas, brakes and engine wear… In fact he was a scientist about it…. citing the Burbank traffic grid as the best suited for his methods. And it was true… I would see car after car race ahead of us at 40-50mph only to slam on the brakes for a red light that he eventually floated through on the green, passing those same impatient drivers who now revved their cars back up to speed only to repeat the same mistake again at the next light. “Those people are idiots” he would quip. “They’re wasting their money. Learn to time the lights sonny.” I miss my old man.”