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Posts from the "speed limits" Category

Streetsblog NYC 48 Comments

NYC’s First Speed Cameras Will Go Into Effect When Kids Head Back to School

Mayor Bloomberg joined Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and NYPD Chief of Transportation James Tuller outside a Crown Heights high school this morning to announce the impending launch of the city’s first automated speed enforcement program. Cameras issuing fines for drivers who exceed the speed limit by 10 mph or more will begin operating on September 9, when students head back to school, though for the first few weeks the program will only send violators warnings.

On Eastern Parkway this morning, Bloomberg addressed the need to enforce the NYC speed limit. Photo: @JohnSurico

Speeding was the leading cause of traffic deaths in NYC last year, contributing to 81 fatal crashes. Still, the state law enabling automated enforcement of the speed limit — which passed after several previous attempts had died in Albany — includes several restrictions. The city has just 20 cameras to work with, and they can only be placed within a quarter-mile of schools. They can’t be operated at times when classes or after-school activities are not in session. On the plus side, the city will be able to move the cameras to different locations, providing some flexibility that should help reduce egregious speeding on a greater share of NYC’s 6,000-mile street network.

To prevent motorists from selectively slowing down near known camera locations, the city is not disclosing the locations of these enforcement cameras. However, the site of today’s press event — W.E.B. DuBois High School on Eastern Parkway and Bedford Avenue — is “a candidate to receive speed camera technology nearby due to a high crash rate in its vicinity,” according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

“Keeping streets safe for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians is one of the most important public safety challenges any government faces,” Bloomberg said in the announcement. “Our streets are the safest they have ever been, due in large part to our enforcement efforts and innovative traffic engineering that have brought traffic fatalities to record lows. Curbing speeding around schools will help us continue to make our City’s streets safer for everyone.”

The cameras will start monitoring speeds on the first day of the school year, September 9, but the mayor’s office says the $50 fines for violators won’t start until a few weeks later:

DOT will begin the five-year program with a combination of fixed and mobile cameras at unspecified locations, which will be determined based upon factors such as crash and injury data, rates of speed and road geometry. During the initial weeks of the program and in order to send a message to speeders, DOT will only issue warning notices to motorists found on camera to be speeding in excess of 10 or more miles above the posted speed limit before eventually issuing $50 fines for the offense. Violations would be issued to the vehicle owner and will be adjudicated by the New York Parking Violations Bureau.

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VROOM! Speed Limit Increases for Sunland Boulevard Roar Back to Council

Sunland and Nettleton, facing North. Image via google maps.

It’s been nearly a year since a speed limit increase was brought before the City Council Transportation Committee, but a new proposed increase on for chunks of Sunland Ave in the San Fernando Valley will be heard tomorrow at 2 p.m. The ordinance would establish speed limits of 40 and 45 miles per hour on Sunland Boulevard from Nettleton to Tuxford Streets; between Nettleton Street and Sunland Park Drive, and between Nohles Drive and Foothill Boulevard Newhome Avenue; between Foothill Boulevard and Tuxford Street; and, between Sunland Park and Nohles Drives.

You can read the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting here. You can read the draft ordinance itself, here.

As we’ve seen in the past, the speed limit increase proposal is actually brought by people that want to see slower moving traffic.  Because of state law requiring that speed limits be set at the 85th percentile of traffic flow in order for the police to use radar to enforce traffic, many stretches of city controlled road have no speed enforcement. The LAPD back legislation that would change the law, but also support limit increases. They argue it makes their jobs easier, more cost efficient, and more safe.

The state law, known as the speed trap law ins Sacramento, is viciously defended by the California Highway Patrol and AAA.

In this case, constituents living along the street have complained to their City Councilman, former Transportation Committee Member Richard Alarcon about the lack of enforcement and he brought the motion to the committee. When he served on the transportation committee in 2007, Alarcon would vote for similar proposals after complaining bitterly about the state law, so this must be something of a bitter fight for him tomorrow.

Sunland and Nohles, facing South. Image via google maps.

We say “fight” because the Transportation Committee under the leadership of Chair Bill Rosendahl has been reluctant to pass limit increases. In addition, representatives from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Los Angeles Walks and Midnight Ridazz will be on hand to fight the increases. While all of the groups would like to see slower moving traffic, they point out that state law only forbids radar enforcement. There are other means of fighting speeding traffic available. Read more…

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Efforts to Raise Speed Limits Rebuffed by Council Transportation Committee

While this part of Chandler Boulevard was not up for limit increases, it speaks a lot to how safe cyclists feel in a bike lane when they ride to the right of it. Photo: Joe Linton/Eco-Village

A diverse team of advocates teamed up to beat back a proposal by the LADOT and LAPD to raise speed limits on five segments of streets in the San Fernando Valley.  Arguing that public outreach for the proposals had been inadequate and raising speed limits while the city is attempting to de-emphasize a dominant car culture in its planning was a great example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

For a breakdown, and map, of the proposed changes, please visit this story previewing yesterdday’s meeting written earlier this week.  The proposed limit increases may come back to the Committee in ninety days after better crash data is analyzed and outreach is completed with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

“All future speed limit proposals should have a sign-on by L.A. Unified,” declared City Councilman Tom LaBonge, setting a new standard to earn his support for limit increases.

While a pair of assistant general managers for LADOT sat in the audience, it was transportation manager Brian Gallagher who explained the rationale for raising the limits.  Basically, state law requires that speed limits be set so that at the “prevailing speed” or “85th percentile” of drivers for the city to be allowed to use radar to enforce speed limits.  All of the road segments discussed at Wednesday’s meetings had been under discussion for so long that radar enforcement was no longer allowed.

While Gallagher pushed the “we have no choice” argument that has been a hallmark of the debate over limit increases, he also argued that setting limits at the prevailing speed makes the road safer.  “When we set a speed limit lower than the prevailing speed,we’re more likely to have accidents,” Gallager claimed. Read more…

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Vroom! Speed Limit Increases Head Back to City Council, But Do They Have To?


View 2 7 12 speed limits in a larger map

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:

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.

“In order for Los Angeles to truly become a bicycle friendly city, the city needs put a moratorium on speed limit increases and address managing speeds by evaluating how our roadways are engineered. Roadway design & engineering influence travel speeds and we need to implement solutions on our roadways that are going to create safer streets that encourage good driving behavior instead of rewarding speeding by constantly increasing the speed limit,” argues Alexis Lantz with the LACBC.
State law requires that speed limits be set to the 85th percentile of free flowing traffic in order for police to use radar to enforce the limits.  Efforts to overhaul the law have consistently run into roadblocks for speeding traffic advocates such as the AAA and California Highway Patrol.   However, a law passed last year allows cities to “round down” if they believe that increased limits would create a dangerous environment.  All of these proposals were authored in 2010, a full year before A.B. 529 was signed into law.

Read more…

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Through the Cracks: Governor Signs Speed Limits Bill A.B. 529

Last Friday, Governor Jerry Brown signed A.B. 529, legislation authored by San Fernando Valley Assemblyman Mike Gatto that gives local government some discretion in setting speed limits on local roads.

Not anymore. Photo: Freaky Humor.com

“I promised residents that I would do something about those who speed through our neighborhoods,” says Gatto, “I am proud to have delivered that promise today, and proud to know that our local authorities will be given another tool to protect the safety of drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists in our communities.”

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 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.

While other legislation designed to help municipalities fight rising speed limits has faced fierce opposition from powerful speeding traffic supporters such as the AAA and California Highway Patrol, this legislation enjoyed unanimous legislative support and AAA and CHP remained on the sidelines.  The only opposition came from advocates who believe that extended yellow light times are the key to traffic safety because Gatto’s legislation also allows shorter yellow light times.  Read more…

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As Leg. Season Closes for Now, a Review of the Season

A.B. 529 seeks to counter the trend of rising speed limits throughout California and has sailed through both houses of the legislature. Image:Auto in the Know

While most California cyclists are thrilled that the Senate and Assembly agree that car drivers should give cyclists a three foot berth when speeding past them, the legislative session in Sacramento was mostly positive, but still somewhat mixed.  As the Senate and Assembly prepare to go into recess, here’s where many important pieces of legislation that pertain to traffic safety, and livable and complete streets stand.

On the Governor’s Desk

A.B. 529Assembly Bill 529 was introduced to bring California into compliance with federal standards by giving municipalities greater say on setting local speed limits.  The legislation still requires municipalities to set speed limits based on the 85th percentile of drivers, but allows them to “round down” if conditions allow.  In short, if the 85th percentile of drivers is clocked at 44 miles per hour, the city could set the speed limit at 40 m.p.h. in certain conditions.  The bill wasn’t opposed by any special interest groups and had unanimous support in both legislatures.

A.B. 650 – Assemblyman Bob Blumenfeld wrote a powerful op/ed for Streetsblog about the role that transit should spend in the state’s future.  The next step for California would be passing of his legislation, A.B. 650 which will create a panel to propose solutions to improve buses, light rail, and other public transit options throughout California. It was passed by both houses on the legislature, and the League of Conservation Voters has created an action alert to urge the governor to sign the legislation.

A.B. 147 – A.B. 147 is one of those pieces of legislation that few people understand but could have a huge impact.  Basically, the Subdivision Map Act allows municipalities to charge developers fees to defray the cost of building  thoroughfares bridges to serve their project.  A.B. 147 would allow them to include fees for constructing bicycle, transit, pedestrian or traffic calming measures as well.  That could be a lot of new funds for local projects. Read more…

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Newest Attempt to Give Cities Power Over Speed Limits Gains Ground in Sacramento

It’s hardly a state secret that California’s speed limit laws are designed to increase traffic speed at the expense of communities and urban design. AB 529, a hot piece of legislation by Assemblyman Mike Gatto that already quietly cleared the State Assembly, seeks to give communities a little more leeway in setting local speed limits.  The Senate has yet to assign the bill to committee, but Senate Transportation Committee staff have told me they’re expecting it “any day now.”

While campaigning last year, Gatto says he was repeatedly asked to do something about speed limits, which has been a major issue throughout both Valleys and Glendale.  But Gatto didn’t need much urging to take up this issue, “I was born and raised in my district and I know there are speeding problems in the streets,” he told Streetsblog in an interview last week.

State law involving how speed limits tilted even more towards maximizing car travel speed in 2004, often times at the expense of creating and maintaining roads that are safe to live and walk on.  Before that, cities could set speed limits within a range of the speed at which traffic traveled on a street.  After the 2004 change in law however, cities have been forced to round up their speed limits starting at the eighty-fifth percent of car travel speeds, which some drivers treat as permission to drive even faster. AB 529 gives local governments the option to round speed limits down after a traffic survey, which will slow the process of escalating limits on roads unsuited to higher speeds.

Read more…

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Distraction and Speed

Not everyone at the conference got the memo that it wasn't about encouraging speed. Photo: Michael Cahn

The Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) is like a daughter of Caltrans. The mothership builds the roads, then Traffic Safety comes on the scene, addressing the safety deficits with education and enforcement efforts. The OTS conference, scheduled every other year, is a forum which unites local government, safety advocates, and a whole lot of police officers. MADD, Mothers against Drunk Driving, set the tone. The 2011 Leadership Seminar was held last week in San Diego. The agency offers a number of scholarships covering tuition, travel and accommodation. I attended the Bicycle and Pedestrian track, other tracks covered DUI, drug impairment, collision investigation, engineering and leadership.

The good news is that California fatality rates are low, the lowest since 1949. The bad news is that pedestrians and cyclists are greatly over-represented in these crashes. Simply put: Speed and distracted driving kills.

In California we call it Complete Streets, on the federal level it is called Sustainable Communities (DOT, FHWA, HUD, EPA), the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health have PLACE and RENEW programs: They all describe broad policy goals that have grown together over the last few years. Together they offer a new framework to work for more transportation choices, improved air quality and public health. Traditionally, traffic safety tries to compensate for the defects of an infrastructure that is designed for unsafe speeds. Historically, OTS moves into action after the roads are built and drivers have yielded to the temptations of overbuilt infrastructure and high performance machinery. Attempting to move away from this position of the latecomer, OTS is now spending time on educating planners on street designs where safety standards for vulnerable users are not an afterthought, but included from the outset. The attempt to educate engineers and advocates on new engineering standards for streets that serve all users is part of a broad wave of new handbooks and guidelines such as Smart Mobility Framework, Complete Streets Manual, Model Streets Manual etc. They all try to encroach upon the hegemony of Caltrans Highway Design Manual, which is no longer considered sufficient in accommodating non-motorized road users. Read more…

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Modern Family’s Streetsblog Episode

Last night, ABC’s sit-com Modern Family showed “Slow Down Your Neighbors,” a re-run of an episode that deals with both the joys of cycling and the danger that speeding drivers create on local streets.  A show that takes place in Los Angeles that shows children biking to school to fit in with the cool crowd and excoriates unsafe drivers?

In one plot, Claire, the mother of a nuclear family is on the warpath against a woman who is speeding through their neighborhood.  At first, she tries to memorize the license plate while screaming at the car through a mega-phone as it zooms past.  Later, we realize that the driver was on the phone with Claire’s husband during the drive by.  Her next plan is to create signs with the car’s license plate that reads “Slow down your neighbors.”  Because what’s the one thing a speeder cannot outrun?  Shame.

Eventually, Claire realizes that her nemesis is also her husband’s top client (which explains why his stack of signs hasn’t been put up).  From there things go down hill.

While Claire is certainly presented as though she’s on a crusade, the speeding driver is portrayed as a borderline maniac in her personal dealings with the husband and certainly when she’s behind the wheel.  At one point, she nearly runs over her real estate agent as he stands in her driveway and sees a couple of prospective drivers off.  The only bad part of the story is that we don’t get to see the ending.  Does the speeder come to justice?  Is she eventually shamed in to not putting the entire community in danger so she could get somewhere ten seconds quicker?  Or does she just sell her house and move on to terrorizing another community? Read more…

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New Year, New Laws: Slew of New Rules Aim to Make Streets Safer

Police pull over speeders in Playa del Rey in 2007.  Photo:##http://www.flickr.com/photos/magic_man/803352108/##Magic Man/Flickr##

Police pull over speeders in Playa del Rey in 2007. Photo:Magic Man/Flickr

Yesterday, we discussed how a change in the threshold for a crime to be considered “Grand Theft” could impact cyclists who find their bikes stolen.  Today, we’ll look at how a series of new laws could make our streets safer and more sustainable.

The biggest change is that local traffic officers now ticket scofflaw drivers for violating state laws and not under local ordinances.  The goal of the law is to make uniform the fines and penalties for motorists breaking the law.  While much of the public discussion of the law focused on “uniform punishment” throughout the state, the larger impact is that all traffic violations will be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Under the previous practice, officers enforcing local ordinances would not have to report violators to the state, because they hadn’t violated a state law.  This should result in more reckless drivers losing licenses or getting them suspended as bad drivers will be “get points on their license” regardless of where their lawbreaking occurs.

The law was authored by Long Beach Senator Jenny Oropeza, who passed away in October of last year.

Never would have been an issue if Mike Feuer had been Assemblyman in the early 1990's.

Never would have been an issue if Mike Feuer had been Assemblyman in the early 1990's.

A new law penned by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Hollywood), makes adults liable if an underage guest gets drunk and causes a car crash.  This provides greater incentive for adults to think twice before allowing their kids, or their friends, to drink even a little bit before getting behind the wheel.  Ironically, is the Assemblyman for Beverly Hills because an incident with parents giving teenagers champagne before prom sparked the oft-mocked “Donna Martin Graduates” episodes on the original Beverly Hills 90210.

Other safety changes require all motorcycle drivers to complete a fifteen hour training course before earning a learner’s permit and laws increasing reckless driving penalties for paparazzi chasing celebrities.

California’s Personal Vehicle Sharing Law, first reported by San Francisco Streetsblog, also goes into effect.  This law makes it illegal for insurance companies to cancel insurance for personal vehicles that are being used for car-sharing.  City Share, a personal car share company based in the Bay Area, is already taking advantage of this new law. Read more…