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

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.

  • It’s been well documented how higher speeds increase risk of collisions, as well as the survivability of those collisions — especially when they involved cyclists or pedestrians. Higher speeds also encourage drivers to pass through a neighborhood, having a detrimental effect on local businesses and the community as a whole. Simply put, there is no good reason to increase most speed limits, other than a misguided state law that must be changed.

  • joe

    So, I have a question, are speed limits only for cars? If this is so, then If I can go above the posted speedlimit on my bike (i.e. going to supulveda) I cannot get ticketed correct?

    If this is not correct and bikes are also legally required to keep below the posted speed limit, shouldn’t bike traffic speeds be considered in these engineering surveys? Also what about local busses? Do they dismiss the speeds of local buses also (which on chandler rarely get over 25mph).

    By all means the law is the law until it gets changed. But maybe the LADOT is doing the surveys wrong.

  • Joe, good point. Unfortunately, your argument is based on logic and common sense, both of which are sadly lacking in this matter.

  • M

    In addition to Chandler being near the bike path, Riverside is one of the few east/west streets in that area that actually has painted bike lanes (only between Laurel Canyon and Van Nuys)…. In fact, I haven’t really found a “good” way to bike east/west between the east and central valley. Riverside is ok if you get on at Laurel Canyon, but Magnolia, Ventura and Burbank are all crazy (to me, a single female that is probably more conservative than some others w/ regard to this) and almost all of those streets I mentioned have really messed up sidewalks or missing sidewalks. I usually just try to cut through more of the residential areas if at all possible.

  • First, the part of the MUTCD that describes what must be done in these E&TS’s is insane, toxic, and detrimental to the well-being of many local communities in California. With that said when performing an E&TS per the MUTCD, the agency performing the survey can, in spite of faster-than-the-speed-limit cars decide that a slower speed limit is necessary for the following reasons:

    Physical conditions such as width, curvature, grade and surface conditions, or any other condition readily apparent to the driver, in the absence of other factors, would not require special downward speed zoning. Refer to CVC 22358.5.
    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.

    Please for the love of God, would some please bring this up when an elected official or staff claims that these increases are mandatory.

    Additionally, if the road is designed to carry cars at 15mph over the speed limit, and during an off-peak time period the free flow of vehicles is used as the basis for determining the speed limit, then this whole process is skewed towards making cars go faster in every context (urban, rural, suburban, commercial) even when those speed run counter to the interests of the community the road runs through.

    So, let’s ask why our roads are designed to allow a residential street to have 45 and 50 mph traffic flowing on it. You can never get this across in the stupid two minutes they give you in committee, so why try? Go to the councilman’s office before-hand with a mailer – tell them you’re going to pay for this to go to all their frequent or vote-by-mail homeowners in their district. The flyer will read “When the time came to save lives, Councilman X voted to take them with increased speed limits” Put a picture of a young white mother crossing the street with a stroller.

    Please do not think that 2 minutes in front of these clowns will stop anything from being voted through.

  • Additionally, and regardless of the “EIR” bullshit the DOT may come up with, there is only one agency in Los Angeles that has the authority to do roadway planning: the LADOT.

    They are responsible for planning what sorts of road standards and classifications LA uses, and if they don’t properly do their job (as we can see they are not doing here) then we end up with car-only boulevards in every neighborhood by-design, and speed limit increases taking place despite the damage to lives and property.

    In the LADOT’s safety considerations they do is to extrapolate the number of car collisions and injuries by number of daily trips, or by the number of miles traveled on a given portion of road. This type of analysis makes it seem like things are ridiculously safe when they can state .00001% of trips on this road were collisions in the last year (assuming 30,000 trips per day and 15 collisions in a year).

  • 15 collisions/year at an intersection is A LOT.

  • Sam

    @Joe – Interesting concept about including bicycles and buses in the speed survey. An Engineering and Traffic Survey is typically done under normal non-rush hour conditions, which to me could include buses and bikes. Since a bike is subject to all regulations of the CVC, then I would interpret that a bike is subject to speed limits, and therefore the E&TS should include bikes in the survey. Logistically it may be difficult to get accurate speed data on bikes, depending on the measuring technologies used.

    Unfortunately the new law for establishing speed limits only gives a 5 mph leeway for further speed adjustments. It is likely on some of these roads in LA that the 85th percentile speed came in above 45 mph (likely above 47.5 mph) thereby requiring the speed to be established at 50 mph, but the 5 mph “wiggle room” allowed for the speed limit to be established at 45 mph. Of course I am just guessing at this.

  • While it is true that many drive well over 35 MPH on Chandler and Riverside, the larger danger of allowing the speed limit to be increased, means that drivers will now be encouraged to break the law even more. Psychologically, if the limit is 35 MPH, we think it’s OK to go 40 or maybe 45. When the new speed is raised to 4o MPH, many will go 50 or 55.

    I drive Chandler everyday. I notice that the LAPD never enforces those red light laws at Woodman or Hazeltine, where drivers often speed through the intersection right through red lights.

    What is the point of raising the speed limit? Will it make Chandler a safer street to travel on? Will it save gas? Will it save lives?


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