Tue09302014

News

Meet the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors candidates

Meet the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors candidates

Two candidates have filed to run for the District 7 seat on the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors in the Nov. 4 election. The water district, established in 1929, oversees and protects water resources in Santa Clara County....

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Schools

New LAHS assistant principal focuses on school activities

New LAHS assistant principal focuses on school activities


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Suzanne Woolfolk, assistant principal at Los Altos High, teaches a leadership course for Associated Student Body leaders.

Suzanne Woolfolk – new assistant principal at Los Altos High School – said she is happy...

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Community

Petting zoo, car show highlight Chamber's annual Fall Festival

Petting zoo, car show highlight Chamber's annual Fall Festival


Courtesy of Los Altos Chamber of Commerce
The petting zoo is a highlight of the Los Altos Fall Festival. This year’s event is slated Oct. 4 and 5.

The Los Altos Chamber of Commerce has scheduled its 23rd annual Fall Festival 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oc...

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Sports

Burlingame bowls over Los Altos

Burlingame bowls over Los Altos


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High halfback Sean Lanoza looks for running room against Burlingame in Saturday’s home opener.

The opening drive of Saturday’s game against Burlingame couldn’t have gone much better for the Los Altos High fo...

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Comment

Does Los Altos have a parking problem, or is it a symptom? : Other Voices

Yes, and yes. It appears that the downtown Los Altos parking problem is a symptom of the city’s “Sarah Winchester” approach to planning that instead of resulting in staircases to nowhere resulted in a hotel without parking required by code.(1)

From ...

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Special Sections

Los Altos landmark Four families later, Shoup House goes on the market

Los Altos landmark Four families later, Shoup House goes on the market


Courtesy of Matthew Anello
The Shoup House dining room, above, features original elements. The 100-year-old house on University Avenue earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, a nod to its legacy as the home of city founder Paul S...

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Business

Longtime banker readies for retirement

Longtime banker readies for retirement


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Joanne Kavalaris is retiring at the end of October after spending the past 25 years of her banking career in downtown Los Altos.

A longtime Los Altos banker is calling it a career in a few weeks.

Joanne Kavalaris, Bank o...

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Books

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation


During World War II, Virgilia Short Witzel, a young mother and U.S. Navy officer’s wife, grappled on the home front in Menlo Park with wartime rationing, shortages and loneliness. During the ensuing Cold War, she experienced adventure and misadventur...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

Pear builds wonderful 'House'

Pear builds wonderful 'House'


J. Smith/Special to the Town Crier
Betsy Kruse Craig portrays Trish in the Pear Avenue Theatre production of “House,” which closes Oct. 5.

Mountain View’s Pear Avenue Theatre is staging an unusual theater-going experience – producing two plays...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Speed limits: A lesson in physics: Other Voices

Note: The Los Altos City Council voted Aug. 20 to retain the city’s current speed limits. The following piece was written before that action, but the subject matter remains relevant – thus its inclusion here.

It makes sense for the city of Los Altos to periodically reconsider speed limits on local streets. I applaud the use of the extensive data generated by the recent traffic survey. However, using data to make traffic safety decisions without considering the laws of physics can be dangerous.

The distance a car travels from the moment the driver decides to brake to the point of stopping is not determined by a simple ratio involving the speed. The car travels some distance while the driver is reacting to the obstacle in the road, before the brakes are applied. The car travels an additional distance while braking that depends on the square of the initial velocity. The combination of these two distances is the stopping distance.

Using typical numbers, a car traveling 30 mph will have a stopping distance of 109 feet. If the speed of the car is increased by 17 percent to 35 mph, the stopping distance increases to 136 feet, a 25 percent increase. The proposed 40 percent increase in the speed limit on Grant Road between Homestead Road and Grant results in a 60 percent increase in stopping distance. This nonlinear relationship between speed and stopping distance is not intuitive for drivers. It results in a dangerous hazard for pedestrians, cyclists, wayward animals and other drivers on residential streets.

Physics also sheds light on the relationship between vehicle speed and pedestrian deaths. The energy of the collision depends on the square of the speed. This explains why 5 percent of pedestrians struck by a car going 20 mph are killed, while 45 percent struck by a car going 30 mph are killed. Increasing speed increases the likelihood of collisions with pedestrians and the chances of a fatality from the collision.

I understand the reasoning behind using the average speed of traffic to set speed limits. It prevents the creation of speed traps that can punish safe drivers. However, the residential character of the streets being considered for an increase should trump the convenience of the drivers using them.

If the current speed limits had been enforced and traffic-calming measures implemented prior to the survey, the average speeds would have been lower. We should not allow scofflaws that value a few seconds of their own time more than the safety of children crossing the street to set the speed limit.

The city of Los Altos has a problem regarding pedestrian safety. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, we ranked 13th out of 93 similar cities for pedestrian injury accidents, and sixth for cyclists. This is unacceptable for a community that characterizes itself as a “village.”

I urge members of the Los Altos City Council to use their discretion to keep the current posted speed limits, as they wisely did in 2007. They should instead use the traffic survey data to develop measures to slow drivers down. This would be a decision based on the data and sound physics.

Daniel Burns is a Los Altos resident who teaches Advanced Placement Physics at Los Gatos High School.

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