Fri03062015

News

Council considers freezing First St. development

Council considers freezing First St. development


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
A pedestrian walks along First Street in downtown Los Altos last week. Future construction on the street could soon be barred by an emergency moratorium on development.

Further construction along First Street could...

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Schools

Santa Rita students put on Kranky Kids Radio Show

Santa Rita students put on Kranky Kids Radio Show


Traci Newell/ Town Crier
Neighborhood volunteer Lishka DeVoss, center, introduces members of Santa Rita School’s Kranky Kids Radio Club to their interviewee last week. The students star in the Kranky Kids Radio Show, which airs Fridays on KZSU.
...

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Community

Music for Minors partners with Harvard to expand efforts

Music for Minors partners with Harvard to expand efforts


Palmer

When the thriving Music for Minors began to outgrow its capacity, the local nonprofit organization made new friends.

Beginning in late February, Music for Minors – a Town Crier Holiday Fund recipient – partnered with Harvard Business Sch...

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Sports

Eagles make school history

Eagles make school history

Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos High School Eagles defeated Santa Clara High School Tuesday to advance to the Central Coast Section basketball finals Saturday.

The Eagles are headed where no Los Altos High boys basketball team has gone...

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Comment

Dangerous streets: A Piece of My Mind

I’m driving along El Monte Avenue between Foothill Expressway and Springer Road at approximately 6 p.m. on a midwinter evening. In keeping with the “village feeling” of our town, there are no sidewalks and no streetlights.

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Special Sections

Lions, lambs and Cab Franc for March

Lions, lambs and Cab Franc for March


Christine Moore/Special to the Town Crier
Oven fries, a slice of feta cheese and the bite of harissa mayonnaise make for a late-winter, early-spring dinner perfectly paired with Cabernet Franc.

I can’t help but wonder whether March will come in ...

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Business

Los Altos scientist named Inventor of the Year

Los Altos scientist named Inventor of the Year

Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Robert Showen, above, the Silicon Valley Intellectual Property Lawyers Association’s Inventor of the Year, began researching his ShotSpotter technology in his Los Altos home. Sensors are placed around a city, below, and fou...

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Books

French novel

French novel "Hunting and Gathering" offers character-driven suspense


Anna Gavalda is a well-known author in her native France, where she has published six books, most of which have met with considerable praise and commercial success. Her fourth novel, “Hunting and Gathering” (Riverhead Books, 2007), is filled ...

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People

JACK JOSEPH CRANE

JACK JOSEPH CRANE

Long time Los Altos resident, Jack Joseph Crane, loving husband and devoted father of two children, passed away peacefully at the Terraces in Los Altos, Saturday, February 21, 2015. He was 95 years of age. Jack was born on June 22, 1919. He is prec...

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Travel

Seoul of the city: Korean capital offers mix of old and new

Seoul of the city: Korean capital offers mix of old and new


Ramya Krishna/Special to the Town Crier
Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon public recreation space, above, features an elevated pedestrian bridge.

Seoul, South Korea, is a study in contrasts. Having grown quickly, the city is a mix of old and new.

Using...

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Stepping Out

TheatreWorks jumps into ‘Lake’

TheatreWorks jumps into ‘Lake’


Kevin Berne/Special to the Town Crier
Jason Bowen, from left, Adam Poss and Nilanjana Bose star in “The Lake Effect,” opening this weekend at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto and running through March 29.

The TheatreWorks production ...

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Spiritual Life

Is your thought life sabotaging your spiritual journey?

My computer started having problems – there seemed to be some sort of malware running in the background. At first it was just annoying, then it began to slow down my computer, interfering with its basic operations. What is it doing? Why can...

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Magazine

Local events serve up family fun

Local events serve up family fun


Courtesy of Peninsula Youth Theatre
Peninsula Youth Theatre’s production of “Pecos Bill: A Tall Tale” is slated to open March 20 in Mountain View.

For families seeking a break from the daily routine, events abound this month and next in Los Alto...

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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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