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LA council votes to delay community center update

LA council votes to delay community center update


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council voted to delay adoption of a community center conceptual design plan last week. The plan includes elements from a design charette held earlier this fall, left.

The Los Altos City Council last...

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Schools

Scientists bring experiments into MV classrooms

Scientists bring experiments into MV classrooms


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
During a Science is Learning geology lesson, Theuerkauf Elementary School students learn about igneous rocks by observing how sugar changes form when heated.

Hundreds of local elementary students perform experiments w...

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Community

Local actors star in PYT's 'Oklahoma!'

Local actors star in PYT's 'Oklahoma!'


Courtesy of Peninsula Youth Theatre
PYT’s “Oklahoma!” features, from left, David Peters of Mountain View, Jenna Levere of Los Altos and Kai Wessel of Mountain View.

Time is running out to catch Peninsula Youth Theatre’s production of “Oklahoma!”...

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Sports

Eagles advance

Eagles advance


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High’s Carmen Annevelink, left, and Kristen Liu put up a block against Mountain View. Annevelink totaled 20 kills.

Mountain View High’s out-of-the-gate energy could last for only so long against rival and he...

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Comment

Coping with addictions: Haugh About That?

Preparing to deal with my lifelong addiction, I stood in front of the mirror ready to confess the shame I’d been hiding. The first step to healing, I reminded myself, is to admit something is wrong.

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Special Sections

NASA, Google agreement preserves Hangar One

NASA, Google agreement preserves Hangar One


Bruce Barton/Town Crier
Hangar One, pictured here last January, will be restored under an agreement between Google and NASA.

NASA and Google Inc. forged an agreement last week that allows Google to lease a portion of NASA’s historic Moffett Fede...

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Business

State Street science center closing Nov. 30

State Street science center closing Nov. 30


Ellie Van Houtte/
Helix at 316 State St. is closing after the completion of a one-year grant from Passerelle Investment Co. The science center became a popular destination because of its various exhibits. Town Crier

A popular downtown destination...

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Books

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree


Author Tiffany Papageorge is scheduled to sign copies of new her book 11 a.m. Dec. 6 at Linden Tree Books, 265 State St., Los Altos.

Papageorge’s “My Yellow Balloon” (Minoan Moon, 2014) is a Mom’s Choice “Gold” winner. In the book, the Los Gat...

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People

JAMES WINDELL SMITH

JAMES WINDELL SMITH

January 11, 1939 – November 6, 2014
Resident of Mountain View

James Windell Smith, a 40 year resident of Los Altos, passed away from complications after a post-surgery stroke November 6th, 2014 in Los Gatos, California.

Born on January 11, 1939 on...

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Travel

Olive Sonoma: There's more to the quaint town than wine

Olive Sonoma: There's more to the quaint town than wine


Eren Göknar/ Special to the Town Crier
While many day-trippers may think that Sonoma is all about the grapes, the region boasts other delights. Try a biplane ride over the patchwork landscape.

Sonoma, a scenic two-hour drive from Los Altos, boa...

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Stepping Out

LA Stage Company opens 'Fairway'

The Los Altos Stage Company production of Ken Ludwig’s new comedy “The Fox on the Fairway” is slated to run Thursday through Dec. 14 at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

A tribute to the English farces of the 1930s and 1940s, “Fox” is a romp that p...

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Spiritual Life

Author of Jewish historical novel slated at Congregation Beth Am

Author of Jewish historical novel slated at Congregation Beth Am


The Beth Am Women have scheduled “A Conversation with Author Maggie Anton” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills.

Anton, winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, will discu...

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Magazine

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years


Courtesy of Christopher Stark
Homes on the St. Francis High School Women’s Club’s Christmas at Our House Holiday Home Tour showcase a variety of architectural styles.

The days grow short on sunshine but long on nostalgia as the holidays approach...

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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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