Fri09192014

News

Meet the Mountain View City Council candidates

Meet the Mountain View City Council candidates


Nine candidates have filed to run for three open seats on the Mountain View City Council in the Nov. 4 election – none of them incumbents. The Town Crier asked them to introduce themselves to readers in the following Q&A format. We knew the...

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Schools

LASD committee looks to rank campus improvement projects

LASD committee looks to rank campus improvement projects


Traci Newell/Town Crier
The Los Altos School District’s newly expanded Facilities Advisory Committee met for the first time last week. The 28-member committee’s first task is to prioritize campus improvement projects.

The Los Altos Scho...

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Community

Sports

New-look Lancers find their footing

New-look Lancers find their footing


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Jenna Adams, left, and Carly Deale attempt to bump the ball Friday night. The juniors combined for 28 kills.

This year’s St. Francis High girls volleyball team faintly resembles last season’s squad ...

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Special Sections

MV Whisman teachers cite low pay

MV Whisman teachers cite low pay


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
An estimated 75 supporters of higher teacher pay turned out for the Sept. 4 Mountain View Whisman School District board meeting.

Teachers, trustees and administrators are recovering from a dramatic Mountain View Whism...

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Business

Skin rejuvenation studio joins Rancho

Skin rejuvenation studio joins Rancho


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Esthetician Marjan Kashi showcases one of the treatment rooms at her new studio, Pure Serenity Skincare at Rancho Shopping Center. Kashi provides services including microdermabrasion and various light and heat energy the...

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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

JERALD (JERRY) NELSON CHRISTIANSEN

JERALD (JERRY) NELSON CHRISTIANSEN

Resident of San Jose and Los Altos, California

July 21, 1931 to August 4, 2014

Born in Arimo, Idaho, to Jerald Emmett and Rebecca Henderson Nelson Christiansen. Raised in Davis and Riverside, California, with summers in Downey, Idaho, and in Loga...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

Pear puts on a pair of plays

Pear puts on a pair of plays


J. Smith/Special to the Town Crier
Dan Kapler (as Teddy) and Betsy Kruse Craig (Trish) star in Pear Avenue Theatre’s “House.”

The Pear Avenue Theatre production of two interlocking comedies by Alan Ayckbourn – “House&...

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Spiritual Life

Back to Church Sunday offers opportunity to recommit

The children in Los Altos are back to school, and I can still hear parents cheering. Summer is officially over, even if the calendar doesn’t quite think so.

Parents have attended Back to School nights to meet their children’s teachers. B...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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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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