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Residential speeding demands substantive solutions: Other Voices

The Town Crier’s Aug. 21 article on speed limits (“Slow down: LA City Council rejects proposed speed-limit increases”) deserves some clarification and commentary, including the question: What is your better solution?

Believing that a radar feedback speed sign is “miraculous” and that implementing one will “make all the problems go away” is pure fantasy. It may help to a minimal degree for a short period of time. However, once drivers understand that it has no enforcement component, it simply becomes another sign to ignore. To believe that irresponsible drivers will somehow suddenly convert to responsible drivers based on one of these signs is sophomoric.

Narrowing streets? Visually shrinking the roadway may slow down some drivers, but others will simply use more of the bike lane.

How about speed tables? They do work to help control speeds and enhance pedestrian safety if designed and installed correctly. The speed table in front of Los Altos High School is an example of a functional design. The speed table at the back of Almond School is an example of a failed design that both city staff and council have known about for six years yet refuse to correct, risking public safety. Why?

Installing “Yield to Pedestrians, State Law” signs in crosswalks? While effective, they don’t represent a “rural atmosphere.” It’s OK for virtually all other cities, but we are above such banal displays, as our “rural atmosphere” appears to include unabated running of occupied crosswalks. Why?

Blaming crosstown commute speeders as the source of the problem is an easy way to duck personal responsibility. Drivers speeding on El Monte Avenue, for example, continue that speeding habit on South Clark, a street that can be radar enforced and is, almost exclusively, used by Los Altos residents (oh my!). Yet there is no radar enforcement on South Clark. Why? There are numerous other enforceable street examples, yet little, if anything, is being done.

Reality check: Educating drivers in an attempt to promote responsible driving is folly. Based on my 13 years of working with the city on the Traffic Commission and Neighbor Advisory Task Force, I can assure you that the only substantive tool that gets a driver’s attention is a red and blue light in the rearview mirror. It applies to those crosstown commuters as well as Los Altos residents, including business executives, parents shuttling kids to school, students and seniors.

If you don’t like residential speeding, what is your substantive solution?

Los Altos City Councilwoman Val Carpenter hits the target on the real problem – the 85th percentile rule. Until that rule is removed from street surveys, the inmates (drivers) will run the asylum, determining speed limits while ignoring street design, residential density and bicycle and pedestrian safety.

It’s time for all councilmembers and all Los Altos residents concerned with residential traffic safety to write, call and email state representatives and demand that the 85th percentile rule be removed as the determining survey factor within the Caltrans Manual of Traffic Control Devices. Enough is enough. The root cause is known. It is time for our representatives to man up and resolve this issue in Sacramento with assistance from cities all across California that have the same problem with no resolution in sight.

Kurt Ayers is a Los Altos resident and former member of the Traffic Commission (now the Planning and Transportation Commission).

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