City puts brakes on speed limit increase

Crescendos of applause followed remarks by several local residents who spoke out against increased speed limits on collector streets at the March 28 Los Altos City Council meeting.

An Engineering and Traffic survey recommended raising the speed limit from 25 to 30 mph on Cuesta Drive as a one-year test to determine whether a higher speed limit would lead to slower speeds overall.

The logic of the theory is that Los Altos police are not permitted to issue tickets if a large proportion of drivers are exceeding the speed limit. If the speed limit were 30 mph, drivers going faster could be ticketed, but they could not be ticketed at a lower speed.

Los Altos resident Jim Davidson said it was time for a change.

“We have faithfully kept the speed limit at 25, and drivers have faithfully ignored it,” Davidson said. “There seems to be a belief that if we impede traffic on the collectors, it will go away. Well, it won’t. It will go onto the local streets.”

Councilwoman Lynette Lee Eng was skeptical of the police’s ability to control traffic in Los Altos.

“We can’t count on the officers to always be there,” she said. “We don’t have a record of good enforcement in that area.”

The council voted unanimously – with Mayor Mary Prochnow absent – to maintain the speed limits at 25 mph, with a consensus that traffic-calming measures such as speed bumps or street narrowing would reduce speeds.

Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins asked Cuesta Drive residents not to object to such measures.

“I would definitely not support (speed limit increases) until we are fully staffed in terms of our traffic officers,” she said. “But our experience in Los Altos is traffic calming is a heavy lift. The people who resist it are the residents on the street.”

Bruins also warned Los Altos residents not to point fingers and place blame on Uber drivers and Mountain View residents. She cited an informal study conducted by Kurt Ayers, a Los Altos resident on South Clark Avenue who clocked drivers with a radar gun.

“One resident took a radar gun and plotted three consecutive days. The major speeding was happening on Saturday and Sunday,” Bruins said. “This is not cut-through traffic, y’all. This is us. Keep ourselves in check. Keep our neighbors in check.”

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