Wednesday, November 12, 2008

CityWatchLA - Neighborhoods Want a Voice on Speed Limits

CityWatch, Nov 11, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 91

LA Traffic
By Stephen Box

The LA Department of Transportation is chomping at the bit, standing by with 20 proposed speed limit increases for the Valley, all the while claiming that their hands are tied, that they are simply abiding by State Law and that in order for the LA Police Department to use radar enforcement, local speed limits must be set based on the 85 percentile mark.

In other words, "motorists vote with the gas pedal."

Six of these speed limit revisions are up for approval by the Transportation Commission on Thursday 10 a.m. If approved, the proposals go to the Transportation Committee and then to the City Council for final approval. The process takes a little over a year from initiation to Commission presentation.

In spite of the long journey, the LADOT doesn't notify the Neighborhood Councils until, in this case, seven days in advance of the Commission meeting. Granted, it's more than the legal minimum of 72 hours but with a one year lead time involving the DOT, the Council office, the LAPD and the City Attorney, a seven day notice hardly communicates a sincere desire … much less a commitment … to involve the community.

Meanwhile, the State of California is considering revisions to the state law regulating the establishment of posted speed limits and is considering a proposed modification that would allow local municipalities a "soft floor" that would provide a mechanism for setting legal and radar enforceable speed limits at lower than the 50 percentile, simply by documenting the mitigating conditions and justification for the lower speed.

The California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC) took public comment on this issue at its September meeting and also took written recommendations from the City of Carlsbad, the City of Escondido and the Santa Clara County Police Chiefs' Association. The draft minutes for this meeting indicate that the City of Pasadena, the City of Thousand Oaks, the City of San Jose and the California Police Chiefs' Association were also all in the mix.

With all of the recent debate over the LADOT's proposed speed limit increases, how is it that the communities in the City of LA didn't hear until now that the statewide standard for setting speed limits is under evaluation and that a recommendation for revision is being entertained by the California Transportation Department? After all, the City of Los Angeles is represented on the CTCDC by LADOT Assistant General Manager John Fisher.

If you think the speed limit for your street should be set by the motorists who cut through your neighborhood, sit back and let the LADOT slide those speed limit revisions through the Transportation Commission and the City Council.

If you think the speed limit for your street should be set based on the unique character of your street, your neighborhood and your community and should accommodate the pedestrians and cyclists who might also use the street, speak up.

If you'd like to see us develop and use more tools for traffic calming and enforcement, speak up and challenge our leadership to innovate and to support healthy neighborhoods where a commitment to quality of life is a reality, not simply a campaign promise.

If you think that your opinion matters, email Will Kempton, Director of the California Department of Transportation at to view it and urge him to provide local communities real tools for traffic enforcement including a "soft floor" on the 85th percentile rule, a reduction in the reliance on the 85th percentile rule and support from Caltrans in the use of alternative methods of traffic control.

Send a copy to me and I'll take your message to the Transportation Commission on Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 10 a.m.

(Stephen Box is a cyclist advocate in Los Angeles and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at

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