Tuesday, May 19, 2009

CityWatchLA - LA Speed Limits: Business as Usual

CityWatch, Pub: May 19, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 40

Fresh on the heels of a move to liberate the department of any responsibility for LA's Safe Routes to School program, the LADOT stands before the City Council with proposals to increase the speed limits for Zelzah and Balboa Avenues.

These controversial proposals have been struggling through the process, picking up significant community opposition and stalling, first in the Transportation Commission and then again in the Transportation Committee, all while other speed limit increase proposals have sailed through the City Council. The proposed speed limit increases are the result of the state- mandated speed zone surveys, all required in order to use radar/laser for speed limit enforcement. State law provides that the speed limits be set so that 85% of the motorists currently driving that street be considered legal. This often results in speed limits being raised as motorists "vote with the gas pedal!"

It was just a week ago that Assistant Majority Leader Paul Krekorian's AB766 - Safe Streets Bill had its day in the Assembly Transportation Committee. This bill proposed that communities should have the opportunity to convene a public hearing and, if determined that an increase in speed would be detrimental to pedestrian and cyclist safety, to simply retain the speed limited as posted.

The Safe Streets Bill arrived in Committee with significant support from Los Angeles. The Mayor and the City Council both endorsed the Safe Streets Bill. The Los Angeles Neighborhood Council unanimously endorsed the Safe Streets Bill. Transportation Committee Chair Wendy Greuel and Councilman Richard Alarcon both stood with Assemblyman Paul Krekorian and called for equality as the underlying principle to rely on when establishing speed limits.

Greuel complained that under current law, "We only get two choices and they're both bad. Raise the speed limits or stop using radar!"

Alarcon spoke of establishing speed limits based on equality and called for a process that weighed the needs of everybody, including pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit passengers.

The Safe Streets Bill was opposed by the AAA, the Teamsters and the CHP, all of whom defended the status quo as being completely reasonable. Transportation Committee Chair Mike Eng agreed saying the speed trap law has worked for the last 30-50 years and there was "no reason to mess with the science."

The Safe Streets Bill failed to pick up approval and it remains in the Transportation Committee of the California State Assembly. The bill now goes to a public hearing which pleases supporters who want to get the topic out into the public arena for a robust discussion.

Both Krekorian and Alarcon joined the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils this past Thursday and engaged in a robust discussion of the bill. Krekorian indicating that he was calling for the State Assembly Transportation Committee hearing on the Safe Streets Bill be held here in his district.

As for the City of Los Angeles, it's business as usual. The Zelsah and Balboa speed limit increases are on the City Council agenda for Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 10am. (Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and a contributor to CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net)

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