Chandler Blvd. Speed Limit Should Increase from 35 to 45 MPH, Study Recommends


Three streets are under consideration for speed limit increases | View Speed Limit Increases in The Valley in a larger map

Los Angeles transportation officials and police are continuing their effort to increase speed limits throughout the city, once again with community groups in opposition, citing pedestrian and cyclist safety as well as the general threat to a neighborhood's quality of life. At this week's Transportation Committee meeting of the Los Angeles City Council, discussions will surround raising the speed limits on Chandler Boulevard, Riverside Drive and Beverly Glen Boulevard.

The most drastic proposal is for Chandler Boulevard, where officials want to see a speed limit increase from 35 MPH to 45 MPH along the Orange Line busway and bike lanes (a small section between Vineland and Lankershim would change from 35 mph to 40 mph, too, according to the proposal) . A proposal for Riverside Drive would change the limit from 35 MPH to 40 MPH for its entire length between the Burbank border and Van Nuys Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. And Beverly Glen Boulevard would see some increases and decreases along a short section, between Ventura Boulevard and Mulholland Drive.

The reasoning behind raising speed limits goes back to a state law aimed at protecting drivers from low speed limits purposefully set to make it easier for police to write tickets. Basically, the law says a speed survey must be done every 7 years (there can be a one-time 3-year extension) to find the real average speed that 85% of drivers are doing. That average must become the new speed limit, save for some safety elements, if police want to continue using radar for enforcement.

"If 85% of the people were driving on Burbank Boulevard at 65 miles per hour, we would have to raise the rate to 65 miles per hour on that street if we wanted to enforce the law by radar," vented then-Councilmember Wendy Gruel at a press conference about changing the state law last year. "So we only have two choices--to raise it or not enforce the law."

It's no surprise that most drivers are taking liberty with an extra 5 to 10 MPH throughout the city. And despite the law that is meant to protect drivers from overzealous law enforcement priorities, it does not take into account other modes of transportation, namely pedestrians and cyclists.

"I'm very concerned about increasing posted speed limits in my district where people are already driving too fast in the first place," explained Paul Krekorian, the newly elected Councilmember, who as an Assemblyman last year, introduced the Safe Streets Bill--it was later voted down--to give cities more flexibility in changing the limits. "This next round of proposed increases just makes me frustrated that the state legislation that I introduced did not advance because I think it would have given local governments the ability to protect public safety."

Krekorian has issue with how engineering reports in general under-consider the danger to pedestrian and cyclists. For example, the report for Chandler Boulevard concludes that the street design is suffice:

The bike lanes, fenced median, one-way traffic flow, signalized pedestrian crossings, protected only left-turn signals,and right-turn only side streets are all elements which reduce the potential for traffic conflicts and add to the safety level of this segment. Accordingly, any speed limit reduction below the proposed 45 miles per hour speed limit would not be justified.

The engineering report for Riverside Drive never mentions pedestrians and only describes the bike lanes along a stretch of the artery. A report submitted to and approved by the Board of Transportation Commissioners--a group of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointees--only mentioned each mode once:

There are no significant roadway conditions that could be considered as not readily apparent to motorists, or that create special problems for bicyclists or pedestrians.

The three neighborhood councils representing the areas along Riverside Drive all opposed the speed limit increase. One Valley Village neighborhood councilmember even collected 11 pages of signatures opposing the increase, according to its board's minutes.

The Valley Village Neighborhood Council also opposed the increase on Chandler Boulevard, but the report submitted to commissioners and City Councilmembers failed to mention the opposition.

As for Krekorian, he will be examining the engineering reports to see what his next steps will be. "Unfortunately," he said last year at the press conference for his bill, "these traffic surveys take into account the average speed that drivers are using on that street, which means that as speeders continue to increase the average speed limit, local government feels forced to increase the posted speed limit. Of course, as soon as that happens, the speeders go a little faster and it's an endless cycle of mayhem on our streets."

The City Council's Transportation Committee is scheduled to look into the increases on Wednesday afternoon.