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'Safe Streets Bill' Heads to Committee Hearing

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All over the Valley (and soon spreading into Hollywood, Westwood and beyond), speed limits are increasing and not because there is a need for better traffic flow. "Because of state law, when local government wants to use radar enforcement, they have to use up- to-date traffic surveys to justify the posted speed limit," Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, who this year introduced a bill to change the law to help protect cyclists and pedestrians, explained at a press conference this afternoon.

"Unfortunately," Krekorian continued, "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."

Wendy Greuel, the city's current chair of the Transportation committee is not thrilled with the law that was originally intended to protect people from police speed traps. "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," she vented. "So we only have two choices--to raise it or not enforce the law."

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And that's exactly why Greuel and others are supporting Krekorian's bill, AB 766, or the "Safe Streets Bill." If passed, it would give local governments more flexibility by allowing them the chance to retain--but not lower--speed limits when a new speed survey is conducted by holding a public hearing and proving that higher speeds would not improve the flow of traffic.

22 years ago, Councilmember Richard Alarcon's son was killed in a car crash on Victory Blvd. The other car was going 97 miles per hour. "It irks me to think that with a driver driving 97 miles per hour, that their speed would be calculated into any kind of formula whatsoever, that's ludicrous, that's ridiculous," he said in frustration. "We in our history have become an auto oriented society in regards to our transportation systems," he noted. "We neglect the needs of pedestrians, we neglect the needs of cyclists and we need to get back to the day when everything is equal in terms of fairness, in terms of public safety."

AB 766 will be heard in the Assembly's Transportation Committee next Monday. Safe streets activist Stephen Box and his wife Enci are some of the people traveling up to testify in support of the bill. Box explains that streets are full of "high-performance vehicles with low-performance drivers" who are not skilled enough to handle the ever-increasing posted speed limits.

On the other side, the California Highway Patrol, the Teamsters and the Auto Club oppose this bill for various reasons.