City Council Candidate Question 4: Reducing speeds for safety

4. Traffic during the times when children arrive and depart from school is heavy. Reducing traffic speeds by 1% reduces the probability of fatalities by 5%. Would you support reducing speed limits to 15mph near schools during these times?

[Sheri Spellwoman] I would be open to hearing arguments for and against this idea. I walk my kids to school every day and it has not really been my impression that high speeds near the schools are a problem. That is only my impression, and I am open to hearing what others in the community have to say. I think our crossing guards do an amazing job. I have heard many complaints about problems with traffic flow and double parking around the schools at those times and the need for more traffic control. Ocean View School has needed a police officer on duty to keep cars moving. Many teachers and parents at Cornell School have discussed the need for designating Cornell and Talbot as one way streets on the school block. Cars on these blocks are regularly sideswiped. This may be an idea that deserves consideration as well.

[Pete Maass] Sounds like a very good idea, but perhaps a bit problematic, for Marin and Buchannan. I could see using flashing lights/sign to alert motorists during the critical hours.

[Peggy Thomsen] San Jose, San Francisco, and other cities have new projects to test the effectiveness of 15-mph zones near schools. Some research shows other methods, e.g., flashing lights, may be more effective in slowing traffic. We need to research the effectiveness of the various programs and methodologies to try to obtain the best way to lower vehicular speeds in our school zones.

[Nick Pilch] Absolutely, especially since the data support it so well.

[Michael Barnes] Whether or not reduced speed limits would be effective depends upon the nature of the problem. My recollection as a former school board member and parent is that auto congestion from dropping off and picking up kids was the big problem. The congestion forces kids to run the gauntlet of frustrated parents trying to maneuver their cars in and out. This is very dangerous even though the traffic is not moving quickly. That problem will not be solved by speed limits. Encouraging parents to form walking groups is a better solution for auto congestion.
If the problem is speeding cars, than a reduced speed limit could improve safely, subject to a traffic engineering study and the availability of police officers to enforce the rules. We don’t have funding in Albany to increase our police force right now, however, so lower speed limits may largely go unenforced.

[Tod Abbott] I would support reducing speed limits at these times, at least on a trial basis — especially if coupled with increased enforcement. A good part of the problem is people not respecting the speed limit whatever it is. Traffic coming East on Buchanan is coming off the freeway, so naturally tends to exceed the speed limit. To many drivers, that street feels like it should be 35+mph. I would support analysis and measures to change the feeling of the street so that it felt natural to drivers to travel much more slowly. I’m not a traffic engineer, but I suspect that might include narrowing the street moderately, and streetscape changes. Something similar can be said about Marin. Despite the re-striping a few years ago, the street still feels wide and fast to drivers.

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