Do Speeds Need to Go Up West of Davis on Russell?

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35-MPH-Regulatory-Speed-Limit-Sign-with-Radar-Sign

Yolo County Public Works staff recommended raising the speed limits in 14 unincorporated areas including Russell Blvd to the west of Davis out near Pedrick Road.

The Board of Supervisors held off increasing the limits to four of the county roads, citing safety concerns and looking toward alternative ways to reduce speeds.

Supervisor Don Saylor recommended for the four roads that there be additional study for the next year to include consideration of traffic-calming measures and looking toward a state law change.

Staff argued, “These actions will bring affected speed limits into compliance with the California Vehicle Code (CVC) and California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and ensure that the posted speed limits are enforceable under state law.”

The California Vehicle Code (CVC) and the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) govern the criteria for establishment of speed limits. The CVC sets the basic speed limit for two-lane, undivided highways at 55 mph.

According to the staff report, “Setting speed limits outside the guidelines constitutes a speed trap, under the CVC, and those speed limits are not enforceable using radar.”

That is based on the premise that they are required to set speed limits in the 85th percentile, that is, a speed at which 85% of the drivers will drive at a reasonable speed for the road and conditions.

“To establish a speed zone less than 55 mph the agency must conduct an E&TS [Engineering and Traffic Survey], including a speed zone survey,” the staff report argued.

Supervisor Don Saylor disagreed with the staff  recommendation, arguing, “There are three of these that I just don’t think we should be making increases that we’re talking about…  However we approach this, we should not make those changes that are being proposed at this point – for safety of the drivers and others.”

He pointed out that there are three large churches on that stretch, and a parking lot to the north of the church where people walk across on Sunday Morning.

“I don’t think we should be raising the speed limit in that area, and we should probably be going the other way with it, in fact,” he added.

According to Panos Kokkas, the Yolo County Assistant Director of Planning and Public works, they did a speed survey last year that showed the 85th percentile for Russell Blvd was 49 mph, which he characterized as “rather high compared to the posted speed.”

Based on that, he argued that the speed limit would need to be 50 mph, but due to the residential areas, school, children and churches in the vicinity, they determined that they could lower that to 45 mph.

According to Mr. Kokkas, if the speed limit is not raised, it would go back to 55 mph, which is the basic non-posted speed limit, and people driving 55 mph or less could not be cited.

Concerns were raised that raising the speed limit would further drive up the speeds.  But Mr. Kokkas, citing limited data from a pilot study conducted in Davis, argued that they should find that the actual speeds remained constant, despite the increase in the posted speed limit.

He argued that is consistent with other studies.

CHP Captain Dale Cannon  told the board, “I would like to point out that there has been a lot of talk about the posted speed being 35 and that people will drive faster if you raise it, currently 85% of the people are driving 48 to 49 mph.”

The average daily traffic count for that stretch of road was about 3000, he said.

“So about 2500 people are already driving at 48 to 49 mph, so by putting a speed limit of 45, at least we can enforce it,” he said.

Captain Cannon and Mr. Kokkas both argued that the failure of the board to act on the speed limit, in effect, raised the speed limit to 55 mph.

yourspeedisHowever, we note that the March 2011 City of Davis staff report indicates that the speed trap law actually only precludes enforcement by radar or other electronic devices, it does not necessarily render the speed completely unenforceable.

The county recommendation reflects a similar bias to what we saw in Davis, as law enforcement focuses strictly on their ability to enforce laws rather than looking at ways to reduce speeds.

The motion made by Councilmember Don Saylor and passed by the Board of Supervisors instructs their staff to look into road-calming measures.

Supervisor Matt Rexroad, while concerned about raising speed limits, was concerned with the overall cost of such measures.

But we have learned in Davis, that a lot of these traffic-calming measures do not have to be overly-expensive.  In addition, grant money is often available to implement smarter street designs.

One of the problems with Russell Blvd, out near Pedrick, is that it looks like a rural area and it is not immediately evident to drivers that there are residences, churches and schools.

The posted speed limit signs are not that visible.  We would recommend relatively inexpensive measures, such as a speed sign that measures the speed and posts it to the driver, comparing it to the speed limit.

Recognition by itself may act to reduce speeds by up to 5 mph.

Relatively inexpensively, they could install a speed bump made of rubber to further reduce speeds.

The problem is this, people are driving too fast for that area anyway.  Residents came forward to express concern with existing conditions.

rubber-speed-bump

It is counterintuitive to be concerned that people are driving 50 mph now and then raise the speed limit.

The focus, therefore, should be on finding ways to slow down traffic rather than allowing people to go through the area faster just so that you can enforce the speed limit on the small percentage of the population going even faster than 55.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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37 thoughts on “Do Speeds Need to Go Up West of Davis on Russell?”

  1. hpierce

    [quote]That is [b]based on the premise[/b] that they are required to set speed limits in the 85th percentile that is a speed at which 85% of the drivers will drive at a reasonable speed for the road and conditions.[/quote]In order to enforce by radar, it is not a “premise”… it is State Law.

  2. hpierce

    No… not my intent… it is a common perception that engineering staff and law enforcement folks “promote” raising of speed limits ‘willy-nilly’. There is a common perception that “speed” has a 1-1 correlation to safety (or lack thereof). Study after study after study refute this. There seem to be two main set of folks who vigorously want to reduce vehicular speed, irrespective of crash history, roadway conditions, etc. Those who don’t understand driver behaviour and traffic engineering, and those who just like to have control other people’s behaviour. My point was meant to be, in this case, engineers and law enforcement was trying to inform, and provide the supervisors a means to make law enforcement feasible in the most economical way.

  3. David M. Greenwald

    Okay fair enough. I understand where they are coming from in terms of making the speed limit enforceable, but there are safety concerns in that area, particularly the school and churches that I think make a higher speed limit inappropriate and I prefer the approach of traffic calming rather than raising speeds.

  4. E Roberts Musser

    I live in West Davis, and know the stretch of Russell out towards Pedrick Road. It is a straight shot, without any cross streets to interrupt traffic flow, just a lot of private driveways. Driveways of homes, churches. A simple traffic calming measure would be to place stop signs at Lake Blvd. and at the Baptist church, so that the road is no longer a “straight shot” without interruption…

  5. hpierce

    David… it was a ‘bad morning’ for reasons that had nothing to do with this discussion venue. You are completely correct… I “acted out”. I’ll take a time-out. If I’m still welcome, I’ll attempt to help further discussion, correct errors, and generally behave myself.

  6. biddlin

    I have experience with Sacramento’s disastrous traffic calming program(I was in the PublicWorks Dept.) and believe it should serve as an example of the most expensive, least satisfactory solution to speeders . The construction cost, the inane maze that midtowners and anyone trying to find the few surviving businesses in the Mansion Flats and Alkali Flats neighborhoods has to negotiate and the fact that all public vehicles from meter maids to police and fire ignore the diversion/obstructions entirely has reduced speed and commerce to a standstill ! The cost would have paid for two dedicated motor officers for the area for five years ! That would not have satisfied the terms of grants used or created opportunities for the city manager’s cronies to profit !

  7. David M. Greenwald

    I just drove out there, on the way back, eastbound, I noticed that there is no visible posted speed limit sign if you turn from Pedrick. Apparently that came up in the meeting but the engineers said it wouldn’t matter.

    Seems to me a few visible signs, perhaps with the electronic display and stop signs at the parking lot crossing, patwin road and lake blvd would do the trick.

  8. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]I just drove out there, on the way back, eastbound, I noticed that there is no visible posted speed limit sign if you turn from Pedrick. Apparently that came up in the meeting but the engineers said it wouldn’t matter. [/quote]

    I tend to agree w the engineers. I’m not against posting speed signs mind you, but I don’t think it will make much difference. That is bc it is a straight shot on Russell from Lake to Pedrick, with nary a cross street to slow traffic. Not only that but Russell, prior to the “left turn bump” back to Russell, only has two intersecting “T” streets, Portage Bay and Lake. So cars see that as a pretty clear stretch of road to gun the gas pedal. After Lake towards the west, there aren’t even bicyclists who cross Russell out there, and not that many cars except perhaps on Sunday. So if you simply put a stop sign at Lake Blvd, and another one at the Baptist Church, it is no longer a “straight shot”. I even contacted the city at one point, to put a stop sign at Lake and Russell, after there were 4 traffic accidents in one year at that intersection. But no luck…

  9. stracy

    David, I am assuming that you have quoted CHP Captain Cannon accurately. Given that, he has the math on what the 48-49 mph 85th percentile means exactly backwards. (There are two numbers because the eastbound and westbound speeds were slightly different when the speed survey was taken.)

    It does not mean “85% of the people are driving 48 to 49 mph.” and “…about 2500 people are already driving at 48 to 49 mph.”

    It means 85% of the drivers are going UNDER those speeds, in a distribution curve that falls off fairly steeply to 30 mph and then more gradually to about 10 mph. Only 15% of the vehicles are traveling at 48 mph or faster. That 15% is only 450 of the 3,000 vehicles going both directions on this piece of Road 32 each day, not “2500.” I will ship the summary table and speed distribution graph to Don Shor so he can post a link to it.

    And hpierce, it would be useful for people interested in this issue to have the citations from all those studies you say refute a correlation between speed and safety. Can you please provide those? Thanks.

  10. Robb

    David – thanks again for a concise presentation of the issues. To be clear, without traffic calming measures, staff’s hands are tied in terms of what they can do IF we want an enforceable speed limit. You are correct that enforceable refers only to electronic means and that other means could be used to enforce the lower limits. However those other means, as far as I know, would amount to having police cars determine automobile speeds by actually tailing speeding cars over a certain stretch. I doubt that is feasible.

    BTW, within Davis city limits we have over 30 streets/street segments that are “out of compliance” just as this stretch of Russell is. Go here http://cityofdavis.org/pw/traffic/speedlimit.cfm for information on speed surveys. Note the number of streets/segments that are signed at 25 MPH but for which the critical speed (the 85th percentile speed) is over 33 which means, under current law and a new law to take effect in January (AB 529), that the 25 MPH posted limit cannot be enforced electronically. I count 26 such streets/segments–many of which are on streets used by children to get to/from school. I fear that it is going to be too costly to “calm” all of these streets and that speed limits will be raised.

    I think we should explore Don Saylor’s suggestion of “looking at a state law change.” Why, for example, shouldn’t local jurisdictions be able to declare certain streets “safety corridors” because of the high mixed use nature of the streets (pedestrians, bicyclists, cars) and sign them at speeds it considers to be safe for all users? In these safety corridors staff would not need to waste time carrying out speed analyses but lower speed limits (25 MPH for example) would be enforceable. This designation could be applied to rural “transitional” segments like Russell between Pedrick and Lake. Perhaps we could ask Mariko Yamada or Lois Wolk to develop such legislation to cede some state control to local entities on this issue.

  11. Rifkin

    The Board of Supervisors held off increasing the limits to four of the county roads, citing safety concerns and looking toward alternative ways to reduce speeds.
    Supervisor Don Saylor recommended for the four roads that there be additional study for the next year to include consideration of traffic-calming measures and looking toward a state law change.

    Staff argued, “These actions will bring affected speed limits into compliance with the California Vehicle Code (CVC) and California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and ensure that the posted speed limits are enforceable under state law.”

    The California Vehicle Code (CVC) and the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) govern the criteria for establishment of speed limits. The CVC sets the basic speed limit for two-lane, undivided highways at 55 mph.

    According to the staff report, “Setting speed limits outside the guidelines constitutes a speed trap, under the CVC, and those speed limits are not enforceable using radar.”

    That is based on the premise that they are required to set speed limits in the 85th percentile, that is, a speed at which 85% of the drivers will drive at a reasonable speed for the road and conditions.

    “To establish a speed zone less than 55 mph the agency must conduct an E&TS [Engineering and Traffic Survey], including a speed zone survey,” the staff report argued.

    Supervisor Don Saylor disagreed with the staff recommendation, arguing, “There are three of these that I just don’t think we should be making increases that we’re talking about… However we approach this, we should not make those changes that are being proposed at this point – for safety of the drivers and others.”

    [i]”(Saylor) pointed out that there are [b]three large churches[/b] on that stretch (from Russell Blvd to the west of Davis out near Pedrick Road)
    and a parking lot to the north of the church where people walk across on Sunday Morning.”[i]

    In fact, there are really [i]two churches[/i] along that stretch (AFAIK): the First Baptist Church, which fronts Russell, and the Unitarian Church, which is on Patwin Road, off of Russell.

    The Grace Valley Church is around the corner on County Road 98. A fourth, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is a mile and a half to the west. Neither of these is in the stretch where the speed limit will change.

    I tend to agree with David Greenwald and others who say a good first step would be to post more speed limit signs. I am often unsure when I am driving in that stretch or even the stretch from Cactus Corners to the Primate Center what the speed limit is. The count’s public works people can put up a half dozen more signs for roughly the cost of a couple of speeding tickets.

  12. Rifkin

    [i]”(Saylor) pointed out that there are [b]three large churches[/b] on that stretch (from Russell Blvd to the west of Davis out near Pedrick Road) and a parking lot to the north of the church where people walk across on Sunday Morning.” [/i]

    In fact, there are really [i]two churches[/i] along that stretch (AFAIK): the First Baptist Church, which fronts Russell, and the Unitarian Church, which is on Patwin Road, off of Russell.

    The Grace Valley Church is around the corner on County Road 98. A fourth, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is a mile and a half to the west. Neither of these is in the stretch where the speed limit will change.

  13. Rifkin

    I agree with David Greenwald and others who say a good first step would be to post more speed limit signs. I am often unsure when I am driving in that stretch or even the stretch from Cactus Corners to the Primate Center what the speed limit is. The county’s public works people can put up a half dozen more signs for roughly the cost of a couple of speeding tickets.

  14. Phil Coleman

    A proposed change in the relevant state law is possible but very unlikely to be enacted in my view. In addition, while the percentile of traffic speed pertains only to radar tickets, traffic referees commonly use the same standard for all speeding citations in the name of fairness.

    It’s hard to quibble on that point even if there is not legal justification for doing so. The argument is, “Why should somebody getting a read by radar have a different standard of enforcement from somebody who is seen speeding my means other than radar?”

  15. roger bockrath

    By definition, a speed trap exists where the posted speed limit is less than the recommended speed, based on a speed zone survey. A speed zone survey determines where the 85th Percentile is… that is, the speed at which 85% percent of drivers are going at or slower and 15% are exceeding (rounded to the nearest 5mph.). If a SZS determines that the 85th percentile is is at 45mph, then that is the required speed limit by State law. Municipalities regularly post speed limits at less than the SZS recimended speed in order to generate revenue. That is why the State of California has speed trap laws. Uniform driving conditions are a major concern in State laws.

    If there is, in fact, a school on the Russell Blvd. stretch under consideration there is no need to post yet another green house gas producing stop sign. Simply post it as a school zone and the speed limit drops to 25mph when children are present. Drivers will have to slow down to see if children are present.
    Otherwise lets conform to State law and post our streets at the required speed limits. Citizens should not be required to take time off work to present a speed trap defense in traffic court for a speeding ticket that should have never been issued.
    Surely Yolo County can think up a more creative way to fill it’s coffers than issuing illegal speeding tickets.

  16. GreenandGolden

    Elaine and I are neighbors. She has the perfect angle. Stop signs would do the trick. As a pedestrian, I cross Russel Blvd at least twice per day. A few cars stop to let me pass, most power by. Police are rare on that section of Russel.

  17. E Roberts Musser

    To GreenandGolden: Howdy neighbor! You make an excellent point about pedestrian/bicycle crossings all along the section from before Portage Bay going west to Lake Blvd. Tons of pedestrians and bicyclists cross every day, with many cars just zooming by and refusing to stop. At times it is hard to get across to the bicycle path that runs along Russell, from the north side of the street. A simple stop sign at Lake would be of immense help to slow the traffic down…

  18. Frankly

    [i]”The focus, therefore, should be on finding ways to slow down traffic rather than allowing people to go through the area faster just so that you can enforce the speed limit on the small percentage of the population going even faster than 55″[/i]

    Why do so many in this town want to lower speed limits everywhere?

    There are plenty of studies that prove lowering speed limits below the 50th percentile will not reduce accidents, but does significantly increase driver violations of the speed limit. Conversely, raising the posted speed limits does not increase speeds or accidents.

    Roads were designed for car travel at certain speeds. Auto and gas taxes helps fund the construction and repair of roads. Most drivers are responsible and automatically travel at a speed that “feels” right and safe for them.

    How about doing some deeper analysis of bike and pedestrian travel and work to bring some order there? Today they are like so many ants scurrying in places they probably should not be. This time of year is especially dangerous as the days get shorter and kids are riding to and from classes without lights and wearing dark clothing. What about “recommended” and “not recommended” bike route signs? Frankly I sometimes wonder if there is a bit of natural selection going on with people riding their bike down 5th street at rush hour. Maybe an “Enter At Your Own Risk” sign would help improve survival rates.

  19. biddlin

    ‘Most drivers are responsible and automatically travel at a speed that “feels” right and safe for them.’ Jeff, I spent about 300,000 miles behind the wheel in my career as a musician and later working for the U.S. Dept. Commerce and the City of Sacramento, much of the last part in urban and suburban traffic . Based on my experiences I would agree with all but,”are responsible and ” ! In my neighborhood we have a divided four lane road that goes past residential areas and parks near the Sacramento River . It is clearly marked 40 MPH . While it has fairly good visibility, there are twists and turns and there are good size trees in the median strip ! I can almost guarantee that before midnight tonight someone traveling at a speed that feels safe to them will hit one of those trees or miss a turn and go off the road if not worse ! Automobile accidents are the deadliest threat most of us face daily

  20. GreenandGolden

    Jeff: Back to Russel Blvd west and pedestrian crossing. Indeed, I do feel like an ant, especially when cars speed by as I stand there. Yesterday, after making my comment above and bonding with Elaine, I waited at the cross walk as the rush hour cars sped by. Finally One nice lady stopped. As I every so slightly leaned forward to cross while rotting my head head to check the other direction, a not-so-nice man coming from the other direction slammed on his breaks then cursed me as I crossed in front of him. Ant, deer in the headlights, road kill, all of these metaphors come to mind. I was shaking all the way home.

  21. GreenandGolden

    “rotating” rather than “rotting.” I will be rotting if someone runs over me while I cross Russel Blvd. I’m a little old man, like an ant.

  22. Frankly

    GreenandGolden:

    Note that I am often one of the ants riding my bike to and from work.

    I agree that Russel Blvd. can be a dangerous road to cross. I’m all in favor of crosswalks and stop signs where they make sense. However, my point was that reducing speed limits below what is natural for the design of the road does not statistically make it more safe.

    How about a crosswalk like the one east of Anderson on Russel? It has a pedestal on each side with an electronic button that blinks yellow lights so the cars stop for pedestrians. Personally, I would be in favor of a light that turns red for the time it takes a person to cross. Here is the question though… would you walk a little farther to use this crosswalk, or take your chances crossing somewhere else that saved you some time? This gets to my “ant” point… bikes and pedestrians crossing everywhere despite the risks.

    Instead of ONLY seeking to slow down auto traffic, I am suggesting we do some analysis of pedestrian and bike traffic and maybe use signage and other methods to encourage them to use certain travel and crossing routes.

  23. mkilleen

    One thing not mentioned at the county meeting is how the Russell Blvd./Road 98 stretch became a 35 mph zone. I had a vague memory of the reason, but now have done a little research, which confirmed my memory. On Nov. 25, 1974, a seven-year-old boy named Michael Albright was waiting at Lake and Russell for the school bus to go to Fairfield School. He was probably fooling around with the other children also waiting. Michael ran into the street, into the path of a car driven by a 23-year-old UCD grad student, Mark Lewis. (all this is from articles in the Enterprise, available at the library). Lewis swerved to miss the boy, but then had to swerve back to avoid an oncoming car, and the side of his car hit Michael. Michael was in a coma for 8 days and then died. He is buried in Davis Cemetery. The Davis City Council met on December 11, 1974, and in a motion introduced by then Councilman Jim Stevens unanimously voted to reduce the speed limit from 55 to 35 mph, in reaction to Michael’s death (the first in 25 years at that time).
    The driver was not cited, as he was within the speed limit of 55. I am sure this became a tragedy for him. He apparently gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the boy until the police and ambulance could arrive (remember, there were no cell phones in 1974).
    I ride on that bike lane every day, and along Pedrick Road (Road 98), which is the fourth stretch of road the supervisors were reluctant to change the limit on. If you have time, watch the video of the supervisor meeting, especially the public comments of those living in the area. The reason for their reluctance on all four stretches is the same: public safety.
    Many people, including children, cross at Russell and Lake every day, and many people, including children, travel daily to Grace Valley Academy along Road 98 (in an unprotected bike path on the east side of the road). Included in the four roads is the intersection of Hutchison and Road 98, by the Primate Center, where traffic from West Village will add more cars and bikes to an already accident-prone stretch of road.
    I heartily concur with the suggestions above to at least put more stop signs and signs that display actual speed. Flashing yellow lights at Lake would even be good, especially for those foggy and rainy days we are about to have.
    I just don’t think we can be too safety-conscious in these situations. Kids will be kids, and accidents happen, but we don’t want any more little graves in the Davis Cemetery because of a state law.

  24. mkilleen

    I’m new at this, so let me correct a couple of sentences. The statement is that Michael’s death was the first [b][b][b]pedestrian[/b][/b][/b] death in 25 years at that time. Also, the reason for the reluctance of the supervisors to go along with the county recommendations on those four stretches of road is public safety. I have to add that I appreciate the reactions of the supervisors on this issue. They did take the concerns of the neighbors very seriously.

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