Assembly Bill 43 became effective on January 1st, 2022. In a nutshell, this new law allows California cities to lower speed limits on their own streets. It sounds - and is - bizarre, but lowering our own speed limits was previously very difficult due to an obscure state law that you can read about here.
At the beginning of this year, CMABS created a list of 8 resolutions for Costa Mesa, to build on the growing momentum we have towards better and safer streets. You can read our letter here.
Our first listed resolution is the implementation of AB 43 - to start lowering our speed limits. We asked that the city make some progress and make this happen on at least two streets before the end of the year.
We don’t know how much of an effect we had on this, but yesterday, the city announced that they will be lowering speed limits on SEVENTEEN segments of city streets. In yesterday’s City Hall Snapshot:
Public Works is pleased to announce that the recent Engineering & Traffic Survey for Speed Limits resulted in lowering the posted speed limits on 17 segments throughout the City.
These speed limit reductions take into account recent laws governing speed limits, where applicable. Additional reduction measures will be available in June 2024, and Public Works staff will review locations Citywide for any further speed reductions at that time.
To see the complete list of segments, scroll towards the end of the Snapshot here.
This is HUGE news, as we are now one of the few cities with the courage and vision to take such concrete steps to reign in traffic violence and reckless driving. This is our city, and we are doing the right thing in regulating the dangerous machines that pose an incessant threat to everyone using public space. As we often say - the safety and comfort of our streets is a nonpartisan issue. This is something we can ALL get behind and celebrate. Aside from the symbolic significance of this move, here are some concrete ways in this can start making a difference:
Speed kills. Every 5 mph increase in vehicle speed not only dramatically increases the likelihood of death (especially for pedestrians and bicyclists) in a vehicle collision, but also reduces a driver's field of vision and reaction time, and also reduces the effectiveness of crosswalks. Reducing vehicle speeds improves safety. Period.
The stress of driving. We understand that people often need - or even prefer - to drive. (Most safe street advocates own and drive cars - we get it). But with higher car speeds comes not only increased danger, but increased stress. Not all drivers are as sharp and attentive as the rest of us. And it is just not good for society when so much of the population is daily placed in the competitive, high-stakes, and mentally-demanding position of having to keep up and maneuver on our high-speed streets. Lower speeds decrease the general tension of our driving environments. Think of young and old drivers, and those with disabilities. Slower speeds are better for them, at little-to-no cost for the rest of us.
Slower cars make for a better street. The noise, fumes/particulates, and especially the incessant threat that cars pose everywhere truly has an effect on not only our health, but on our decisions on how we get around and how far we let our kids roam. There’s also the social life of each street that suffers - something inherent in city streets since time immemorial. Slowing down traffic lessens their negative impacts across the board.
Here is a great article that more fully explains the impact of car speeds on the health of cities.
But we can’t stop here! Moving forward, we need to ensure that speeds (not just posted limits) actually come down - and that can only happen through design.
We want to give a huge shoutout to our city leaders, and thank them for taking our comfort and safety seriously. They could be doing nothing, or moving in the wrong direction. But Costa Mesa is different. Our leaders are working for us. If you want to send them a note of appreciation, here you go:
City Council: firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Works Director Raja Sethuraman: email@example.com
- The CMABS Team