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April 28, 2006



Still managing to stick his head in where it doesn't belong... funny how it has taken this long for him to bring it up to the City.



I have seen the results of the speed zone surveys. I picked up a copy this morning after insisting to see this (as these are public records).

Virtually all 50 states have similar methods for assessing the proper speed limits. In California the roads need to be surveyed by an independent firm (so the City cannot do this on their own and tilt the results) every five years.

Typically, most motorists will, on their own, drive at a speed that is safe for that patch of pavement. The surveys, then, have percentiles noted. The 85th percentile is viewed as probably the safe speed for a stretch of road. This means the fastest 15% are eliminated and regarded as going too fast.

If a speed limit is set too low, motorists who have been cited as driving too fast can then contest the citation.
Most states will view a big discrepancy between the speed zone survey's 85th percentile and a low posted speed limit as a SPEED TRAP. These are illegal in California.

So please don't go bashing former Mayor Joe Galligan until you have first seen the statistics. He is well within his rights to speak up, whether or not you're a fan of his.

Too high a speed limit and the City might be sued for posting unsafe speeds. Again, too low of a limit constitutes a speed trap.

CALIFORNIA DRIVE (north of Burlingame Ave to Murchison) had 38MPH as the 85th percentile. This means 40 would be "okay" and 35 is "safe."

ROLLINS ROAD (both stretches, Broadway north to Millbrae and Broadway south to San Mateo) have 40mph as the 85th percentile. In fact, the posted speed limit of 35 was down at the 39th and 42nd percentiles in the speed zone survey.

AIRPORT BLVD (south of Bayside Park to Lang Road) had 39MPH as its 85th percentile figure. The posted speed limit of 35 was driven at the "average", so that was at the 50th percentile.


The speed limits were changed WITHOUT the citizen's Traffic Safety Parking Commission even having a sniff of the statistics.
This is, to my way of thinking, wrong.

There is a protocol for changing the laws and codes and these should be adhered to.

The City Council was not presented the results of the surveys. They were merely told that the speed limits had been changed.

Allowing city staffers or the police to arbitrarily change the laws seems to be a dangerous precendent. They should "suggest" changes if changes should be made.

With respect to the various changed speed limits, the city-commissioned survey clearly shows the speeds being driven by motorists are well within the realm of reasonable and sensible. And, above all, SAFE.

I hope the City Council will address these two issues.

Even though I can't stand our ex-councilmember AND I do appreciate there is a certain protocol that is needed, my question is ...

Is it really a complete horrendous hardship that we are asked to drive 30 miles per hour and not 35?

I've thought about it, and I think the reason that the testing came up lower at the 85th is because of several changes that have occurred on that street, in the last few years:

First of all, there are two or three new crosswalks, mainly activated ones that people do use and these have raised the awareness of peds. on that street. I think the Camelita one is the newest, and I've been caught by surprise there a few times, nearly running it. And the one at Stacks should really be a full activated stoplight. It isn't safe for Peds because of visibility around the cars, (but I digress.)

You can't go that fast on the street anymore without having to stop, somewhere, plus the light at Oak Grove always seems to be red. I have no problem with 30. They should do their normal protocol and get on with it. The Trousdale switch was indeed talked about for months, if not longer, so that should come as no surprise to anyone.

Fiona, the issue of speed limits is a matter of SAFETY.

Traffic engineering has evolved over the past century and it's understood that most motorists will drive at a speed which is considered "safe." That is why the traffic studies select that "85th percentile" as a good measure of what speed is "safe."

If you place the speed limit a notch below the general speed, I'd say you are exercising a certain amount of caution.

On the various roads in Burlingame where the speed limits were changed, "40" would be the generally accepted speed selected by most motorists. If you post the signs at 35mph, as they have been, and you allow for a slight leeway, you've posted the right speed limit.

If you post the speed limit at a restrictive level, motorists will generally still drive a speed which is "safe" and they'll be breaking the law.
Or will they?

The state of California bans "speed traps." A road where statistics clearly show 40 to be a safe speed that is posted for 30 allows motorists who are cited for speeding to fight the ticket and they will win most of the time.

Then you have to ask why would we devote funds to pay police to write tickets which would routinely be thrown out of court?

Another side issue is that of enforcement.
A US Department of Transportation study points out you would be punishing safe drivers by having the speed limit set too low. Since the police cannot "catch" each and every violator, this puts law enforcement officials in a position of "selective enforcement." Now you open another can of worms. Was "Driver A" pulled over because on the basis of race, gender or age? Was "Driver B" not cited because they're a local celebrity?

Here are some further findings in the summary of this US Dept. of Transportation study:

# Speed limits were posted, on average, between 5 and 16 mi/h (8 and 26 km/h) below the 85th percentile speed.

# Lowering speed limits by 5, 10, 15, or 20 mi/h (8, 16, 24, or 26 km/h) at the study sites had a minor effect on vehicle speeds. Posting lower speed limits does not decrease motorist's speeds.

# Raising speed limits by 5, 10, or 15 mi/h (8, 16, or 25 km/h) at the rural and urban sites had a minor effect on vehicle speeds. In other words, an increase in the posted speed limit did not create a corresponding increase in vehicle speeds.

# The average change in any of the percentile speeds at the experimental sites was less than 1.5 mi/h (2.4 m/h), regardless of whether the speed limit was raised or lowered.

# Where speed limits were lowered, an examination of speed distribution indicated the slowest drivers (1st percentile) increased their speed approximately 1 mi/h (1/6 km/h). There were no changes on the high-speed drivers (99th percentile)

# At sites where speed limits were raised, there was an increase of less than 1.5 mi/h (2.4 km/h) for drivers traveling at and below the 75th percentile speed. When the posted limits were raised by 10 and 15 mi/h (16 and 24 km/h), there was a small decrease in the 99th percentile speed.

# Raising speed limits in the region of the 85th percentile speed has an extremely beneficial effect on drivers complying with the posted speed limits.

# Lowering speed limits in the 33rd percentile speed (the average percentile that speed were posted in this study) provides a noncompliance rate of approximately 67 percent.

# After speed limits were altered at the experimental sites, less than one-half of the drivers complied with the new posed limits.

# Accidents at the 58 experimental sites where speed limits were lowered increased by 5.4 percent.

# Accidents at the 41 experimental sites where speed limits were raised decreased by 6.7 percent.

# Lowering speed limits more than 5 mi/h (8 km/h) below the 85th percentile speed of traffic did not reduce accidents.

The study greatly suggests adhering to a speed limit ranked in the 85th percentile.
On Burlingame's roadways, the 85th percentile was 38mph on California, 39mph on Airport Blvd. and 40mph on Rollins Road.

If we adopt the 85th percentile on all of the roadways, the posted speed would be 40mph. If we excercise a slight bit of restraint and account for drivers slightly exceeding the posted speed limit, we would post the speed limit at 35mph.

Posting it at 30mph creates a harzardous situation, then. You'd have a big differential in speeds of vehicles...some adhering to the posted speed limit and others maintaining a speed which is safe, but now "illegal." This opens the city up to law suits in the event of accidents caused by posting the limit too low.

Are you willing to pay for that?


Speaking of paying: How much did it cost to change all the signs illegally? There was such a big deal about the stop sign recently all this doesnt make sense.

In today's Daily News Galligan seems more concerned about how this council would "allow this type of change in public process to occur". Seems from the article that this is more about being miffed about the process - or lack of it - than safety?

So the question is why has our fair city done this? A communist plot? A protocol malfunction? Speeding ticket greed? Al-quaida? Ticking off the motorists? Sign fetish? Ordinance misunderstanding? Lawsuit hungry? Percentile confusion? Why?

Guess the answers to these questions will all be revealed at a future meeting.

Pecentile Dysfunction is the answer.
Joe Galligan tends to have a particular way of addressing various issues which "rubs people the wrong way." That's not exactly a news-flash to regular readers of this board, however.
Seriously, though, if you noticed that all the speed limit signs have an additional sign adjacent to them: RADAR ENFORCED.

I noticed in the minutes of the Traffic Safety Commission a mention of Chief Van Etten and a company called ATS. (Minutes of the January meeting). The Chief invited commissioners to a demonstration of ATS' traffic "enforcement" equipment.
The State Senate is considering a bill, SB1300, which would legalize speeding ticket cameras (known as photo radar). This comes before Committee on Transportation and Housing this week.
ATS has, according to a web site which reports on traffic and motor vehicle issues, already made its "pitch" to Burlingame city staffers (I suppose this is the police department and, perhaps, public works). Another firm, RedFlex, is reported to soon be showing its wares to Burlingame city representatives.
I found an interesting story on the website of Popular Mechanics dealing with these radar machines.


The story says they can be a wonderful "money machine" which is why they're popular with local governments. Some data indicates they do not create a safer motoring environment. And it leads to motorists taking evasive measures to circumvent the picture-taking ability of the machines. The story is written by a law professor and is an interesting read.
I've seen articles, in the course of suddenly becoming well-versed on this topic, which claim many of the companies which provide cameras and radar enforcement, routinely get a piece of the action! Some have received a percentage of ticket fine revenues, while other arrangements are for a flat fee.

The problem with this scenario, of course, is that there's an incentive to set the machines to catch as many people as possible. In San Diego, according to one report, a court thrw out 300 tickets because the photo machines had not been properly maintained for accuracy.

In another case, yellow lights were set to a very short interval to more easily entrap motorists in an intersection on a red light!
So, if we connect many of the dots in this whole scenario: it would seem like setting an unusually low speed limit on well-traveled boulevards is a scheme designed to milk a lot of revenue out of motorists under the guise of safety.
"Follow the money!"


30 mph on Rollins Road, in my humble opinion, is too low. Coming home today, I was behind someone driving 25 mph and it slowed everyone down. Rollins Road is not a regular residential road even though there are apt/homes located there. It is a major thruway, in my humble opinion. May history record that I agree with Mr. Galligan on this one. I hope they change it back, in my humble opinion. We are already wasting too much gas on sitting through all those long lights when the trains go through town. Give us a break!


Saturday I took a drive around town to test the 30mph. On Airport Blvd there was a young whippersnapper on a bicycle who was pretty durned close to keeping up with me. It was a slow speed and I had to fight to keep from going faster. On California Drive, 30 was okay southbound from Millbrae for a few blocks, but I was again fighting to keep to such a slow speed. I am sure the 5 or 6 cars behind me were frustrated by my slowness. They either made a left towards the freeway at Broadway or whizzed by once we got past Broadway. South of Broadway, 30 was difficult to maintain and I kept having to tap the brakes to keep to such a slow speed. When I drove on Rollins, I felt like I was that lost soul who is looking for a specific address or street and can't find it. The 30 speed there was slow for a car or truck.
Anybody who is actually farmiliar with the roads in Burlingame would know the 30mph speed is unnatural. Do the people who made the 30 speed limit actually think we would stand for this bull-puckey?
And if the city council allows em to put in them radar cameras, I say throw out the whole bunch of em rascals!

Great comments Gerald!
Yesterday, two cars passed me on California @Oxford. The car in front of me was going about 30. Both cars went over the double yellow. I have to say I wanted to follow them as well. It is very frustrating.
In the mornings people in a hurry to get to work,and drop off children, south bound, will be tempyed to do the same. The danger of the rising sun will cause an incredible hazard.
This lowering of the speed limit is ridiculous. A waste of resources.


There is always an appropriate and a less appropriate way of bringing something to the attention of the City. I think that this could have been brought to the City Manager's attention or to the City Attorney's attention, without the use of the press. There is appropriate protocol of which Galligan should be well aware............like him or not!


Then this could be swept under the carpet. That seems to be the way so many policies are going nationwide.

jeriann fleres

I am having a problem that I was wondering if anyone else is experiencing. Stopping for pedestrians. The first problem is stopping for them on the avenue. First I would like to address the pedestrians themselves. If you are standing at the crosswalk and I take the time to stop. DO NOT wave me on. Just cross the darn street. Or don't stand in the crosswalk to begin with. If you are standing there - I have to stop. That is the law. If I don't stop I could be ticketed. If I have to stop - you have to cross. Now on to the next problem. The crosswalks on El Camino and California Drive. You really take your life in your hands if you try to cross these streets. That is why if I see someone standing and trying to cross these two streets I always stop to let them cross (oh yeah and it's the law). But here's the problem. No one else wants to stop. So when you stop everyone else speeds past you and you are scared to death that they will rear end you. Then the brave pedestrian begins to cross the street in front of you. Now you are really worried about getting rear-ended and having your car run over the people right in front of your eyes. Ok so they are safely past your car and now you have to worry about them passing past your car and into the next lane of traffic next to you. Will the next lane stop? Will people in the lane behind you just think you have lost your mind and veer behind you only to run those poor people into the ground? You look into your rear view mirror and your side mirror while the pedestrians who always seem oblivious keep walking slower than molasses with packages and baby carts and their heads to the ground. Somehow with their horns blaring the cars miss them. Didn't anyone get the crosswalk/pedestrian bulletin? Why do they think I am stopped? Ok, so the people they make it past my car. And now the next lanes. Now they have to navigate through the oncoming traffic lane. Damn. Will those people even know what is going on? I know that the people behind me want me to move. My job is done now. The people have past my territory. They are safely beyond my zone. However if I stay I may have created enough of a diversion that perhaps people will notice them and see that there are people in the street and that they should stop. Maybe I can save these people; maybe I will be what stands between them and certain death. Maybe. Oh my god they made it. Another life saved. I continue on my way. Has this happened to anyone else? Or just me?


What a stupid way to set speed limits! Measure how fast everyone is going and then eliminate the fastest 15% to set the limit? Hey, if we all speed around town for awhile then all the speed limits will jump up to 40 or 45.

As for old Galligan whenever he starts a sentence with "If I were mayor..." you know to watch out. He was a master at purposely twisting protocol to do things under the covers. Remember when he tried to ban cell phones around schools? He thought he was a state assemblyman or something. Or get county speed bumps removed?

All he's doing here is projecting his own devious nature on other people. If we haven't changed a speed limit in 33 years then how would he know the procedure? Answer: He's the one setting the publicity "speed traps" and using the kids at the local papers to issue the tickets. Somethings never change.

Maybe he'll start his own community group. He could call it the GBB. They could pore over old city codes and find things to gripe about.


I agree with you. Ive seen so many close calls. If you look at the speed limit from that prospective 25-30 miles is certainly safer for pedestrians.


How much did it cost to put up the new signs? One third as much as it would cost to put them up, take them down and then put them back up when the proper notice is made to the public. Even an accountant should be able to figure that out.


Maybe we should have Galligan say something about the train tracks and getting the bus to stop on Carolyn. That deserves as much attention.

Cathryn Baylock

The Traffic Safety and Parking Commission will be holding a public hearing on this extremely important issue. The entire meeting, to be held Thursday, May 11th at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers, will be devoted exclusively to safety at railroad crossings, the location of SamTrans bus stops and crosswalk locations. I met with superintendent Sonny DaMarto on Thursday and a notice will go out in the public school newsletter this week announcing the time of the meeting. I have attached a memo from our Public Works Director discussing the methodology and agenda for this meeting. The entire community is invited to join this meeting so that we can work together to prevent another tragedy.

From Director George Bagdon: "Staff met today and developed the agenda for a TSPC meeting to be held on May 11, 2006 regarding pedestrian safety along the railroad corridor. We also created the a list of possible options to address the issue. We will be asking Caltrain and SAMTRANS representatives to attend to the meeting. We have copied Sonny Damarto on this memo as he intends to notify the school parents of the meeting.


I hope this helps. Cathy Baylock


Thats teriffic Cathy, thank you.

You know something, CB this is not really such an important issue. Thanks for chiming in..
I am not a fan of Galligan. However, this problem may not have got the attention it deserved, with out input from an insider.
Where the hell is O/Mahoney?
Does she have a license?

I had a nice chat with the City's traffic engineer Monday morning.

He admitted he might have been too hasty in setting the speed limits so low. There was pressure to finish the surveys and have that paper work completed by a certain time.

I asked if the speed surveys had sufficient "incidents" to warrant such low speed limits. There is but one pedestrian incident, for example, along California Drive, I pointed out. "That's close to perfect and it's a three year time period with but one incident!"

I also pointed out that Augustine's suggested "30 mph" speed limit was way down in the second percentile on the California Drive survey.

I asked Mr. Chou if he drives with any regularity down the streets on which he's changed the speed limits.

He admitted he doesn't get out of the office that much and so he is a bit unfamiliar with these roads. This seems to me to be unfortunate...I would think it would be very helpful for a traffic engineer to have more hands-on-the-wheel experience.

In any case, he seemed rather inclined to return the speed limits to 35 on most of the avenues where it's changed to 30.

I got the sense he wants to retain 30 on California Drive from Broadway (north) to Murchison. This afternoon I drove up and down this road and needed to go 35-38 to keep up with the flow of traffic. I was outpaced by a SamTrans minivan on my southbound trek at 4pm!

I would still argue 35 is a safe speed for all of the zones which have been changed to 30.

Monday morning I looked at further US Deptartment of Transportation articles on their web site. From what I gather, unless the accident rates are very high, it seems to me the setting of the 35mph limits on roads where the 85th percentile is 38, 39 and 40, would prevent the city from being routinely sued in the event of an accident.

The Dept of Transportation articles I read, again point out that motorists tend to drive at speeds which are safe for the driving conditions, without respect to posted speed limits. There is much data which says people will still drive at 35-38 despite the 30mph posted signage.

Mr. Chou also admitted that a slower speed limit is not always going to result in safer roads. This is also a position confirmed in the government data. He also said the courts might agree that the 30mph limit on streets where the surveys indicated 40mph as being the 85th percentile might possibly be construed as a "speed trap." (These are illegal in California as previously pointed out.)

He said he will revisit the speed surveys and make some new recommendations.

Stay tuned.


I really admire you. I enjoy reading your summaries and appreciate your deligence in finding all this information. Thank you Gerald. Also what does the member vs visitor mean. Member of what?

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To register is easy (and free ;-) Simply click on the Register link on the left hand column under the pink calendar section. The editors will confirm your registration and after that you can add new postings about anything of interest (though please check the Terms of Use).

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