Miramonte/Covington Neighbors: No Traffic Light!

The City Council is reconsidering a signal at the intersection, after residents came with a petition of 366 signatures contending a light will endanger students and degrade the neighborhood character.


A resolute contingent of residents opposing a traffic signal at Miramonte Avenue and Covington Road backed by hundreds of petition signatures successfully moved the Los Altos City Council on Tuesday night toward reconsidering the issue.

The council agreed to revisit the topic at a future council meeting, after a previously scheduled May 10 public meeting on the signal’s design.

“My primary question is safety. What is the fundamental reason we are doing this, and is there empirical evidence it enhances safety for children, not motorists, for children?” said Councilmember Ron Packard.

After hearing numerous complaints that the signal would be unsafe for the hundreds of students that use the intersection, council members said they want hard data presented on whether or not the signals will improve or degrade safety.

is from 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Grant Park Center, 1570 Holt Ave. It was left up to city staff to determine when to put the issue back on the council’s agenda, although Mayor Val Carpenter advised not waiting long after the May 10 event.

Tuesday’s meeting kicked off with the presentation of a petition signed by 366 residents within a half-mile diameter of the intersection.

Eleven residents stood up during the public comment section of the council meeting to voice their opposition.

This was not the first time—another large group of speakers spoke during public comments at the March 27 meeting to protest—and speakers promised it would not be the last.

As a result, council members said later they were willing to discuss the issue again, even though they had previously approved the project.

“I think that when this many residents speak up on something it causes me to want and sit back and say, lets take another look,” Packard said.

Neighbors living near the intersection called the proposed traffic signal unsafe for students that walk and bike through the intersection en route to Blach Intermediate School, as well as other nearby schools.

“This traffic signal will create a Miramonte highway,” Ed Saadi, who lives near the intersection on Loma Prieta Court, told the council.

As originally proposed by consultant Fehr & Peers, the signal would be a "resting red" signal, which means that all four directions of the intersection have a red light until an oncoming vehicle triggers the signals. In essence, it acts as a four-way stop most of the time. However, during peak hours, it would allow more than one car through the intersection at a time, if no cars were present from the other directions.

Since the light was first discussed at a , at Los Altos High School, residents have contended that the presence of the light will encourage drivers to speed up to catch it, raising speeds, and increasing the danger for pedestrians and bicyclists.

"The issue of the signal just keeps rearing its ugly head," said Saadi, who said he'd appeared before the council four to five times in three years. "No matter how many people voice their opinions against the signal, no matter how many reasons residents give as to the concerns over the safety of their children ... it falls on deaf ears."

Saadi and others said they had no trouble collecting signatures from residents worried about safety. The petition states that the light is unsafe, but gave no facts to support the statement. At least twice council members asked for evidence to back up the claim, but speakers could not immediately produce any.

The safety issue frustrated council members; Councilmember Megan Satterlee pointed out that the original Fehr & Peers study was focused on pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

The neighbors’ other refrain, besides safety, was how a traffic light would degrade the picturesque neighborhood character.

“Last time I checked we live in Los Altos, not Mountain View,” Saadi said.

“Los Altos did not happen by accident,” said Michele Coldiron, who lives near the intersection on Miramonte. “The residents want to keep the small-town feel of the place.”

Bill Sheppard April 26, 2012 at 08:17 PM
A lot of baseless claims are being made by those who spoke at the meeting. Traffic lights speed up traffic? Not according to a study of 70 papers researching the impact of multi-way stop signs, which showed that overwhelmingly, multi-way stop signs do NOT control speed except under very limited conditions. See http://troymi.gov/trafficengineering/multiway.htm. A four-way stop is safer? Not a single reference was provided to justify this claim. I pass through this intersection daily, and there is usually uncertainty among the motorists regarding who goes next. When your focus is on the driver across from or next to you as to who's going to go next, your focus is not on the pedestrian who may be about to enter the street. Conversely, traffic lights eliminate ambiguity; as a driver I'm far more aware of what else is happening at an intersection if I'm simply waiting for a green light rather than negotiating my turn. Are they suggesting that pedestrian lights with dedicated crossing phases are less safe than relying on a driver to see a pedestrian? Claiming that 366 represents 80% of the residents within a 1/2 mile radius? 1/2 a mile radius is .78 sq miles, or about 12% of Los Altos' total area. Even if we cut this in half to account for Mountain View area, 6% of Los Altos population would be about 1740 people. Even if 50% of these are kids, that's still nearly 900 people, of which 366 would be about 40%, not 80%. Don't want a light? Fine. But don't make things up.
Ed Saadi April 27, 2012 at 05:08 AM
Hey bill Get a life !!
Kim Lepesh April 27, 2012 at 05:35 AM
Bill, I went to your link, and read the article. My question to you is, which of the follow suggested "traffic calming" remedies do you prefer for our intersection that you commute through? (below, cut and pasted from your link) (a)Traffic Chokers (b) Traffic Diverters (g) Neighborhood Street Design (c) Speed Humps (h) On-Street Parking (d) Roundabouts (i) One Way Streets (e) Neighborhood Speed Watch (j) Street Narrowing (f) Sidewalks and Other Pedestrian Solutions Intersesting analytics you use in determining the percentage of "Los Altans" involved in the survey. The fact is, our neighborhood is made up of single family residences on 10,000 square foot plus lots. Not all of the population of Los Altos has the same density. Do you even reside in Los Altos? Do you have children who walk or bike to Blach? It sounds like you are in a rush to get through this intersection, and eroneously feel that a signal light may save you prescious seconds during your commute. My concern is the safety of my child traveling in the crosswalk en route to school, as a rushed driver makes the decision to save the 2.5 minutes of waiting through a red light cycle to get to work or school and guns it through a stale yellow.. but I do understand how important 1 or 2 minutes per day must be to you.
T Weller April 27, 2012 at 05:45 AM
The study Bill cites does not make any claims about traffic lights and speed. It's about stop signs. Also, most of the 70 papers are about UNWARRANTED stop signs. "Unwarranted" is a technical term in traffic engineering. The City wouldn’t have put the stop signs there to begin with if they weren’t warranted so this research isn’t relevant. Also, even if these studies show that multi-way stop signs don't control speed, they make no claims that stoplights are safer. The only studies that would be useful are those COMPARING the safety of stoplights to the safety of a 4-way stop with a crossing guard. The safety concern is when school children are present. There is a very capable crossing guard present at these times. None of these studies account for her presence. The objection is to replacing the crossing guard and stop signs with a traffic signal for which the City has produced no clear case indicating a safety improvement. Bill has the figures at the end wrong too. The people who collected signatures went to homes within a 1/2 mile radius. 80% of the people who were home signed the petition. It's realistic to assume that only 40-50% were home, so these folks aren't making anything up. His stats just confirm this.
Ed Saadi April 27, 2012 at 06:35 AM
OK now that I have calmed down.... Part I Hey Bill Do me a favor.. Please don't make baseless claims ... You intentionally distorted the truth. First, your claim that 70 papers .... Give me a break, NO one at the meeting said that Stop signs decrease speeding ! Tell me wise Bill Have you every heard of someone speeding up to get through a stop sign? But a light that is changing from green to yellow then to red? (if you are truthful which I am suspect ) your answer should be...Yes! Drivers do have a tendency to speed up to make the light that is turning red ... You don't have to be Enrico Fermi to know that ! Then you stated we said, " That a 4 way stop sign is safer "( Safer than what ?) Your brilliant study you referenced, is questioning, using stop signs to make an intersection safer ( those that don't have one already !!) NOT, intersections that have one already (which by the way ,we do ) Do you just want to have the intersection open, without any stop signs, so we can have a free for all, everyday ? The good residents, at the meeting were trying to impress to the city council, that putting a traffic light in the intersection vs the existing stop sign, would bring more danger to the students crossing the street. The light would encourage a higher rate of speed and if you are not honest enough to admit that, than I really can't help you... I can't help ya...
Ed Saadi April 27, 2012 at 06:36 AM
Part II On your next point, "Not knowing who goes next in the cue at the stop light. You make it sound like driving is so complicated !!"Ambiguity" "Negotiating my turn" Maybe you should turn over the keys and let someone else do the driving? Then you ask, "Are they suggesting that pedestrian lights with dedicated crossing phases are less safe than relying on a driver to see a pedestrian?" What is this babble !! I can't even respond to that. It's like your implying that the people who are driving out there are Mr Magoo !! OK, finally the last point. "80% of the residents signed the petition" NO one said that we got 80% of the population in the 1/2 mile radius to oppose the light. What we said ( I guess you have issues hearing as well ) was that of the people we asked to sign the petition over 80% signed it. In fact the block I did 100% of the people I visited, signed it, with only 3 houses, where the residents were not home... Hope that clears up things up for ya ....
D Galdes April 27, 2012 at 06:45 AM
Hi Bill - You misunderstood some of the speakers at the meeting. First, traffic lights DO speed up traffic going through an intersection vs a 4-way stop. I can go through the intersection at Grant/Covington at 30mph if I have a green light. I can never get above 5-10 mph, however, when I'm going through an intersection that has a 4-way stop. The research you cited was referring to studies of speeds at a distance from the intersection and not speeds at the intersection itself. What I'm most concerned about at the Covington/Miramonte intersection are the drivers who will be going 25-30 mph through the intersection when making right and left hand turns. If there's a student on a bike going straight and a car trying to beat the light making a turn I think the car will win. Second, the 366 people who signed the petition represent 80% of the residents who live within a half mile of the intersection and WERE AT HOME. I visited 30 homes and had only two people say, "No thank you" to signing. I probably had only one person at home for 26 of the 30 homes where I talked to people and about 20 homes where no one was home so your math above is probably pretty close. Maybe a better way for us to present this statistic is to say "80% of the people we talked to..."
Jonathan April 27, 2012 at 07:48 AM
That's your opinion. I ride through there day in day out , rain, shine. I never see any unusual amount of uncertainty. It does not matter if it was peak-traffic or off peak; the time through is the same for me on a bike. The stop light down at Barbara and Miramonte makes me have to wait, wait and wait; while one (1) car crosses from the lateral direction. Nothing but a pain.


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