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Is it Crown Valley Parkway or Crown Valley 'Speedway?'

A group of residents creates a community blog in the wake of Mara Steves' death and increased speeding on city streets including Moulton and Crown Valley parkways.

In the wake of resident ' death, a group of her peers has launched a blog called Laguna Niguel Speedway to do something about the city's streets.

On Feb. 13, Steves, 48, was killed near her home off Moulton Parkway and Rancho Niguel Road when a car ran a red light and struck her as she was kneeling curbside with a dog she had rescued. , 27, was arrested May 25 in connection with the accident. He is currently being held on a $5-million bond. A new preliminary trial date was recently moved to Jan. 17. He is accused of being under the influence of numerous drugs at the time of the accident. 

According to resident Steven Bridges, “Mara's death galvanized a group of us who live here who have been griping for years about the faced by conscientious and considerate drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. We have started a blog that simply documents any street issues we observe: speeding, rude behavior, illegal driving, noise violations, and anything else that is in clear violation of existing laws."

In addition to Bridges, the group helping with the blog consists of other residents, psychologists, traffic and urban planners, sleep therapists, public health professionals and other professions unrelated to traffic and planning issues. The common bond is concern for residents and their families.

Bridges said the outdated design of the city's street system, which is based on providing "speed and safety," as far as engineering data is concerned, has never addressed the defensive driving, cycling, and walking behavior that is required by those following the law and need to observe it in order to navigate safely.

Key Issues

In the past decade, Bridges said there are very specific traffic behavioral and engineering issues that have made driving riskier in Laguna Niguel: First is the increase in larger vehicles—SUVs and trucks. Not only are these vehicles noisier, but studies show that the drivers are worse drivers than people in standard vehicles, he said.

Second is the increase in lane drift primarily due to , particularly in the past five years. This shows up in the curb scuffing apparent throughout the city when vehicles cross the bike lanes and hit the curb while driving, he said. 

“It's easy for the city to say that so few pedestrians and cyclists are injured here when it is simply a city that is not at all conducive to allowing for cyclists and and ride along the streets—or sometimes, even drive a car,” he said.

And third, the repaving of street surfaces has raised the pavement level too high relative to the curb heights, increasing the chance of a vehicle jumping the curb during a driving episode.

"This is very apparent along the center median of Crown Valley where we have seen a nearly six-inch increase in road height in some areas relative to the curb height," Bridges said.

Crown Valley Changing

In terms of one of the busiest streets in the city, Crown Valley Parkway, Bridges said even a 45-50 m.p.h. speed limit makes no sense. Since people regularly exceed the limit, it has turned these "parkways" into freeways that severely disrupt the quality of life here, for drivers and residents.

" all talk about 'moving traffic quickly,' but no one faces reality: for example, if the speed limit on Crown Valley Parkway was 40 m.p.h. instead of 50 m.p.h., it would only take about an additional ONE minute to get from Del Avion to the I-5 Freeway," he said.

So the excuse that higher speeds are necessary is a fallacy. And, from a safety standpoint, the stopping distance between 40-50 m.p.h. is about 50 percent farther, creating a much greater change of accident and injury, Bridges said.

"All to save ONE minute? Absurd and irrational thinking has created the mess that we find on our streets, to the severe detriment of our neighborhoods," he said. “Engineers design for speed first, then they justify it by saying wider, faster roads are safer. But do they make for a better community? No, they do not,” he said.

There are a number of near- and long-term solutions to community traffic and livability issues in Laguna Niguel, but the first step in finding solutions to any problem is identifying the issues, Bridges said. That’s what the Laguna Niguel Speedway blog is about. 

How can residents get involved? "Be observant, cautious, and polite when you are driving your car, riding your bike, or walking, and if you see or hear people who are violating traffic laws and noise regulations."

Please email Bridges at the blog, http://lagunaniguelspeedway.blogspot.com/

Dan Krolczyk December 15, 2011 at 10:36 PM
Great local conversation. Would love to hear traffic cop's feedback.
Leonard Kinkade December 16, 2011 at 03:30 AM
PART 1 The arterial roads, through Laguna Niguel are the main thoroughfares that many drivers use going to and from their homes in Dana Point, Laguna Beach Aliso Viejo etc. The high travel times through our city from about 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. in the morning, and again from 5:30 p.m. to about 8:00 p.m. at night. We who live in the city 24-7 note this phenomenon every morning and night. Unfortunately, the traffic enforcement deputies, that ride motorcycles, go home as it gets dark, just when the traffic, returning home, is the heaviest. The patrol deputies in black and white cars are handling calls for service (e.g. burglaries, thefts etc.), so their ability to also write traffic tickets are limited. Anyone who is driving between the above noted hours knows what I’m talking about and during this holiday season drivers have become even more aggressive. If someone from the city would get out of their office from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and at 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. to observe traffic patterns in the city they might have a more objective view of exactly what the citizens of Laguna Niguel are complaining about IT IS IMPORTANT THAT the city must provide a dedicated traffic cars (black and whites) during the evening hours and make sure that they are not dispatched to other service calls unless they are traffic related. They might consider using sheriff’s reserves for such a project to determine if it is worthwhile at a minimum cost.
Leonard Kinkade December 16, 2011 at 03:33 AM
PART 2 I sure that once it is implemented it will be undeniably apparent, based upon the number of speeding tickets issued, that speeders have been taking advantage of the fact that deputies don’t have time to do traffic control. Once this program is implemented we will see traffic calming occur. And this program should be adopted on a regular basis for ongoing traffic enforcement. The incident that took Mara Steves life should have never occurred and may have been averted by the above noted traffic enforcement if her killer had been caught sooner speeding through our city. Determining where to allocate law enforcement resources based on the number of people killed or injured at a particular location is an extremely poor way of doing business, but a typical bureaucratic response. Once the speeders learn that if they speed, tail gate, multitask with their cell phones in our city they are going to get cited. One of two things will occur. One, they won't come through our city or, two they will pay attention to their driving. I think we are all tired of putting our families at risk every time they venture from the house during those hours and we are tired of losing friends and neighbors to traffic related incidents. Waiting, until there are sufficient stats to ACT is not a very proactive way to address a serious problem like this one. p.s. Slow Down! If you can’t pay the fine don’t do the CRIME!!!!
Debbie L. Sklar December 16, 2011 at 06:01 AM
Leonard: Both Part 1 & 2 are terrific ideas, thoughts and suggestions ... Maybe you should lead the charge.
Brett Rothenberg December 16, 2011 at 02:31 PM
This is definitely an issue, I'm not a street racer.. I've had several people try and race on crown valley even(only to have a light 500ft in front of you). Witnessed way to many accidents on this road in the last two years. In Chicago, I-90 is 55, and I come home to have the street outside my house the same speed as the highways in another state. My worst gripe is OC Montessori though and the rude, busy, typical I own the road mentality that goes on in the mornings. They constantly turn around in the BRE apartment complex entrance and don't give right away to the people that live there and proceed to go ahead and make their U-turns without any second thought.. plus they have kids in the car and still drive reckless. They need to turn around at a major intersection, not the entrance where it's already confusing pulling out as you can go left and right and fight people pulling, the streets here suck for pulling out.

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