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Bridges said the outdated design of the city's street system, which is based on providing "speed and safety," as far as engineering data is concerned, has never addressed the defensive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.
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/