Jun 13 2015

Average Speed on Oakland Avenue Is 35 MPH Despite Police Efforts

Average speed on Oakland Avenue is 35 MPH despite Police issuing twice as many speeding tickets in 2014 as in 2011 and 2012 combined.

– Public Safety Committee Continues Work on Disaster Preparedness Checklist –

May 28th Public Safety Committee Report by Piedmont High School Student Remy Afong, the only public person attending the meeting –

On Thursday, May 28, the Public Safety Committee met at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers for a regularly scheduled meeting. Established three years ago by a City Council charge, the committee meets every two months to discuss ways to increase public participation in crime reduction strategies and disaster preparedness. It also serves to provide a forum for community members to share concerns regarding public safety issues.
Before addressing items on the agenda, Chairman Lyman Shaffer asked if there was anyone who would like to speak about an item not listed on the agenda. As the only audience member, I was allotted the full 10 minutes of public forum to myself, though I only spoke for one or two. To increase pedestrian safety, I suggested installing a lighted crosswalk at the intersection of Highland Avenue and Sierra Avenue, and at other intersections near schools. I described how on numerous occasions, I have had to run across the street to avoid being hit by a car; each time the car failed to show any signs of slowing down.

School District President Andrea Swenson, a member of the committee, said that she has had similar experiences and agreed that many intersections in Piedmont are unsafe.
After the meeting, Shaffer suggested that I restate my proposal at a City Council meeting.
To begin regular business, the first item discussed on the agenda was a review of the April 26 Fire Department Open House. Shaffer gave a brief recap of the event, noting that there were 100 people in attendance. The primary goal of the event was to help residents register for  CodeRED, a notification system adopted by the Piedmont Police and Fire Departments that uses phone, email, and text messages to inform residents of emergencies and other news regarding public safety. Approximately 3,100 residents and 19 businesses are currently registered with CodeRED. Committee member Michael Gardner suggested that in the future, the Fire Department should host the open house in conjunction with a popular community event to increase attendance. [For more information on CodeRed go to http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/public-safety-dispatches-now-available/]
The most hotly discussed issue at the meeting was the Disaster Preparedness Checklist, an item yet to be released to the community. Shaffer briefed the committee on the origins of the document. It is the project of a task group led by committee member Garrett Keating that
stems from the Tiburon/Belvedere Disaster Preparedness Program. Committee members took a moment to review the 4-page document before discussing improvements.

Shaffer praised the checklist as a nice basic resource to have in everyone’s homes and noted the importance of perfecting the document because it cannot be re-edited after mass distribution. He suggested placing all emergency numbers on the front page, a proposal that was well-received by the rest of the committee. Swenson added that school phone numbers should be removed to prevent them from being overwhelmed with frantic phone calls.
Committee member Ryan Gilbert commented that overall, the document has too much text and suggested narrowing the focus to imperative statements.
Chief of Police Rikki Goede added that the document should be in a more succinct, action plan style. She did not think that the “Map Your Neighborhood” portion, which includes a checklist of necessary resources and instructions on how to organize a neighborhood disaster team, had a place on the document. Rather, there should be a link to a website with neighborhood preparedness information instead.

Committee member Sue Lin, however, strongly advocated for Map Your Neighborhood. She argued that if it is just listed as an additional resource and not elaborated upon, people would not be encouraged to think on a broader spectrum outside their individual lives.
Keating agreed that having an entire page dedicated to Map Your Neighborhood would boost resident participation. His subcommittee will continue to revise the document and the whole committee will discuss the item again at the next meeting.
Personally, I agree with Gilbert and Goede that the Disaster Preparedness Checklist should be as concise as possible to avoid people becoming overwhelmed and disregarding the document altogether. Though I support the idea of Map Your Neighborhood, I think that it
should be separate. This document will be most useful if it is designed in an easy-to-read format that focuses on individual household preparedness.
Following this discussion, Goede led the second to last agenda item, which was a recap of a recent Piedmont traffic study. She reported that the average speed of cars driving down Oakland Avenue is 35 mph, which is 10 mph above the speed limit. Though there have been suggestions of raising the speed limit to 35 mph, Goede believes that it should be kept at 25 mph because if it is increased, people will drive even faster. She described that there are tentative plans to install more speed monitors on the five main streets in Piedmont — Highland, Moraga, Oakland, Wildwood, and Grand Avenue.

A surprising statistic — Goede pointed out that in 2014, the Piedmont Police Department wrote twice the amount of tickets of 2011 and 2012 combined. She explained that most people speed because they are not paying attention, not necessarily because they are purposely intending
to break the law. She said that while enforcement works to some degree, it is hard for people to break out of bad driving habits. Many are also willing to take their chances because they aren’t caught most of the time, which makes up for the one or two times they do get caught.
Relating the topic of unsafe driving to pedestrian safety, Swenson reintroduced the lighted crosswalk idea that I proposed during public forum by posing the question of whether the city has considered such crosswalks before. Goede responded by saying lighted crosswalks, 4-way stop signs, and other safety measures are expensive to install and also have unintended consequences like creating traffic backups. She said that even if more steps are taken to increase pedestrian safety, it really does come down to better driving behaviors.

Other issues briefly discussed at the meeting were the committee’s participation and recruitment at the Harvest Festival, the Get Ready Piedmont Manual (a public safety and disaster preparedness guide to be released to the public by July 1), the promotion of Map Your Neighborhood training, and school safety activities.
The committee’s next meeting will be on July 31.
After the meeting was adjourned, I interviewed Shaffer, who has served as chairman for a year and has two more years to go. A 20-year Piedmont resident, Shaffer volunteered to join the committee because he is committed to making the City safer. He explained that currently, the most significant committee item is the Disaster Preparedness Checklist, which they look “to get into every household before the end of the year.”
Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author. The meetings of the Public Safety Committee are not broadcast but are open to the public. 

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