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Claremont Safe Streets expresses concerns on traffic safety

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com
On a cloudy Saturday afternoon, 13 Claremont residents gathered at the west end of Cahuilla Park to voice their concerns about traffic safety in the City of Trees. It was the first in-person meeting of the Claremont Safe Streets Coalition, a group whose cause has garnered much local attention.

Recently, particularly during the pandemic, people including the coalition’s founder, Nona Tirre, have noticed an increased number of drivers jeopardizing the safety of other motorists, as well as pedestrians, with their disregard for traffic laws. So, she decided to do something about it.

She began promoting the idea in November of 2021 through social media, but plans fell through due to the holidays and the pandemic. But recently it came back up and the response was “Hey, you know let’s do something about this.”

Saturday’s meeting was led by Claremonters Tirre and Esau Ramos, whose comments were made strictly as residents, and not reflective of any organization they might represent. The group’s dialog centered around similar accounts of unsafe streets, along with solutions to improve safety.

Excessive speeding, aggressive driving and blatant disregard for traffic safety were what brought residents Marcella Zita and Katherine Friedman to the meeting. Friedman said prior to and during the pandemic, she’s seen cars speeding around town, in the Claremont Village and along arterial streets which connect Claremont to the adjacent 210 and 10 freeways.

“On some of the main streets like Base Line and Foothill, they become bypass streets to the freeways. Padua and Towne [too], and there is an increased amount of speeding on those streets,” Friedman said. “People going down my residential street, which I won’t name, at over 40 miles per hour and now drag racing is happening on the street on a regular basis every week.”

Friedman added that while she’s seen several near-misses involving school children and speeding cars during drop-off times, she’s also seen several people get hit in Claremont, leading her to worry that the city is not responding to residents’ concerns.

“I don’t want to say so-and-so is responsible for not responding, but I do think the urgency isn’t there because it is an urgent issue, one person dead in the city makes it an urgent issue,” Friedman said. “I’m frustrated that the city hasn’t really upped their game for the quality of life of the residents and the city around this traffic issue.”

Zita said drivers have become less aware of their surroundings, causing more avoidable traffic collisions. She also wants to see more done by the city in response to recent traffic safety complaints.

“Things that would involve a variety of approaches that we’ve been hearing called traffic calming measures,” Zita said. “Maybe new lighting, maybe radar speed signs, speed humps instead of speed bumps … [road] maintenance and street markings, painting the lines more and getting the [Botts’] dots down there to give that some texture so people stay in their lanes more.”

Friedman said the city could also narrow streets and implement bike lanes like ones on Foothill Boulevard to prompt slower driving. She also said residents could receive education on the city’s traffic laws, or the city could update its traffic signage. Another solution Friedman said would be more enforcement of traffic laws by police.

Implementing traffic safety protocols and updating multiple street signs are among the goals of the coalition. In informational materials distributed to attendees at Saturday’s meeting, the coalition states its intentions: “We want traffic calming measures budgeting every year; we want access to the completed speed study; and we want our street maintenance to be completed in a timely manner.”

“I just find that sometimes, the [city’s] focus is taken away to other things, other passions,” Tirre said. “And, so, our goal here, the reason it’s so contentious, is because it’s been an issue forever and no change has happened.”

Assistant City Manager Jamie Earl said on Tuesday that city staff and the council are aware of the group’s concerns about pedestrian safety, traffic enforcement, and safe streets.

“The city council also heard these concerns from the community at the February 5, 2022 City Council Priorities Workshop and has made assessing traffic calming measures, including street infrastructure and design, as well as enforcement, a 2022-24 objective under the City Council Priorities,” Earl said.

Of course, cities including Claremont cannot wave a magic wand and make these projects a reality. Implementing traffic safety solutions takes not only time, but money, and is also subject to various federal and state regulations.

“Because street improvements and enforcement are contingent on funding and staffing resources, and must comply with federal and state requirements, the implementation process may take longer than community members expect,” Earl wrote.

Earl shared that the city has allocated $376,390 towards current consultant traffic engineering services, which includes traffic investigations, data collection, updates to the City’s traffic calming policy and a city-wide speed survey. The mentioned speed survey will be available in the upcoming months once completed.
“The city has also allocated approximately $5 million toward its 2021-22 Capital Improvement Program for the construction of pedestrian, bike, traffic calming, and accessibility projects as noted below,” she added.
The upcoming projects Earl mentioned include the Towne Avenue Complete Streets Project; Claremont Boulevard and Monte Vista Accessibility; College Avenue and Green Street Bike and Pedestrian Improvements; signalized intersections, bike, and pedestrian improvements; and accessibility and traffic calming infrastructure projects.
Funding for traffic safety related services is included in the city’s General Fund, according to Earl. In addition, projects like the ones mentioned above are funded through grants and restricted funds like the Gas Tax, Measure R, Measure M, Prop C, MSP Grant and others, and are included in the Capital Improvement Budget. Funding for staffing services is not itemized unless it is a special project or program.

“The city council and city staff take the safety of our streets and pedestrian crossings seriously and continually work to improve our streets through a combination of infrastructure improvements, education, and enforcement,” Earl said.

Tirre invited Mayor Jed Leano, the city council and members of city commissions including Isaac Rahmim, who is a member of the coalition, to the meeting. However, City Attorney Alisha Patterson advised officials not to attend as it may have been a quorum of public officials.

Tirre said that the coalition is all about making noise on this issue and encourages residents to do so by showing up every time there’s a city council or commission meeting.

“That’s how change happens,” Tirre said. “Talk to your council, talk to your mayor, they want to help. I have not had one single pushback from any council member or the chief [of police] … we need to find a solution together and this is where we come together.”

For more information about the coalition, contact claremontsafestreets@gmail.com.

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