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Frequently Asked Questions

Encroachment Permit

WHAT IS AN ENCROACHMENT PERMIT?

An encroachment permit is written permission to excavate or otherwise encroach within Cathedral City's public right of way. A permit may be granted to a public utility, contractor or an individual. Permits are issued by the Engineering Department.

WHEN ARE THEY NEEDED?

In addition to excavations, permits must be obtained when installing sidewalk and driveway approaches, construction of street improvements and drainage facilities. Any type of work conducted within the road right of way requires a permit.

All contractors or agencies doing work in the public right of way will be required to comply with the following conditions in addition to the Standard Conditions listed on the Encroachment Permit Application Form and those conditions codified in Title 14 of the Cathedral City Municipal Code before any encroachment permit will be issued.

WHAT IS THE ROAD RIGHT OF WAY?

Anything in the City streets and typically 10-12 feet from back of curb to property line. There are some exceptions. Contact the Engineering Department for verification on your street.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE?

Permits provide necessary regulation of the encroachment process to safeguard the public interest in the roadway facility and to ensure continuing safety and convenience for the traveling public.

WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS?

  • A contractor must possess a current state license showing certification for either a Class 8 (concrete work) or Class A (everything).
  • Contractor must have a current city business license.
  • Contractor must have on file current liability insurance naming the City as additionally insured in the amounts of not less than $500,000 per accident or occurrence.

If you are a homeowner, the above may be waived. You must, however, be currently living in the residence and be the owner on record.

ARE BONDS REQUIRED?

Yes, but only if the contractor is trenching or boring in the right of way.

  • $ 1,000 for a street cut/bore
  • $ 200 for lots included on same permit

The bond is refundable and is posted at the time the permit is issued. This money is refunded once the inspector has received all compaction tests and has finaled the project.

OTHER REQUIREMENTS?

If the construction has the potential to fall under the requirements of the Department of Occupational Safety & Health (DOSH), a DOSH permit must be presented at the time the encroachment permit is obtained.

HOW ARE FEES DETERMINED?

Each year the City Council reviews the City's current fee schedule. At that time, the fees may be changed. Please call (760) 770-0349 to verify the current fees.

WHAT DOES A PERMIT COST?

The cost of an encroachment permit can vary. When building a new home, the builder is responsible for constructing the sidewalk in front of the home and the drive approach from the street. The following is a typical permit fee. Lets assume that lot is 60 feet wide and you are building a 20 foot wide drive approach and the remainder is a 5 foot wide sidewalk, 40 feet in width. Your encroachment permit will be calculated as follows:

 
$53 Permit issuance fee
Each $53 Drive approach inspection
40’ x 5’ x .20 $40 Sidewalk inspection
$146 Total permit fee


HOW DO I GET AN INSPECTION?

An inspection is required before you can pour cement or patch your trench. All forms must be set and compaction of the ground must be done prior to the pour. An inspection request must be received 24 hours in advance before an inspection will be done. Call (760) 770-0367 and follow the directions on the machine. No same-day inspections will take place.


PARKING POINTERS

WILL THE CITY INSTALL ON-STREET PARKING SPACES FOR THE PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED?

The City cannot designate on-street parking spaces for the physically challenged because such spaces have to be wider than normal on-street parking spaces. There is usually insufficient room to provide the extra wide spaces needed by the physically challenged especially when the parking spaces are adjacent to moving lanes of traffic. The City has installed parking spaces for the physically challenged in City-owned parking lots where there is sufficient room to provide extra wide parking spaces to address the needs of the physically challenged.

CAN CITIZENS PAINT CURBS?


All curb painting must be done by City Maintenance crews. It is illegal for citizens to paint curbs within the city right-of-way.

DOES THE CITY HAVE A RESIDENTIAL PARKING PROGRAM?

Not as of June 1998.

HOW CLOSE TO THE CURB MUST I BE TO PARK LEGALLY?

All vehicles parking parallel to the curb must park within 18 inches. All vehicles parking at an angle must have one front tire within 6 inches of the curb.

HOW FAR IN THE RED CURB MUST I BE TO GET A TICKET?

No portion of a vehicle including the bumper may extend into the restricted area (even one inch is considered a violation). This also applies to parked vehicles encroaching into driveways, sidewalks and crosswalks.

HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO CONTEST A PARKING CITATION?

Anyone wishing to contest parking citations must do so within 21 days or the right to contest the citation is lost.

WHY DO POLICE OFFICERS MAKE MULTIPLE MARKINGS ON TIRES?

The purpose of enforcement is to obtain compliance. If all citizens obeyed the posting on their own, the City would not need to conduct enforcement patrols.

WHAT IS THE MAXIMUM LENGTH OF TIME I CAN PARK MY VEHICLE ON THE STREET WITHOUT MOVING IT?

Vehicles cannot be parked or stored on a public street for long periods of time. Storage of a vehicle is considered to be a vehicle in excess of 72 hours without being moved at least two tenths of a mile. Vehicles stored longer than 72 hours are subject to being towed.

WHAT NUMBER DO I CALL TO HAVE AN ABANDONED VEHICLE REMOVED FROM A CITY STREET?

To have an abandoned vehicle removed, contact the Cathedral City Police Department at (760) 770-0300.

WHERE IS IT ILLEGAL TO PARK?

It is illegal to park in the following locations:

  • No parking zones marked by a red curb, no parking or standing signs.
  • In front of a private or public driveway.
  • In front of or within fifteen feet of a fire hydrant.
  • Within marked or unmarked crosswalks. A crosswalk is considered to be the extension of sidewalk boundary lines.
  • Anywhere with an intersection including the corners curb area.
  • Within 7'6" of a railroad track
  • For the purpose of advertising or selling.
  • For the purpose of maintaining or repairing automobiles.
  • In handicapped parking spaces without displaying the proper placard or license plate.
  • Where a vehicle will obstruct or block a handicapped parking space.
  • Within three feet of a handicapped access ramp.
  • In the striped zone next to handicapped parking spaces.

WHAT DO GREEN, YELLOW AND WHITE PAINTED CURBS MEAN?

Green Zones are limited term parking, usually 20 or 30 minutes as marked on the curb. In any limited parking zone, you can receive a citation if you exceed the maximum limit by one minute or more. To avoid a maximum citation, you must vacate the parking space within the time limit specified in order to let other members of the public use these high demand spaces.

Yellow Zones are for commercial or passenger vehicles to load and unload merchandise for the time as may be specified by local ordinance. Yellow zones are usually found in commercial areas and are for the use of adjacent commercial establishments.

White Zones are for loading and unloading passengers for up to three minutes only and are usually used in such places as airports, hospitals, bus stations and train stations.

WHEN DOES THE CITY INSTALL LIMITED TERM PARKING ZONES (GREEN) AND LOADING ZONES (YELLOW OR WHITE)?

The City will consider installing limited term parking zones (green) and loading zones (yellow or white) if the City receives a petition representing at least 75% of the affected adjacent property owners.

CAN THE BACK OF A VEHICLE OVERHANG THE SIDEWALK WHEN IT IS PARKED IN A PRIVATE DRIVEWAY?

The California Vehicle Code strictly prohibits its vehicles from parking on sidewalks or overhanging the sidewalk and causing an obstruction, especially when parked in a driveway. The sidewalk must be kept clear at all times.


PEDESTRIAN SIGNALS

Many years ago when traffic volumes were much lower than they are today, pedestrians could take their cues from the same traffic lights as motorists. Things are more complicated today, so it shouldn't be surprising that questions are frequently asked about pedestrian signals, which were introduced to improve pedestrian safety.

WHY ARE PEDESTRIAN SIGNALS AVAILABLE AT SOME INTERSECTIONS AND NOT AT OTHERS?

Pedestrian signals are installed for two main reasons:

  • High volume of foot traffic at an intersection;
  • The signals directing motorists don't meet the needs of pedestrians.

For example, some intersections are laid out at odd angles and traffic signals can't be seen by pedestrians. In other cases, turning and merging lanes make intersections so complex that special provisions must be made for pedestrians.

SHOULDN'T PEDESTRIAN SIGNALS BE AVAILABLE AT EVERY INTERSECTION? WOULDN'T THAT MAKE THINGS SAFER?

If existing traffic signals meet the needs of people on foot, the signals are easy to see and provide plenty of time to cross safely, there is no need for pedestrian signals. Pedestrian signals won't improve safety in such cases, and are costly to purchase, install and operate. However, it is generally the policy of the City to install pedestrian signals at all traffic signals where pedestrians are permitted to cross the street.

WHY ARE THE WORDS "WALK" AND "DON'T WALK" BEING REPLACED BY SYMBOLS?

Transportation engineers world-wide are moving toward the use of symbol signs in place of word signs because they are easier for people to comprehend in a shorter amount of time. Easily recognized symbols also accommodate people who can't read English.

In the case of pedestrian signals, both "word" and "symbol" signs are currently in use. The walking pedestrian symbol means you may begin crossing. A flashing or steady "don't walk" or upraised hand symbol means it's too late to begin crossing. Don't enter the street, but finish crossing if you have already started.

WHY DOES IT ALWAYS SAY "DON'T WALK" BEFORE I'VE COMPLETED CROSSING THE STREET?

The flashing "don't walk" or upraised hand is a warning to people who have not yet entered the intersections that it's too late to safely cross the street before the traffic signal changes allowing cars to proceed. Signals are timed to allow plenty of time for people who have already started walking to safely cross the street. This is very much like the yellow light for vehicles.

IS IT REALLY NECESSARY FOR ME TO PUSH A BUTTON TO ACTIVATE THE PEDESTRIAN SIGNAL? CAN'T I JUST WAIT FOR THE LIGHT TO CHANGE?

Where buttons are available to pedestrians, it's because the traffic signal is timed for cars, not for people on foot. If you don't activate the pedestrian signal by pushing the button, the traffic light won't give you enough time to safely cross the street. You only need to push the button once for it to be activated. Holding the button in or repeatedly pushing it will not speed up the signal.

CAN I COUNT ON A SAFE CROSSING IF I CAREFULLY FOLLOW THE PEDESTRIAN SIGNALS?

The signals assign your legal rights in the intersection; however, it is important to be cautious when crossing busy intersections. The following suggestions are offered in the interest of safety:

  • Cross intersections defensively
  • When crossing the street, regardless of the availability of signals, cross as quickly as possible. Minimize your time in the roadway.
  • Always watch for turning vehicles. You have the legal right to be there, but that doesn't protect you from the carelessness of some motorists.
  • Especially watch for vehicles making legal right turns on red.


STOP SIGNS & TRAFFIC SIGNAL

SPEED CONTROL

Each year the City receives many inquiries about installing stop signs or traffic signals as a way to reduce speeding. However, research shows that other measures are usually more effective than adding more stop signs or traffic signals. The purpose of stop signs and traffic signals is to assign right-of-way at an intersection, not to control speeding. If there is a speeding problem in your neighborhood, contact the Cathedral City Police Department at (760) 770-0300.

Public understanding of the function of stop signs and traffic signals is one of the most critical elements in reducing speeding traffic accidents. The following information explains our policies on intersection traffic controls and the correct use of stop signs and traffic signals.

INSTALLATION POLICIES

The Federal "Uniform Traffic Control Devices Manual" dictates the size, shape and color of all traffic signs. This manual has guidelines for installing signs and thus creates uniformity from state to state. The State of California has a similar "Traffic Manual" which is in keeping with the Federal Manual.

The City of Cathedral City is required by State law to comply with the guidelines of the State Traffic Manual. In addition, the City has adopted policies for the installation of stop signs and traffic signals. These policies identify specific traffic and pedestrian volumes, accident history and any unusual conditions which must be present at the intersection before these traffic control devices may be installed.

The City of Cathedral City has a Streets and Transportation Commission to which all traffic related items are brought up for their review. Their recommendations are then taken to the City Council for action.

STOP SIGNS

Stop signs are installed at an intersection ONLY AFTER CAREFUL ENGINEERING EVALUATION OF THE EXISTING CONDITIONS INDICATES THAT THEIR INSTALLATION IS APPROPRIATE and after it has been brought before the Streets and Transportation Commission and City Council.

Our experience has shown that simply improving the intersection visibility by prohibiting parking near the intersection is often more effective in reducing traffic accidents. This often reduces the need to install more restrictive intersection control. Over use of stop signs reduces their effectiveness and if installed where not justified, they are largely ignored by drivers who tend to speed up between stop sign controlled intersections rather than slow down.

TRAFFIC SIGNALS

Cathedral City's signals are actuated signals. Traffic actuated signals detect vehicles and adjust the timing to optimize traffic flow at the intersection.

Along major arterial which have several traffic signals spaced at periodic intervals, the traffic signals are usually synchronized to provide coordinated movement along the major street. Before installing a traffic signal at an intersection, established minimum criteria must be satisfied. Some items include:

  • Counting the amount of vehicular and pedestrian traffic;
  • The need to provide interruption to the major flow for side street vehicles and pedestrians;
  • Special conditions such as hills and curves;
  • The accident history of the intersection.

Signals are installed using various funding sources, including your gas tax dollars, developers fees, and special assessment fees. A new traffic signal costs in the range of $100,000 to $150,000. Therefore, their installation must be carefully considered.

SIGNAL FUNCTIONS

Emergency Vehicle Preemption: This is used by emergency vehicles equipped with Opticom. This allows emergency vehicles to activate a device on the lightbar which will change the color of the signal to "green" (in their direction) and allow them to go through the intersection without having to stop.

Flashing Red: The California Vehicle Code states that when a red lens is illuminated with rapid intermittent red flashes, a driver shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection. The driver may proceed subject to the rules applicable to making a stop at a 4-way stop controlled intersection. Simply put, you must stop at a flashing red signal.

Flashing Yellow: When a yellow lens is illuminated with rapid yellow flashes, a driver may proceed through the intersection or past the signal only with caution.

Dark Signals: When a traffic signal has gone dark due to power failure, it is considered to function the same way as a 4-way stop controlled intersection and a driver must stop before entering the intersection. Simply put, you must stop at a black-out signal.

DISADVANTAGES OF TRAFFIC SIGNALS

While many people realize that traffic signals can reduce the number of right-angle collisions at an intersection, few realize that signals can also cause a significant increase in rear-end collisions. Normally, traffic engineers are willing to accept an increase in rear-end collisions for a decrease in the more severe right-angle accidents; however, when there is no right-angle accident problem at an intersection and a signal is not needed for traffic control, there is no safety benefit and the installation of traffic signals can actually cause a deterioration in the overall safety at the intersection. Traffic signals are not a "cure-all" for traffic problems. The primary goal of the traffic engineer is to attain the safest and most efficient overall traffic flow possible. In addition to an increase in accident frequency, unjustified traffic signals can also cause excessive delay, disobedience of signals, and diversion of traffic to residential streets.

Until recently, drivers have been accustomed to seeing left turn signals where there is initially a green arrow followed by an amber arrow followed by a red arrow. On the green arrow, drivers are given the right-of-way to complete left turns free of any other traffic conflicts. The amber arrow warns drivers that the left turn signal is ending. On the red arrow, left turns are not permitted. These types of arrows are helpful but when there is no opposing traffic, they can cause unnecessary delays.

PROTECTIVE/PERMISSIVE LEFT TURN SIGNALS

Over the last several years, a different type of left turn signal has been implemented at intersections in the City. Under this new arrangement, left turn signals provide the usual green arrow, which is usually followed by the normal amber arrow. After the amber arrow has terminated, drivers are now faced with a solid green ball signal.

During the display of the solid green ball, left turns can be made when there are adequate gaps in opposing traffic to complete left turns safely. Turning vehicles must still yield to the oncoming traffic.

This new type of left turn phasing is designed to help minimize delay by eliminating the need for the red arrow and allowing vehicles to turn on the green ball after opposing traffic has cleared. By not having the red arrow, motorists do not have to sit and wait to turn left even when there is no opposing traffic, a situation that often occurs during periods of low traffic volumes. The signal still provides a green left turn arrow during off-peak hours, left turning vehicles are not delayed by a red arrow.

DOES THE CITY USE PROTECTED / PERMISSIVE LEFT TURN SIGNALS EVERYWHERE?

The City is using protective/permissive left turn signals where drivers can turn left safely because there are gaps in approaching vehicles. There are some intersections where the City could install protective/permissive left turns, however, this requires lengthening mast arms and installing new signal heads on the end of the longer mast arms which costs $60,000 per intersection. The City does not have funds to convert all these intersections to protective/permissive left turns. The City plans to use protective/permissive signals wherever possible as signals are modernized and new signals are installed. 


MARKED CROSSWALKS

WHAT ARE THE OFFICIAL GUIDELINES?

The City of Cathedral City follows State policies and the California Vehicle Code. The Code requires us to follow the national guidelines outlined in the State Traffic Engineering Manual. Traffic control devices include signal lights, traffic signs, and paint markings. The State Manual covers all aspects of the placement, construction and maintenance of every form of approved traffic control device. The guidelines prescribe five basic requirements for all devices. They must:

  • Fulfill a need
  • Command attention
  • Convey a clear, simple meaning
  • Command respect of road users
  • Give adequate time for proper response

The State Manual emphasizes "uniformity" of traffic control devices. A uniform device conforms to the regulations for dimensions, color, wording and graphics. The standard device would convey the same meaning at all times. Consistent use of traffic control devices protects the clarity of their messages. As stated in the State Manual, "uniformity" must also mean treating similar situations in the same way.

WHAT IS A CROSSWALK?

Crosswalks are either "marked" or "unmarked". The California Vehicle Code defines a "crosswalk" as the portion of a roadway at an intersection, which is an extension of the curb and property lines of the intersecting street or is any other portion of a roadway which is marked as a pedestrian crossing location by painted lines.

A "marked crosswalk" is any crosswalk, which is delineated by white or yellow painted markings placed on the pavement. All other crosswalk locations are therefore "unmarked".

HOW ARE CROSSWALKS USED?

Research suggests that marked crosswalks give pedestrians a false sense of security. Pedestrians often step off the curb into the crosswalk expecting drivers of vehicles approaching the crosswalk to stop. However, drivers frequently fail to stop and cause an accident. At all crosswalks, both marked and unmarked, it is the pedestrian's responsibility to be cautious and alert before starting to cross the street.

At mid-block crosswalks on multi-lane roadways, another frequent factor in causing accidents involves the driver of a vehicle in the lane nearest to the curb stopping for a pedestrian that is waiting to cross or who is already in the crosswalk. The driver of a second vehicle traveling in the lane next to the stopped vehicle tries to pass the stopped vehicle and hits the pedestrian, even though it is illegal for drivers to pass a stopped vehicle at a crosswalk. Pedestrians should be cautious when walking in a crosswalk, especially when their visibility is limited by vehicles already stopped at the crosswalk. Even if you can see an oncoming vehicle, that driver may not see you.

WHERE ARE CROSSWALKS MARKED?

Crosswalks are marked at intersections where there is substantial conflict between vehicle and pedestrian movements, where significant pedestrian concentrations occur, where pedestrians could not otherwise recognize the proper place to cross, and where traffic movements are controlled. Examples of such locations are:

  • Approved school crossings
  • Signalized and 4-way stop intersections where there is significant pedestrian traffic and one or more crossing locations have been prohibited

hese examples follow the philosophy of marking crosswalks as a form of encouragement. In the first case, we are encouraging school children to use a crossing, which is normally being monitored. In the second case, we are encouraging all pedestrians to avoid a prohibited crossing. It is the City's policy not to paint crosswalks at mid-block locations or intersections where traffic is not controlled by stop signs or traffic signals (false sense of security). Painted crosswalks should only be used where necessary to direct pedestrians along the safest route.

WHAT ARE SPECIAL SCHOOL CROSSWALKS?

When a marked crosswalk has been established adjacent to a school building or school grounds, it shall be painted yellow. Other established marked crosswalks may be painted yellow if the nearest point of the crosswalk is not more than 600 feet from a school building or grounds.

Crosswalks should be marked at all intersections on the "suggested route to school", available from your local school. They should also be marked where there is high conflict between vehicles and students (while crossing), where students are permitted to cross between intersections, or where students could not otherwise cross. The best safety measure for school age children is to educate them on how and where to safely cross the street.

WHEN IS A CROSSWALK UNSAFE?

Apparently whenever it is painted on the street! A number of years back, the City of San Diego published some startling results of a very extensive study of the relative safety of marked and unmarked crosswalks. San Diego looked at 400 intersections for five years (without signals or 4-way stops) that had a marked crosswalk on one side and an unmarked crosswalk on the other. About two and one half times as many pedestrians used the marked crosswalk, but about six times as many accidents were reported in the marked crosswalks. Long Beach studied pedestrian safety for three years (1972 - 1974) and found eight times as many reported pedestrian accidents at intersections with marked crosswalks than at those without. One explanation of this apparent contradiction of common sense is the false security pedestrians feel at the marked crosswalk. Two painted lines do not provide protection against an oncoming vehicle and the real burden of safety has to be on the pedestrian to be alert and cautious while crossing any street. A pedestrian can stop in less than three feet, while a vehicle traveling at 25 MPH will require 60 feet and at 35 MPH 100 feet.

FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY

The City of Cathedral City often receives requests to install signs warning drivers of the possible presence of children at play. Concerned citizens fail to realize that these signs are deceiving and ineffective.

Drivers already expect the presence of children in residential areas, especially at certain times and studies show that devices attempting to warn motorists of normal conditions that are not always present fail to achieve the desired safety benefits.

"Children at Play" signs also tend to create a false sense of security for parents and children who believe the signs provide an added degree of protection when motorists, particularly local ones, actually pay little attention to them. The use of "Children at Play" and similar signs such as "Slow" or "Slow, Entering Residential Area" has long been discouraged since these signs are a direct and open suggestion to small children that playing in or beside the roadway is acceptable.

Parents also seem to believe such signs may help reduce speeds. There is no evidence that these signs prevent accidents or reduce the speed of vehicles. If problems with speeding exist, stricter enforcement should be sought from the appropriate law enforcement authorities.

"Children at Play" and similar signs are not recognized by the State or Federal Highway Administration as official traffic control devices and, therefore, are not installed by the City on public streets.

LOWER SPEED LIMITS

Citizens frequently request 10 MPH. speed limit signs on residential streets where children are playing. The unposted speed limit on a residential street is automatically 25 MPH and can be enforced. The City cannot post 10 MPH speed limits because the posting of such signs by a local government agency is considered a speed trap and therefore makes enforcement of such limits illegal under State law.

PROHIBITING TRUCKS IN RESIDENTIAL AREAS

Occasionally a request is made for signs prohibiting commercial vehicles in residential areas. Whenever such signs are installed, not all vehicles over 3 tons are prohibited from using these posted streets. Exemptions to posted weight restrictions include: emergency vehicles; vehicles used in transporting passengers such as buses; vehicles used in conjunction with building construction or delivery; vehicles used for local pick up or delivery; vehicles used by local businesses to gain access to and from the business. It requires a City Council resolution to establish weight restrictions on a street and high visibility enforcement to make such signs effective. Therefore, the City posts such signs only on streets where there is documented large volumes of heavy traffic that does not have a legitimate reason to use such streets.

ADDRESSING THE SAFETY OF YOUNG CHILDREN

Unnecessary signs confuse and annoy drivers and foster a disrespect for all signs, but signs in accordance with the State of California's Traffic Manual can and should be posted for school zones and pedestrian crossings as well as playgrounds and other recreational areas where a need exists.

Most importantly, parents should teach children the dangers of playing in or near roadways and strongly discourage them from doing so. Streets are for vehicles, not for children. The City provides neighborhood parks where children can play safely with proper supervision. Safe playgrounds are also provided at many elementary school sites.

The City takes our role in solving traffic problems very seriously, yet the ultimate burden of safety rests with you, the citizen. When requests or complaints are received, we will investigate them as quickly as we can. We appreciate your patience and understanding.


FLASHING BEACONS

Flashing beacons (sometimes called flashers or flashing lights) are frequently requested in the belief that they will slow down traffic. However, the real purpose of flashers is to attract attention to unexpected hazards.

WHAT ARE THE "RIGHT" CONDITIONS FOR FLASHING LIGHTS?

A flashing beacon is most effective as a warning of unexpected or hazardous conditions not readily visible to drivers. One of the more common locations where a flashing beacon is effective is at a stop sign controlled intersection located just beyond a curve that is hidden from the view of approaching motorists.

THAT SUGGESTS THERE IS A FLIP SIDE, PERHAPS SITUATIONS WHERE A FLASHING BEACON SHOULD NOT BE USED?

Immediately after seeing a flasher, drivers must consistently see an unusual condition, which requires special attention. The condition also must be viewed as serious enough to justify having been alerted. For any traffic control device to be effective, it must command the respect of motorists, if it seems arbitrary or unnecessary, drivers tend to ignore it.

THEN THERE ARE ACTUALLY PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH THE INSTALLATION OF UNNECESSARY FLASHING BEACONS?

When flashing beacons are used where not warranted, they soon lose much of their effectiveness. After continually being alerted to a condition which does not appear to be truly unusual, research and experience has shown that drivers actually stop "seeing" a flashing light. This can result in a disregard for all beacons, even those that are truly needed (like the boy who cried "wolf" once too often).

IF I SEE A SAFETY PROBLEM OR AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN, WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

There are usually several options available to improve the safety of an intersection or roadway when a problem truly exists. It helps to approach the situation with an open mind and to work together toward solutions.

For example, say we (the City) get a request for a flashing beacon above a busy, unsignalized intersection crossed by children on their way to and from school. The traffic engineering investigation reveals that:

  • About 30 children cross the intersection during a fifteen-minute period both in the morning and afternoon.
  • There is no "safe route to school". Plan for the area.
  • There is no pedestrian safety program or crossing guard program in the school.

"Safe route to school" plans or crossing guards would be must more effective in a situation like this. If a flashing beacon was installed under these conditions, we can expect the following results:

  • The flasher will become part of the normal driving environment and be ignored because children are seldom present.
  • A "safe route to school" plan or crossing guard program might be delayed because the flasher might provide a false sense of security.
  • A possible spin off effect is that other justified flashers will also be ignored by motorists.

IF I THINK THERE IS A PROBLEM AND A FLASHING BEACON ISN'T THE ANSWER, WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Contact the Engineering Department. They will look into the situation.

When requesting a flashing beacon, don't be surprised if the transportation engineer seems skeptical or difficult to convince, it's for a good reason. It is essential to prove that there is a problem, which can be solved by a flasher before one should be installed. It is of the utmost importance that flashing beacons be kept to a minimum if a high degree of respect is to be maintained for flashers that are truly needed.

WHAT DO DOUBLE YELLOW LINES MEAN?

Most drivers know that they are not permitted to cross or drive on the left side of double yellow center lines except to turn left at an intersection, to turn into or out of a private driveway/public street, or to make a U-turn. Drivers need to be especially aware that U-turns are not permitted on streets in business districts. It is also illegal to make a partial U-turn to enter an angled parking space on the other side of the street.

Most drivers are also not aware that it is always illegal to cross double double yellow center lines. These type of center lines cannot be crossed for any reason during normal traffic flow conditions.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST FACTOR INVOLVING BICYCLE ACCIDENTS?

City studies show that the single most common factor in bicycle accidents is that bicyclists ride on the wrong side of the streets. The reason for these accidents occurring is that when vehicles are turning at intersections and bicyclists are riding the wrong way, drivers do not see the oncoming bicyclist because they are not expecting them to be traveling in the opposite direction (against traffic flow). Therefore, bicyclists should ride with traffic and not against traffic. Bicyclists should also use the push button at signalized intersections to cross the street. Signals are usually timed to handle vehicular traffic. Bicyclists frequently need extra time to cross intersections. They can only receive that extra time by pushing the button.

WHY CAN'T BIKEWAYS BE LOCATED ON CITY SIDEWALKS?

Under current State regulations, it is illegal for the City to place new bicycle lanes on sidewalks. Bicycle lanes on sidewalks also have a higher accident rate. Drivers turning across these types of lanes often don't notice bicyclists because they are on the sidewalk instead of the street. Bikes and pedestrians don’t mix well on the same sidewalk.

CAN CITIZENS INSTALL SIGNS IN THE PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY?

The California Vehicle Code only authorizes municipal agencies, such as the City, to install signs in the public right of way. Therefore, no signs can be installed in the public right of way without a permit from the City. For safety reasons, construction crews may use approved warning signs (placed in the right of way) to warn traffic of the work in progress.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR TRIMMING VEGETATION OBSCURING STREET SIGNS?

If a tree or bush is obscuring a street sign or traffic signal and is growing within the right of way, the City will trim the vegetation. If the vegetation is growing outside of the right of way and overhangs into the right of way obscuring signs and signals, a letter is sent by the City to the property owner notifying them of the problem. The property owner is required to trim back the vegetation. If they fail to do so, City crews will do the work and the property owner will be billed.

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON CAUSES OF TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS?

  • Right-of-Way violations: Drivers who select too short a gap in traffic when entering a busy major street from a side street or driveway are frequently involved in severe broadside accidents. It is important to always wait until there is a sufficient gap in traffic when entering a busy street from a side street or driveway. It is also important to yield to oncoming traffic when turning left by selecting a safe gap in oncoming traffic before beginning a left turn.
  • Unsafe speeds: Drivers who follow too closely cause rear-end accidents. Drivers should maintain at least a 2-second gap between their vehicles and the vehicles ahead of them. Drivers traveling too fast for the prevailing conditions are a major factor in causing rear-end type collisions. It is important to always drive at or below the posted speed limit at all times.
  • Stop sign and traffic signal violations: Drivers running red lights frequently cause severe broadsided accidents. Drivers should never enter signalized intersections on the red light. They may enter on the green light once vehicles lawfully in the intersection have cleared. Drivers running stop signs also cause broadside accidents. Drivers must always come to a complete stop at all stop signs.
  • Improper turning movements: Right turns should begin and end in the furthermost right lane. left turns should begin in the farthest left hand lane or turn pocket and end in any lane lawfully available to them. Side swipes are also caused by drivers changing lanes abruptly. Drivers should always look over their shoulders and signal whenever changing lanes to make sure that travel lanes adjacent to them are clear of traffic before making a lane change.
  • Driving under the influence: Drivers who are intoxicated or on drugs and alcohol cause a large number of accidents. Drivers should never drive while under the influence of any substance that will impair their ability to properly operate a vehicle, including prescription medications.

Speed zones are often taken for granted and until a problem arises, most people pay little attention to the theory behind them. The following information will help you understand how speed zones are established and what they can and cannot do.

SPEED ZONE MISCONCEPTIONS

When traffic problems occur, concerned citizens frequently ask why we don't lower the speed limit. There are widely held misconceptions that speed limit signs will slow the speed of traffic, reduce accidents and increase safety. Most drivers drive at a speed that they consider to be comfortable, regardless of the posted speed limit. "Before and after" studies have shown that there are not significant changes in average vehicle speeds following the posting of new or revised speed limits. Furthermore, research has found no direct relationship between posted speed limits and accident frequency.

SPEED LAWS

All fifty states base their speed regulations on the Basic Speed Law: "No person shall drive a vehicle...at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent...and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property". Under California law, the maximum speed limit in urban areas is 65 MPH. All other speed limits are called prima facie limits, which are considered by law to be safe and prudent under normal conditions. Certain prima facie limits are established by State law and include the 25 MPH speed limit in business and residential districts, 25 MPH in school zone when children are present, and the 15 MPH speed limit in alleys and at intersections and railroad crossings, where visibility is very limited. These speed limits do not need to be posted, to be enforced.

Speed limits between 25 MPH and 65 MPH are established on the basis of traffic engineering surveys. These surveys include an analysis of roadway conditions, accident records and a sampling of the prevailing speed of traffic. A safe and reasonable limit is set at or just below the speed at which 85% of the drivers are traveling.

Traffic flowing at a uniform speed results in increased safety and fewer accidents. Drivers are less impatient, pass less often, and tailgate less, which reduces both head-on and rear-end collisions.

The posting of the appropriate speed limit simplifies the job of enforcement officers, since most of the traffic is voluntarily moving at the posted speed. Blatant speeders are easily spotted, safe drivers are not penalized and patrol officers aren't asked to enforce unrealistic and arbitrary speed limits.

SPEED BUMPS or HUMPS

Speeding on residential streets is a common complaint reported by concerned citizens. Speed humps are often requested because they are perceived as a quick and effective solution to speeding.

WHAT ARE SPEED HUMPS

DESCRIPTION: A gentle mound of asphalt paving placed across a roadway for the purpose of causing motorists to reduce their operating speeds while driving on that roadway. The horizontal and vertical dimensions are closely controlled to optimize the desired effect (slowing) while minimizing any potential adverse effects (severe driver discomfort, loss of vehicle control, noise, vibration). Also called "pavement undulations", speed humps are normally installed in groupings along a length of street. Speed humps are not like speed bumps normally encountered in shopping center parking lots.

EFFECT ON SPEED: Experience in other agencies nearly always has shown reduced speeds close to the hump. Overall route effectiveness varies with hump spacing and height. Lower hump heights generally resulted in a more consistent speed while the higher humps showed a pattern of braking/accelerating, braking/accelerating driver behavior.

EFFECT ON VOLUME: As outlined for residential streets, no traffic diversion is expected. Diversion is not the purpose of speed humps and an undesirable diversion of traffic to another residential street is a negative factor in installing speed humps. Their purpose is to address speed.

OTHER POSITIVE ASPECTS: Speed humps are gaining acceptance in many Southern California communities. As previously indicated, they are not at all like the shopping center "speed bumps" which can jolt the driver severely, cause vehicle damage, and create a potential loss of control.

OTHER NEGATIVE ASPECTS: The potential traffic diversion aspect of speed humps has caused at least a few instances of hump removal in nearby cities. The cost of installing speed humps and the accompanying signs and pavement messages is significant and, if overused, could become a substantial budgetary item. Some public safety departments have been strongly opposed to their use, however, Cathedral City Fire and Police Departments do not oppose speed humps, but have expressed concern about their uncontrolled proliferation. 

Last updated: 3/15/2010 9:17:03 AM