How do you thwart deadly street racing in an industrial section of the San Fernando Valley? An L.A. city councilman says he has a simple solution: Install rumble strips that could slow cars down, make drivers feel the harshest of rides, and stress vehicles' suspension parts to the breaking point.
Valley Councilman Mitch Englander this week formally proposed spending $14,000 to install rumble strips on Plummer Street between Canoga Avenue and Topanga Canyon Boulevard in Chatsworth. The stretch was the site of a street race that killed two spectators on an early morning in February 2015. The strips are “akin to a speed hump only much more abrasive to vehicles engaged in street racing,” according to Englander's office.
According to his motion, councilman has the cash under his own street-and-sidewalk clean-up and beautification fund. It would be used to fund an L.A. Department of Transportation pilot program — installing the strips. He filed a proposal Tuesday to move that money over to the LADOT.
“While the roar of car engines might be exciting in the Fast & the Furious movies, it can be a serious disturbance and downright dangerous when illegal racing occurs in neighborhoods and on streets not designed for such activity,” Englander said in a statement. “This pilot will explore the efficacy of 'rumble strips' which have the potential to be a cost-effective tool to stop illegal street racing in its tracks.”
Los Angeles police Officer Troy Williams of the Valley Traffic Division says the rumble strips could work because street racers tend to gravitate to a handful of streets in the area. Closing down one would free up more cops to patrol the others, he argues. “I think it will have a huge impact,” Williams says. “If this is effective you can try it at other spots.”
“We can't put these everywhere,” Williams adds, “but we can make it uncomfortable at their favorite spots.”
Donald Galaz, a leader of the Brotherhood of Street Racers organization, says the strips would probably strop street racing on that specific stretch of asphalt. But he said young racers would quickly move on to another spot. “It's a Band-Aid on a bullet wound,” he says.
“They're going to put those strips down and we're just going to move to another street,” he says. “That's what we've been doing. That's not the solution.”
He said a similar approach was taken in the Carson area, long a hot-spot for late-night racing. Racers peeled off the rumble strips, and the streets used for racing and social-media takeovers — where cars drift and do burnouts — are now back in play, Galaz says.
He says the real, long-term solution is to find a safe, off-street venue for young people who want to race. Gallaz and his organization have been lobbying the city for years to open such a venue at Terminal Island, where such racing last took place in the 1990s. He says city officials have consistently ignored the idea. Today the city of Los Angeles is home to zero sanctioned drag strips, though they can be found in the Inland Empire and San Diego County.
Galaz has also raised the idea of temporary street closures for street racing, akin to CicLAvia's open-streets events for bike riders. But he thinks city officials don't have the stomach for it unless it involves permitted film and TV scenes that mimic the sport. The result, he says, is that as summer approaches, more dangerous match-ups on the streets will take place.
“They don't listen,” Galaz says of city leaders. “There's a need for an organized event so the environment can be controlled and racing can be taken off the streets for good.”