Drivers in Long Beach may want to pay more attention to the speedometer as they tool around town now that the city has begun rolling out lower speed limits that were made possible by a change in state law.

“This is probably the largest effort we’ve ever done in terms of changes to our speed limits,” with more than 100 streets to see new signs and markings, city Traffic Engineer Paul Van Dyk said.

Part of the focus is areas with heavy pedestrian traffic, and the overall goal is to lower the number of traffic deaths, which has been unusually high the past three years, to none by 2026.

Between 45 and 50 people—including people on bicycles and motorcycles, in vehicles and on foot— have died in crashes in Long Beach in each of the past three years, according to data from the city and the Long Beach Post’s analysis. So far this year, 22 people have been killed, the most recent being a driver killed in a solo crash on Sept. 18.

The current effort entails changing signs to show the new lower speed limit, adding or relocating signs to give drivers more chance to see them, and removing any pavement markings that are no longer correct.

Van Dyk said the first streets to see the changes—about 28 segments have been done so far—are south of Willow Street and west of Cherry Avenue. Work on another batch of streets is expected to start sometime next week, and city officials hope to have the project done by the end of the year.

A map of the city of Long Beach with color-coded markings showing where speed limits will be lowered in 2023.
The proposed speed limit reductions that the Long Beach City Council approved. Courtesy city of Long Beach

Residents in the Washington neighborhood have repeatedly called on city leaders to improve safety after a series of car accidents and pedestrians being hit. Neighborhood association president Jesus Esparza said Tuesday that cars regularly blow through the area at 40 to 50 mph, drivers swerve into oncoming traffic to get around stopped delivery trucks and people’s dogs have been hit by vehicles.

On Pine Avenue between 10th Street and Pacific Coast Highway, the 30 mph limit was recently lowered to 25 mph, but Esparza said so far he hasn’t seen any impact.

“Us who live in the neighborhood are aware that the speed limit changed but other people are not,” he said in Spanish. “I have asked the city to put up speed limit signs with flashing lights or something to make it more obvious that the speed limit changed.”

Van Dyk said city officials hope the new lower limits will get drivers’ attention and “really reset the expectation of what the appropriate speeds are in an urban environment.”

Residents can request signs with the slogan “20 is plenty” to remind drivers to stick to 20 mph in their neighborhoods, and Van Dyk said he expects the city to give out a lot of them in the coming weeks.

Long Beach is also expected to implement a speed camera program if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs a bill allowing pilot programs with the cameras, and Van Dyk said in the next few months he’ll recommend streets near playgrounds where speed limits could be lowered.

Esparza said he still wants to see more done to make his neighborhood safe. Residents have asked for speed bumps and speed tables, and he thinks the cameras could also help, but the changes would be most effective if paired with enforcement.

“If we had a police officer on a motorcycle monitoring when someone is going 30 mph and ticketing them, it’s the only way drivers will understand.”

More information, including a map showing where speed limits are changing and a link to request a “20 is plenty” yard sign can be found here.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the city’s most recent traffic fatality.