By Ken Martin

IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS: I’m sure we’ve all been told that “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”. But suppose the “law”, either by negligence or design, keeps us ignorant of what it requires?

A case in point is the dearth and helter-skelter pattern of speed limit signs in Castro Valley. Example: If you turn north onto Redwood Road from Castro Valley Boulevard, there is one  35 MPH sign just off of the boulevard. That is the last speed limit sign for 1.6 miles, excepting some school zone signs, until you are over the hill almost to the golf course and encounter a 40 MPH sign. If you turn north onto Redwood from Somerset or Heyer, or a number of lesser streets, nothing indicates what the speed limit is on Redwood. Are drivers supposed to guess what the speed limit is?

And there is no reasonable basis for accurate guesswork. While the limit on Redwood Road is 35 MPH, the limit on Lake Chabot Road, a very similar road, is 40 MPH, again excepting some school zones. It would be reasonable to argue that, if you were cited that, in the absence of signs on Redwood, the limit would be the same as Lake Chabot.

Also, why is the speed limit on Somerset Avenue 25 MPH while the limit on Parsons Avenue, a narrower street, is 30 MPH? Anyway, my point is this: I am sure that some well-meaning drivers have been cited simply because they were ignorant of the speed limit for the street on which they were driving. The county needs to address this situation.

About five years ago I pointed up the need for more speed limit signs on Somerset Avenue to Supervisor Nate Miley. He responded by having three new 25 MPH signs installed at places that I designated.  Whether they have helped or not I can’t really say but they have certainly removed the “ignorance” factor. Thank you, Nate.

With all the recent publicity about speeders on Center Street and Stanton Avenue, I guess I am playing the “Devil’s Advocate” here. Maybe, due to a paucity of proper signing, some (very few) of these “speeding” drivers truly do not know what the speed limit is. Stanton, above Somerset, is really pretty good with 25 MPH signs about .5 miles apart in both directions. The desultory speed bumps here are probably no help at all. Below Somerset, northbound, there is only one 30 MPH sign just off the boulevard and then nothing for almost three-quarters of a mile until you cross Somerset. Center southbound is another story with virtually no signs above Heyer and only one 25 MPH sign just south of Heyer with no more signs, except a school zone) between Heyer and the boulevard.

Granted all of these streets have schools on them, a somewhat mitigating factor. But, aside from the school zones, they all have long stretches with no speed limit indicators at all. If we drivers are expected to obey the law, we have to know what the law expects. With the current situation we have many stretches of roads on which the driver has no way of knowing what the speed limit is nor can he even make an accurate guess based on other roads in the area.

I have cited only a few examples here. I’m sure that, if I researched this thoroughly, I would find dozens more situations in our area like the above. I am not trying to excuse violations of the law. I am simply suggesting that our county authorities and local law enforcement agencies to put more effort into helping us, the drivers, to comply.