Will ‘The Snake’ Ride Again?

Annemarie DonkinBy Annemarie Donkin

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Will ‘The Snake’ Ride Again?
PHOTO BY MICHAEL DARTER Mulholland Highway snakes through the Santa Monica Mountains outside of Los Angeles.
A section of Mulholland Highway near Seminole Springs Mobile Home Park in Agoura Hills has been closed to motorists since the Woolsey Fire and subsequent rain damage in 2019. Known as ‘The Snake,’ the 2.4-mile stretch between Lower Brewster Road and Seminole Drive was severely damaged in the 2018 Woolsey fire, during which news accounts wrote that, “high-temperature flames fried pavement, melted guardrails and destroyed a bridge.” While that section of highway was later reopened for pedestrians and cyclists in April 2020, it remains closed to motorists. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, however, is considering reopening that section of highway to vehicle traffic in 2024 after repairs are complete. As part of its Vision Zero plan, the county wants to evaluate traffic-calming measures installed on the stretch of highway promoted on social media as being a “wild ride.” The County Motion The item came before the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 8, with a motion by Third District Supervisor LIndsey Horvath to open the roadway and to conduct a 180-day safety study as part of its Vision Zero traffic improvement plan. Vision Zero is a multi-national road safety campaign aimed at eliminating fatalities and serious injuries from traffic accidents. As part of the initiative, L.A. County has set a goal of reaching zero traffic deaths on unincorporated roadways by 2035. Vision Zero data from 2013 to 2017, however, shows that ‘The Snake’ was 79th on a ranking of the 200 worst “collision concentration corridors” in the county. Yet, over the objections of more than 60 local residents, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 to evaluate the engineering measures installed by the county on this stretch of highway that is well-known for speeding and street racing. “Mulholland Highway is a historic scenic roadway beloved by the local community and visitors alike,” wrote Supervisor Horvath. “While beautiful, it can also be dangerous—even lethal—when people choose to race or stage photo opportunities. In Los Angeles County, we have a Vision Zero goal to eliminate roadway fatalities, and Mulholland Highway is primed for this work. I’m grateful to the community members who brought this issue to my team’s attention and worked with us along the way to achieve a safer Mulholland.”  Implementation of Vision Zero Since the road closure, Public Works has made significant progress in implementing repairs (slope reconstruction, drainage pipe replacements, roadway construction, and retaining wall installations) and is in the process of scheduling the last remaining road repairs that need to be completed prior to the road being reopened. According to Public Works, “This section of the Mulholland Highway is well-known among motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts for its tight twists and turns, specifically the section which many refer to as ‘The Snake.’ For many years, frequent speeding along ‘The Snake’ has resulted in a number of severe-injury and fatal collisions. Furthermore, the ingress and egress residents of the Seminole Springs Mobile Homes Park are directly impacted by its popularity and frequent reckless driving of visitors to the area.” Public Works has already made several safety enhancements on Mulholland Highway from Kanan Road to Sierra Creek Road, which includes the closed roadway segment. Among the safety enhancements installed are centerline rumble strips, reflective centerline pavement markers, speed reduction pavement markings, curve advisory and chevron signage on various curves, and six-inch edge-line striping. The County is also depending on the Sheriff’s Department and CHP to enforce traffic safety on the highway, including on ‘The Snake.’” ‘The Snake’ on Social Media Known as the Mecca of motorcycle riding in California, ‘The Snake’ is well-known worldwide among motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts. Social media sites proclaim that “the road is so windy and treacherous that novice riders might have some trouble here. Its curves and hairpin turns have long been favored by motorcyclists and street racers, but the stretch of road was deemed a high-collision corridor by the county following multiple fatal crashes. It has been closed to drivers since 2019.” From Hoohoohoblin on YouTube, with 133,000 subscribers and 10,126 views on May 17, 2012, writes: “Here’s a good look at the part of Mulholland Highway called ‘The Snake.’ It’s fun to ride a slow bike fast on this road. This is the run from the bottom of the mountain to the top. If you are planning to visit ‘The Snake’ part of Mulholland Highway, this video will help you prepare for the sharp turns and shady spots. Be on the lookout for rocks in the road, dirt, water and small animals. Also watch out for the California Highway Patrol. They are here a lot. It’s a good idea to let some faster guys go ahead of you.” Local Residents Object to Re-Opening ‘The Snake’ “Can a public official please comment on the costs to the county/taxpayer associated with enforcement, public works, fire trucks, police, ambulance and the helicopters needed to remove the injured?” said KC at a meeting of the Las Virgenes Homeowner’s Federation in October. “Reopening the road for vehicles means that no one else can use the road, not pedestrians, dog walkers, hikers, or wildlife,” said Kathy B. at the same meeting. “This is oriented only to vehicle use.” More than 30 local residents of Seminole Springs also spoke of danger to pedestrians, dog walkers, hikers, or wildlife from the non-stop vehicle noise and speeding at all hours of the day and night, mostly on weekends. “I just don’t at this point know why you would open something if you don’t have the funding or the enforcement for it,” said Deana Kerns, a resident of Seminole Springs Mobile Home Park. “They say that riders post videos of their stunts on Instagram and other social media sites; they have no regard for signage, they cannot wait to get back to speeding and posting stunts. The overall realization was that law-abiding drivers, those who travel along the highway at a safe speed, are not the problem. The problem is speeders, racers and stunt riders, in cars and motorcycles. They use that section of highway as a challenge to their skill and speed. “Why don’t you report the number of fatalities and injuries from drivers going over the edge of the cliffs, not just on Mulholland but off of Las Virgenes and Kanan Road. They come from all over the world to race on ‘The Snake.’ They are not here to obey the speed limit.”
Annemarie Donkin

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