In this 17 second video you can see the strobe light and how its flashes temporarily “blind” my camera. 

On our way from the SRAM office, where we interviewed two urbanism authors, John and I noticed a strobe light at 1446 W Division Street. It was extremely distracting and shone over the whole street when activated. Upon closer inspection I noticed it was a speed camera. The Chicago Department of Transportation is testing speed cameras from two manufacturers at four locations. Citations are not being issued. I couldn’t tell the pattern of light flashes, nor the direction of monitoring (eastbound or westbound). Red light cameras have strobe lights to illuminate the license plate, but they are hardly as distracting. This might be my perception based on the low frequency at which I see them; the speed camera’s strobe light flashed more than 10 times in the few minutes I was near it.

A worker sat in a car hooked up to the device holding a computer I presume was collecting data from the speed camera. A parent from the Near North Montessori school walking to his car told me that the strobe light was previously pointed in a direction that lit up the classrooms.

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  • John

    It probably flashes to take a picture when someone is speeding. Just like the red light cameras.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

      I know. I was saying that I don’t know what triggered the flash. Was it every car traveling in the direction it’s pointed, or just cars exceeding a certain speed.

      • http://twitter.com/aka60643 AKA60643

        It didn’t seem like every car. It seemed to coincide with the faster ones.

        • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

          I am looking west and I think the speed camera is looking at eastbound cars so I can’t say for certain. I thought about talking to the worker in the car using the computer to download data, but didn’t want to startle them.

    • Adam Herstein

      Can infrared cameras be installed so that they work at night without the use of a flash? Or would that be prohibitively expensive?

      • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

        Good question. Bar and restaurant owners use infrared cameras for interior security.

      • Guest

        Infrared cameras show temperature differences instead of color differences so it wouldn’t show a licence plate number

      • http://www.facebook.com/cameron.puetz Cameron Puetz

        Infrared cameras show temperature differences instead of color differences so the printed number on a license plate would show the same as the background of the plate.

  • Adam Herstein

    I have yet to hear a good reason why these cameras shouldn’t be installed. Most of the reasoning behing the opposition boils down to the fact that motorists want to continue breaking the law without consequence.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

      That doesn’t matter now. The ordinance passed and the city is testing devices to see who will get the contract.

    • Aidan

      Most of the anti-camera rhetoric I’ve heard seems to revolve around privacy issues and how it’s a money grab for the city. Personally, I’m all for them – just stating what I’ve heard.

    • nonya

      The argument against them has more to do with the ludicrous argument for them that it’s “all about the children!”, when the reality is that it’s all about the cash.

      The comparison is to the RLC’s. If RLC’s are really about safety and not revenue, then they shouldn’t be ticketing right turns, as those cause accidents very rarely. Yet there have been cases in the suburbs where they took right turns away from the RLC’s and the vendors bitched, because the vendors know that ticketing the right turns is where the money is.

      Back to your point, no, there is no good reason not to install cameras, but the city needs to just tell the truth on it.

  • James

    Good reason not visit Chicago.