Eyes on the street: Speed camera testing in East Village

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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Grid Bits: Speed camera testing, CTA riders don’t own cars, I-90 bus lanes, driver’s license legislation

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SAFETY ZONE painted on California Avenue, immediately south of North Avenue. 

There are four news stories in this edition of Grid Bits.

Speed cameras

The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications announced two weeks ago that it will be testing speed cameras from Monday, December 3 (yesterday), to Thursday, January 3.

“City officials are testing both mobile camera systems and permanent camera systems, which will be temporarily installed at:”

  • McKinley Park, at approximately 2223 W. Pershing Road
  • Warren Park, at approximately 6541 N. Western Ave
  • Dulles Elementary School, at approximately 6340 S. King Drive
  • Near North Montessori School, at approximately 1446 W. Division

The Department of Transportation will install signs that tell drivers no citations will be issued. Continue reading Grid Bits: Speed camera testing, CTA riders don’t own cars, I-90 bus lanes, driver’s license legislation

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Ride into the safety zone: new traffic calming and ped safety treatments

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Englewood resident Denise King tries out the new refuge island at 63rd and Claremont.

[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets in print on Thursdays.]

Running late as usual, I hop on my bicycle and sprint south from Logan Square, fortunately with a sweet tailwind at my back. I’m heading to the ribbon cutting for new Children’s Safety Zone traffic-calming and pedestrian-safety treatments at Claremont Academy Elementary School, 2300 West 64th Street in West Englewood.

The city has 1,500 of these safety zones, designated areas within one-eighth mile of schools and parks. The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is planning to install additional infrastructure at dangerous intersections within these sectors to discourage speeding and make crossing easier. Currently there are about 3,000 pedestrian crashes a year in the city, with about 800 involving kids (full data below). And in this era of rising obesity rates, the goal is also to encourage more children to walk to school and to play at their local park.

Continue reading Ride into the safety zone: new traffic calming and ped safety treatments

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Bike sharing and speed cameras ordinances pass in today’s Chicago City Council meeting

This article will be updated a few times after publishing while I gather all the information. All regular city council meetings are streamed live with video and transcript and that is where I am getting all of the information.

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Alderman Cardenas of the 12th ward speaks in support of the speed camera ordinance.

Bike sharing

Bike sharing passes City Council, 46-1. Alderman Robert Fioretti (2nd) was the sole alderman to vote against the ordinance. The system will launch in September 2012.

Margarent Laurino (39th, chair of the committe on pedestrian and traffic safety) gave a prepared statement.

Colón (35th) talks about his experience in Seville, Spain, in March 2011. The city made investments in bicycle facilities, and bike sharing, and saw an enormous increase in the number of people cycling there.

Continue reading Bike sharing and speed cameras ordinances pass in today’s Chicago City Council meeting

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Trying to get in the last word about speed cameras, before Wednesday’s vote

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Photo of a speed hump in Logan Square from the point of view of someone bicycling by Andrew Ciscel. 

The following is a conversation between co-writer John Greenfield and myself and was derived from an email chain between him and me on Sunday. 

Dear John,

By reading all my articles about speed cameras, you may find yourself confused on my position. I’ve figured it out. I want city council to not pass the ordinance. I think the surveillance and revenue aspects leave too much room for abuse and I believe that we should pursue human-scale strategies to reduce speed and change our culture that accepts speeding and the injuries and fatalities it leads to. -Steven

John replies:

What is the potential for abuse? Is this just anti-Big Brother paranoia? It’s true that the Tribune reported that a longtime Emanuel campaign contributor is a consultant to a traffic camera manufacturer. But I still don’t really see a downside. I’m not concerned about the surveillance aspect. Continue reading Trying to get in the last word about speed cameras, before Wednesday’s vote

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Speed cameras: Aldermen express their concerns at hearing (part 3 of 3)

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Speed cameras have been used around the world for decades, reducing speeding everywhere they’re installed. This speed camera is installed in Switzerland. Photo by Kecko. 

The adoption of a speed camera system in Chicago is multi-faceted: it goes beyond encouraging people to speed less (which would increase the safety of all people in the streets), but touches on other issues like surveillance and how contracts and bidding are conducted. It has also induced people to think about other ways the city can achieve the same safety goals (fewer crashes, injuries and fatalities).

This post is part 3 of 3 about the hearing in council chambers on Wednesday, April 11, 2012, I will synthesize the concerns the aldermen discussed, their frustrations with how the automated speed camera enforcement system would work, and disappointment in being unable to receive (for weeks) the information they requested. I apologize profusely if there’s inaccurate information (like, are there really 85 schools with basketball programs?); I may have written that information down incorrectly as it’s hard to understand everyone if they don’t speak properly into the microphone.

Read part 1, part 2, or read all of our coverage on speed cameras. In this hearing, aldermen on the Pedestrian and Traffic Safety committee aired their questions alongside aldermen not on the committee – I’ve noted which aldermen are not on the committee. Continue reading Speed cameras: Aldermen express their concerns at hearing (part 3 of 3)

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