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Vision Zero Forum: Philly Needs Safety Cameras

From left to right: BCGP Executive Director Sarah Clark Stuart, State Rep. John Taylor, Gus Scheerbaum P.E., Wen Hu of Highway Safety Institute

From left to right: BCGP Executive Director Sarah Clark Stuart, State Rep. John Taylor, Gus Scheerbaum P.E., Wen Hu of Highway Safety Institute

On Thursday, March 24, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia hosted our second Vision Zero forum to discuss options for easing speed and making Philly streets safer. The forum, which was co-hosted by Thomas Jefferson University, was a morning panel that brought together highway safety experts, politicians, and city bureaucrats, to figure out how we can best use options like speed and red light cameras to help eliminate traffic deaths and injuries for all road users in Philadelphia.

Speed cameras track the speed of motor vehicles on streets, and send tickets to the owners of said vehicles accordingly. Places where they’ve been installed have reported significant drops in road injuries, crashes, and deaths. As advocates of Vision Zero for Philadelphia, the Bicycle Coalition is interested in learning more about speed cameras, and passing that information along to the public.

The panel was moderated by Republican City Councilman Al Taubenberger and featured conversation and presentations from Wen Hu of the Institute of Highway Safety; Jonathan M. Rogers, the project manager for Vision Zero at the District Department of Transportation; Captain Francis Healy of the Philadelphia Police Department; Republican State Rep. John Taylor; and Gus Scheerbaum, P.E. of the Philadelphia Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems.

Why is this issue so important? Mostly because speed and red light cameras have been proven to be an important supplement to police enforcement on roads, and go a long way toward saving lives.

According to data Rogers had brought with him, the corridors that had installed speed cameras in Washington, D.C., saw a 20 percent reduction in injury crashes, and a 20.4 percent reduction in the number of injuries (from 1,251 to 996). Where the city of Philadelphia has installed red light cameras, Scheerbaum reported a 24 percent decrease in all reportable and non-reportable crashes in those areas. That’s data you can’t argue with. And the revenue that comes in, everyone agrees, is less important than the safety aspect.

The District currently has 79 speed cameras and eight Stop sign cameras. Philadelphia has 27 red light cameras in locations all around the city, which can be viewed here.

More cameras should be a no-brainer. But they’re not. The reason: Politics. Many right-wing or Libertarian-leaning politicians think cameras take away individual liberties, according to Taylor.

“When you come to Philadelphia, I want you to have liberty to know you’re not going to get killed,” he said in response to those ideas, noting arguments against cameras “get pretty silly.”

Due to the sensitive nature of cameras on public streets, deals had to be cut for Philadelphia to install red light cameras on our own streets. For instance, half the revenue generated by cameras here goes to the rest of the state. We get the other half.

A similar sort of deal may have to be struck to legalize speed cameras on our streets, which is why we were so glad to see State Rep. John Taylor and Capt. Healy take the lead on this issue. In one particular interesting moment, Healy noted this issue was not about politics to him.

And as Scheerbaum noted, the law that legalized red light cameras had many civil liberty-protections built into it to make sure there was no government overreach.

See the ABC News story on the event here:

The event was a huge success and we’re already planning our next Vision Zero Conference. Stay tuned for more on this as the Kenney Administration solidifies their Vision Zero policy. Thanks again to our sponsors:

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Topics: Featured, research, Vision Zero

2 comments on “Vision Zero Forum: Philly Needs Safety Cameras

  1. Joe

    None of this is accurate. The cameras make MANY errors(even citing stopped cars and wrong cars), the tickets are barely over the speed limit, and the speed limits are posted too low. The one bill has tickets at +10, BUT there are exceptions for +6. Guess how this will play out? People will not even know which zone they are in and modern speedometers make it hard to tell an exact speed.

    Note that the people supporting the cams may also be inside of the revenue stream. Is there is a slight chance of people earning money from these, they CANNOT be called unbiased.

    We should be promoting speed limits set to the 85th percentile free-flowing traffic speed, which WOULD save lives. A study came out years ago saying that deficient roadways kill far more people than speed or anything else ever could. It is simply not accurate that red-light cameras and speed cameras reduce crashes. Anyone can claim anything with numbers.

    I also suggest you look at the various bribery charges relating to one camera company to see if that is something Philly should aspire to get here.

    Will you support ticketing of bicyclists who break the law? I see enough of that.

    Follow the money! We are broke, so let’s get some dough!

  2. Joe

    Bicyclists should stop for stop signs too. I see them run stop signs all the time.

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