A ten year extension of Pennsylvania’s Red Light Camera Program was signed by Governor Wolf today – and not a moment too soon. The bill, which had been advocated for by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Channabel Latham-Morris, and other partner organizations, will keep the city’s 27 red light camera locations running for the next ten years, keeping our streets safer, and bringing more money to Philadelphia and other municipalities for safety programs.
The Automated Red Light Enforcement program (ARLE) is an important project, not just because of the money it generates for improvement projects, but because of the overarching goal: That there will eventually be no money gathered from the program once all drivers follow all the laws of the road.
As noted by Governor Tom Wolf earlier this year, this past fiscal year’s ARLE funds totaled $5.5 million, $2.8 million of which went to Philadelphia (roughly half goes to Philly, half gets doled out to the rest of the state).
This is a big win for the people of Philadelphia, and of Pennsylvania. And it’s worth considering bills like this don’t just pass on their own.
The effort behind this particular legislation was, unfortunately, fueled by a tragedy.
Earlier this year, 27-year-old Philadelphia engineer Jamal Morris was tragically killed while riding his bicycle on Market Street in West Philadelphia. The driver fled the scene and still has not been found.
His mother, Channabel Morris, later came to the Coalition and asked how she could help us make the streets safer for the city’s cyclists and help prevent future tragedies from happening.
Since then, Channabel has been hard at work, accompanying the Bicycle Coalition to the state Capitol, telling her story, and explaining to legislators from all over the Commonwealth why it’s so important to extend and expand the statewide red light camera program, create a photo speed enforcement program, and authorize the use of radar by local police.
We’ve gone to the Capitol with her twice. In that time, we met with legislators from all over the state, all of whom listened to Channabel’s story, and our research, and gave us an oral agreement that they felt this bill should pass, and they would support it.
We were backed up by AAA, whose government affairs liaison, Jana Tidwell, joined us on our first trip.
During our last trip to Harrisburg in early June, we were joined by Latham-Morris’ family and friends, as well as members of Neighborhood Bike Works, and Jamal’s best friend, Bill Mahon.
As this was all going on, those advocates who could not make our trip to the Capitol signed onto an email campaign set up by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, which sent emails straight to the inboxes of those State Senators who were in charge of advancing the bills for which we were advocating.
Our supporters and members collectively sent more than 200 emails to legislators all over the state, not only signing their names to this legislation, but sending a personalized letter explaining why they felt this legislation was so important.
Channabel Latham-Morris penned this op/ed for PhillyVoice about her advocacy work in Pennsylvania, published earlier this week.
It all worked. Here’s a screenshot from Gov. Wolf’s latest news feed, indicating bills signed on 7/20.
The passage of Senate Bill 1267 is a big win for road users throughout Pennsylvania. But there’s lots more to do.
Though this bill is passed and will continue making our streets safer for individuals who use all modes of transit, it’s important communities continue advocating for additional red light cameras to calm traffic in their own neighborhoods. We will additionally be pushing for speed cameras at the state level, and a comprehensive Vision Zero plan at the local level.
The Bicycle Coalition thanks Channabel, Neighborhood Bike Works, Bill Mahon, and all the advocates who helped make this win possible. Additionally, thanks to State Senator John Rafferty, State Senator John Taylor and the other legislators who sponsored and voted for the bill in both houses this spring and summer.
We will continue to work on automated enforcement programs at the state level, and look forward to continue working with Channabel, who is a true inspiration to all of us here.