The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and the broader Philadelphia Vision Zero Alliance – a group consisting of 30 organizations, including AAA, AARP, the Clean Air Council, private citizens, and civic associations – have been supporting automated enforcement legislation for Roosevelt Boulevard over the last two years. And on Thursday afternoon, we neared the finish line as City Council’s Committee on Streets and Services passed a bill to implement speed cameras on the Boulevard.
(Though passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor last year, City Council needs to pass “enabling legislation” and Councilwoman Cherelle Parker stepped up and introduced that legislation earlier this year.)
Randy LoBasso, of the Bicycle Coalition; Latanya Byrd, co-founder of Families for Safe Streets; and Jason Duckworth, of the Smart Growth Alliance; all testified in favor of the bill.
Automated enforcement, including red light cameras and speed cameras, is a large part of Philadelphia’s Vision Zero Action Plan, and for good reason. These tools have been shown to reduce crashes involving all modes of traffic wherever they’ve been installed and put to use. Automated enforcement also reduces potential negative interactions between police and citizens.
This is especially important for Roosevelt Boulevard. Often called the “Boulevard of Death,” Roosevelt Boulevard regularly takes more lives of Philadelphians than any other street in the City of Philadelphia. A lot of that has to do with how it was designed compared to how it’s used today – and the city’s Route for Change program will, hopefully, help fix those design problems in the future.
Right now, however, we know that the vast majority of deaths and serious injuries along the Boulevard are happening because of high speeds.
Although the Boulevard makes up just 0.6 percent of Philadelphia’s streets, it’s generally about 6 percent of all reported crashes and 13 percent of all traffic fatalities.
In 2018, Roosevelt Boulevard actually accounted for about 20 percent of all traffic fatalities—double what it’s generally been over the last decade.
As readers of our blog already know, the Bicycle Coalition and Vision Zero Alliance worked with Latanya Byrd, whose niece and three nephews were killed while crossing Roosevelt Boulevard in 2013. Her testimony, visits to Harrisburg, and letter writing campaigns helped bring us to where we are today.
“My travels to Harrisburg were well worth it,” she told City Council on Thursday. “The law to put speed cameras along the Roosevelt Blvd. was passed late last year — a testament to the work ordinary citizens, like me, can accomplish through hard work and dedication.”
Byrd is the first to say that she does not want anyone to go through what she and her family have suffered for the past six years. And the statistics say more people will survive if these automated enforcement mechanisms are put into place.
Watch the full testimony of Latanya Byrd, Jason Duckworth, and Randy LoBasso (begin at 1:07):
The Institute for Highway Safety has studied this for many years and conducted a deep study of automated enforcement in Montgomery County, Maryland, cameras have reduced by 59% the likelihood of a driver exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 mph, compared with similar roads in two nearby Virginia counties without cameras. The camera program there also reduced the likelihood of fatal or serious injury by 39 percent on residential roads and 19 percent overall.
Around the country, we’ve seen similar statistics.
Chicago saw a 31 percent decline in speeding vehicles after the implementation of automated enforcement. Washington, D.C. actually reported a 70 percent reduction in fatalities after these were implemented there. There’s been a 53 percent reduction in fatalities since Portland implanted this program.
Moreover, around the country, few people are being cited more than once. There was a 60 to 80 percent reduction in violators within six months of camera deployments in D.C., and in Seattle, 90 percent of offenders never received a second citation.
It should also be known: from a social justice standpoint, the Bicycle Coalition supports the implementation of automated enforcement over police enforcement. We all watch the news here, and we all know how some police can profile drivers. We know how those interactions can go downhill shortly after that police stop begins.
Automated enforcement gets rid of that interaction altogether, and has the ability to change behavior—which is badly needed, especially on Philadelphia’s Boulevard of Death.