Jamal C. Morris was struck by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bicycle in West Philadelphia on April 17. The Drexel graduate and engineer died in the hospital just a couple days later. Police have still not found the person who killed him. Since that time, the Bicycle Coalition has been meeting with, and working with, Morris’ family and friends to make Philadelphia’s streets safe.
On Wednesday, members of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Neighborhood Bike Works, the Morris Family, and friends, visited the State Capitol where we met with members of the Philadelphia delegation to advocate for safer streets.
This was our second trip to the Capitol to advocate for safer streets since Channabel Morris contacted the Bicycle Coalition.
The group – 10 of us in total – were in the Capitol building around 9:30am and had set meetings with several senators in advance. All those meetings were with senators who can help move forward several bills which would make streets safer for all road users in Philadelphia; including a red light camera bill, a speed camera Pilot program on Roosevelt Boulevard, and a bill which would authorize local police to use speed radar. Here are the bills we are advocating for:
Senate Bill 1267: Extend Red Light Camera Program to 2027. Pennsylvania’s red light camera program is set to expire next year. This bill would extend it.
Senate Bill 1034: Photo Enforcement Program on Roosevelt Boulevard. This bill would create a pilot program to reduce speeding on Roosevelt Boulevard. Speeding currently accounts for a third of all traffic deaths in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia.
Senate Bill 535 and 559: Authorize Municipal Police to Use Radar. This bill would allow local police departments throughout Pennsylvania to use radar to catch drivers for speed. Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that does not give local police this World War II-era technology.
Channabel Latham-Morris, Jamal’s mother, was incredibly strong while speaking to the senators with whom we had meetings.
Legislators Larry Farnese, John Sabatina, John Taylor and Art Haywood all graciously met with our group (or had staff meet with our group) and pledged their support of these bills.
Although Sen. Vincent Hughes did not have time for an official meeting, he was able to meet with Morris in the Capitol Building’s main lobby. Jamal’s hit-and-run crash took place in Hughes’ district.
TY @SenatorHughes for meeting with Channabel Morris; we’re excited to work w/ you 2 make West Philly streets safer pic.twitter.com/ms6iws3YIN
— Bike Coalition Phila (@bcgp) June 8, 2016
On a previous trip, we met with Republican Senate Leadership from all over the state, asking them to advance these pieces of legislation for Philadelphia. So, there’s been a lot of work leading up to this.
Now, we just need these bills to come up for a vote. That’s where you can come in.
Since our trip yesterday, the National Motorists Association has already contacted the state Senate with a fact-free message to note red light cameras do not work.
Email campaigns work — and the lawmakers in the Capitol should know how much support exists for these measures.
Jamal’s friends are additionally holding a fundraiser on Saturday to support the charity his family has set up in his name. All information and RSVP is here.
It is interesting to note that a study recently concluded that a majority of red light tickets are issued for infractions that don’t create danger. Perhaps much of the resistance to red light cameras is based on a failure to do things like setting the yellow light time based on DOT standards relating to the prevailing speed of traffic, which would cut both infractions and accidents significantly, and ensuring calibration that does not issue a citation unless the car actually passed through the intersection late enough to cause a crash. Perhaps ideal such cameras, in conjunction with efforts to time lights so as to reduce the natural frustration and incentive to run them, might become acceptable to all. Further, in cases like the terrible tragedy of Mr. Morris, why are were no details about the accident brought out? We still don’t know what actually caused the crash, only that the driver left the scene. While that implies guilt, it does not guarantee it. Unfortunately, this is a polarized situation with emotions running high, as usual. A compassionate science and engineering-based effort to make streets safer would be much more acceptable than the present situation, which is nothing but political polarization. I completely sympathize with bicycle safety goals. Such crashes are completely unacceptable. But, so is reacting emotionally rather than scientifically.