‘Kicking The Dog’ Is Sometimes Foolish

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A speed camera on Archer Avenue would disappear in three years if an ordinance proposed by Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) can make it through the city council on Wednesday. © DNAinfo/Casey Cora

A speed camera on Archer Avenue would disappear in three years if an ordinance proposed by Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) can make it through the city council on Wednesday. © DNAinfo/Casey Cora

CHICAGO — A group of aldermen is hoping to force a vote at Wednesday’s City Council meeting on an ordinance that would spell the end of both red-light and speed cameras by 2018.

The ordinance, introduced by Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) in early October, has been languishing in the Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Public Way since then.

But now, Sawyer and a handful of aldermen plan on using a parliamentary maneuver to bring it to the floor of the Council for debate and vote on Wednesday.

“We were hoping we would go through the committee process,” said Brian Sleet, Sawyer’s chief of staff. “While were talking about these other ideas for reforming the cameras, we should discuss a realistic way to address these policies. We want to discuss it and see where our colleagues stand.”

Sleet said Sawyer’s plan is a responsible way to rid the city of the unpopular automated traffic cameras by giving the city time to find alternative streams of revenue to replace the tens of millions of dollars in fines generated every year and allow vendor contracts to expire as scheduled. The aim is to end both the red-light and speed camera programs by 2018.

“That’s enough time to find other revenue sources. Instead of making it a political football, just let it sunset,” Sleet said.

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), who’s been highly skeptical of the red-light cameras and voted against the speed cameras, said the plan also helps the city avoid paying millions of dollars in penalties for early termination of the camera contracts.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Waguespack said. “Because it allows the camera contracts to run their course.”

At a news conference Wednesday morning held by members of the council’s Progressive Reform Caucus, Ald. John Arena (45th) said the cameras served “questionable purposes” and “were never about safety.”

“We have lost trust in the system,” Arena said.

Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) acknowledged the effort to call the plan for a vote was likely to fail, but said he hoped it would “change the conversation” on traffic cameras.

“Democracy can be messy,” Munoz said.

Mark Wallace, who heads up the anti-camera group Citizens to Abolish Red-Light Cameras,said he had mixed feelings about the proposal.

“I’m glad to hear they’re thinking of ending the program,” Wallace said. “But I’m unhappy to hear it would continue for another three years. They should vote to end this program right away.”

Red-light cameras and speed cameras have been political fodder during a heated election year for both aldermen and the mayor’s office.

While Jesus “Chuy” Garcia said he wants to eliminate the cameras immediately if elected, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who supports the cameras, announced recently the city has decommissioned 50 red-light cameras at 25 intersections across the city.

City speed cameras near parks and schools issue $35 tickets for exceeding the speed limit by 6-9 mph and $100 for drivers exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph or more.

Chicago has red-light cameras at 174 intersections, issuing $100 tickets that have generated close to $600 million since 2003.


I hope it comes as no surprise to any of us that the ‘War On Cars‘ pushback is more than capable of asserting itself. Have we overreached in trying to tie red light cameras to some aspects of Vision Zero? And frankly given our own propensity to ignore red lights themselves why would we care if automobile owners (and might I add mostly in black and brown wards) took umbrage with being made a revenue stream?

Urban Cyclist "Idaho Stop" Two-Step Variation

Urban Cyclist “Idaho Stop” Two-Step Variation

We respond negatively as a group when ordinances are aimed at us:

So why would we be surprised when the tables are turned? I certainly hope too that we are aware that our overblown sense of power is in danger of being reigned in?

Chicago's Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

Chicago’s Cycling Movement Issues A Leftist Manifesto

This is the time to reconsider how we plan to proceed and what message we will be sending. I am afraid that an awful lot of Tea Party politicians on the Right and Urban Cycling Movement activists on the Left both subscribe to this idea:



The problem might be that we are not fully aware of how outnumbered we are. We represent less than 1/3 of one percent of the population in Chicago. And what is more appalling is that our fiscal strength is weaker by far. You do not have to be a genius to realize that the current mayor understands this fact. Why else would he be willing to roll back some 50 of these cameras?