San Francisco already has red-light cameras, but should we add speed cameras to the mix? Following the tragic deaths of two cyclists last week, the Chronicle's C.W. Nevius picks up the question of whether implementing “automated speed enforcement" on our streets would make them safer. Spoiler: It probably would.
“We are no longer accepting as fact that people need to die on the streets of San Francisco,” Municipal Transportation Agency Director Ed Reiskin said at a press conference last week following the deaths of Kate Slattery and Heather Miller. “We believe speeding was involved in both collisions, so speed enforcement is one of the most powerful things we can do.”
Much like the red-light cameras that photograph the plates of car running red lights, speed enforcement cameras can catch drivers who go above a determined limit — and then send out speeding tickets to the offending party. Nevius makes the case that the cameras are in use in 140 cities and towns around the country already, and their impact has been huge. Speeding dropped 30 percent in Portland, Oregon, and 31 percent in Chicago. In DC, following the installation, traffic-related fatalities reportedly dropped 70 percent.
In conversation with WBUR, Chris Cassidy, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition communications director, spoke to the need for city officials to step up their game in improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians alike. "People in San Francisco are demanding safer streets," said Cassidy. "The people are supporting Mayor Ed Lee in delivering safer streets, but we’re just not seeing a lot of action from the mayor’s office. Frankly it’s hurtful and very disappointing."
But just how would the cameras work? They could be set to only trigger when someone goes above 10-miles-per-hour over the speed limit, with the idea being to target drivers really making the streets unsafe. Reiskin told the Chron that fines would be kept relatively low — think around $100.
However, those freaking out about a future where automated cameras forever prevent you from ever getting your illegal-street race on should take heart — the cameras are explicitly prohibited at the state level. San Francisco's representative to Sacramento, Assemblyman David Chiu, supports the cameras, but he faces serious opposition from much of car-centric California.
In fact, we've all had this conversation before. In June of last year the Chronicle published a story that quotes safety advovates as arguing that the time had come to implement speed-enforcement cameras — Sacramento permitting. That, obviously, went nowhere.
With recent traffic fatalities on the mind, it is anyone's guess if this year's push for speed cameras will get father than last years. If the past is any hint, however, you shouldn't bet your Market Street-crossing life on it.