Last week, Plan Philly reported on a community meeting about N. 5th Street regarding what options were available to slow down motor vehicle traffic and make the road safe for the residents who live on it and use it for walking and bicycling.
One of the meeting participants asked if speed cameras could be used to help slow motorists down and calm traffic.
Some residents suggested automatic camera enforcement should be used to catch speeders, since the Police Department doesn’t consider moving violations a high enforcement priority, but [Streets Deputy Commissioner Michael] Carroll explained that speed cameras are currently illegal in Pennsylvania.
It’s true. A technically available and reliable traffic calming option is not available to this community, or any other in Pennsylvania. This is a big problem. Achieving zero traffic deaths is not possible without managing speed. If Philadelphia wants to be serious about Vision Zero, it needs all tools possible to control speeding motor vehicles.
Why? According to PennDOT, in 2014, 31 people died in crashes caused by speeding motor vehicles. That means that speeding was the main factor that caused one third of the fatalities resulting from traffic crashes in 2014.
Of the 38 Philadelphia pedestrians killed by motor vehicles in 2014, 24 percent were killed by speeding motor vehicles.
State Law Falling Behind
It’s mind-boggling that it is against state law to use automated cameras to enforce the speed limit against violators. How can this be? Why does our state legislature not allow the use of available technology to enforce against those people who purposely drive over the speed limit and kill people?
Let’s imagine this: if one illegal causation of fire-related deaths was identified as being responsible for thirty percent of the people who die in fires, would there be a state law against controlling the illegal factor that causes those fires? Doubtful.
Or, think of it this way. If there was a disease killing thirty persons in Philadelphia every year, is it likely that the state legislature would be make it against the law to conquer that disease? Maybe in a bizarro universe.
Unfortunately, we live in that bizarro universe as it pertains to motor vehicles speeding.
In 2014, then-Senator Mike Stack introduced legislation to permit the use of automated speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard. In 2015, Senator John Sabatina (D-5) re-introduced the same legislation. In 2015, Senators Argall (R-29) and Schwank (D-11) introduced legislation to put speed cameras in construction work zones. None of these bills moved out of committee.
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia believes that controlling illegally speeding vehicles is essential to Mayor Kenney’s expected-to-be-proposed-soon Vision Zero policy.
We are holding a breakfast Vision Zero forum on Thursday, March 24th to hear from House Representative John Taylor (R-177), Chair of the PA House Transportation Committee; Jonathan Rogers from DC DOT; Wen Hu from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety; Francis Healy from the Philadelphia Police Department, Gustave Scheerbaum, P.E. of the City of Philadelphia, and other speakers about how well red light cameras have worked and how speed cameras and legislation to permit them could help save lives in Philadelphia.
Register here to attend the Forum: $10 for Bicycle Coalition members; $45 for non-members.
We thank Urban Engineers, HNTB, the Scattergood Foundation, Parsons Brinckerhoff, McCormick Taylor, Langan Engineering, and AAA for sponsoring the March 24, 2016 Vision Zero Mini-Forum.