Greater Greater Washington

Speed kills. Traffic cameras save lives.

More and better traffic enforcement is key to reducing pedestrian crashes along our main streets. Last week, Mayor Gray announced that he is giving the green light to a new set of traffic cameras which MPD has been trying to buy for over a year. This is great news for DC pedestrians.


Photo by ell brown on Flickr.

Older folks are at particular risk in crossing our streets, such as Connecticut Avenue, because speed kills. A driver traveling 30 mph who hits a pedestrian is only 45% likely to kill that person, but at just 10 mph faster, the odds jump to 85%. For seniors, the risk is even greater.

Seniors feel very vulnerable crossing the street, because drivers don't wait for them to cross when making right- and left-hand turns. And, of course, there are those cars that blast through red lights. In fact, most pedestrians hit by drivers are struck when in the crosswalk and crossing legally with the light.

Pedestrians will welcome any measures to slow down cars, make drivers stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, and clear the box so that parents crossing the street to take their small children to their preschool don't have thread their way through the cars blocking the intersection and the crosswalks.

Lisa Sutter, head of photo enforcement for DC's Metropolitan Police Department, first presented her photo enforcement program to the DC Pedestrian Advisory Council in December or 2010. I thought Santa had delivered the absolute best Christmas presents. The new cameras will catch violators not stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks, speeding through red and green lights, and blocking the box.

Ms. Sutter has the proof. She collects data on how her cameras affect driver behavior.


Cameras work. Drivers slow down and stop going through red lights. Plus, revenues drop over time.

Many of the complaints against cameras, such as those from AAA, say that the measure is just a play for revenue. But it is not really a good revenue source once drivers learn and begin to follow the law. Maybe new cameras would help plug a budget gap this year, but DC will not be able to count on a lot of revenue over time. What they can count in is safer streets.

Look at Connecticut Avenue north of Chevy Chase Circle. The cars go the speed limit. As a pedestrian who has had many near misses, I am all for it. And I drive a car, as well.

Besides, we all want safer streets, and we need to invest the resources to get there. If an effective method pays for itself and provides funding for more expansion, should we not support it?

Each pedestrian killed costs $3.84 million (in 2005 dollars) from losing wages and productivity, medical expenses, motor vehicle damage and employers' insurance costs. A pedestrian injury costs $52,900 (also in 2005 dollars, according to the National Safety Bureau.)

Aren't these fines a small price to pay to reduce crashes?

ANCs 3C and 3F passed a resolution in favor of photo enforcement, and other ANC's across the city are considering similar actions. It is time to view the risk of bodily harm from the traffic violations on our streets as we do the risk from crime. In fact, the risk is greater.

In their report of Traffic Safety in the New Millennium, the International Association of Chiefs of Police wrote, "More people are killed and injured and the economic losses to society are greater from traffic crashes than that from crime."

It's long past time to install more traffic cameras and make our streets safer. Mayor Gray took the right step, and the DC Council should approve the program as part of this year's budget.

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Marlene Berlin is a community activist who has lived in DC since 1975. She chairs Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action as the pedestrian advocate for Iona Senior Services, staffs the DC Senior Advisory Council on transportation issues, and is Vice-Chair of the DC Pedestrian Advisory Council. Most mornings, you can find her out on her daily walk trying to get across the street safely. 

Comments

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This is great news!

Look at Connecticut Avenue north of Chevy Chase Circle. The cars go the speed limit.

Exactly. There's no reason that every major thoroughfare in DC shouldn't receive the same coverage as this stretch of Chevy Chase, MD.

by oboe on Mar 27, 2012 2:20 pm • linkreport

So, now that we have more cameras, will David Alpert advocate for lower fines as he suggested?

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/13803/lower-camera-fines-sure-once-we-have-more-cameras/

by Falls Church on Mar 27, 2012 2:48 pm • linkreport

I still would like to see a lot more RED LIGHT cameras. As a pedestrian and cyclist the truly dangerous encounters and close calls that I have are when someone runs a red light.

by aaa on Mar 27, 2012 3:14 pm • linkreport

"Pedestrians will welcome any measures to slow down cars"

Speak for yourself. Some pedestrians recognize a money grab when they see it and will oppose more of these intrusive cameras until the myriad problems with the current system are fixed.

by Boomer on Mar 27, 2012 3:17 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church,

Let's see how many cameras we're talking about. 50% more? Not likely. 1000% more? Lower the fines!

by oboe on Mar 27, 2012 3:18 pm • linkreport

@Boomer, I'm unclear how this is a "money grab." If you're breaking the law, which anyone speeding is, there is usually a fine or some form of sanction associated with that. Perhaps speeders would prefer to spend a day in jail rather than shell out some cash? That would probably be even more effective...

by Joe on Mar 27, 2012 3:23 pm • linkreport

@Boomer-"..myriad problems"? What problems? For whom?

by thump on Mar 27, 2012 3:25 pm • linkreport

I wish the cameras could also ticket pedestrians that cross against the crosswalk and wander into oncoming traffic.

by EAH on Mar 27, 2012 3:25 pm • linkreport

Hurray for Lisa - I can't wait for the new cameras, and keep the fines high! @ Falls Church, consider it a totally avoidable commmuter tax.

by Devoe on Mar 27, 2012 3:26 pm • linkreport

EAH -- Yeah, because pedestrians killl.

by aaa on Mar 27, 2012 3:32 pm • linkreport

It was getting lonely being a speeding camera proponent. Excellent work.

by Crickey7 on Mar 27, 2012 3:36 pm • linkreport

@Devoe: Careful what you wish for...Congress just may take it as a cue to really make it an "avoidable commuter tax".

by Froggie on Mar 27, 2012 3:36 pm • linkreport

@Devoe, I agree that it's a commuter tax (and an avoidable one at that) but let's just call a spade a spade and not pretend its about safety.

by Falls Church on Mar 27, 2012 3:37 pm • linkreport

Falls Church: I still agree with what I wrote there.

by David Alpert on Mar 27, 2012 3:37 pm • linkreport

@EAH:

I wish the cameras could also ticket pedestrians that cross against the crosswalk and wander into oncoming traffic.

Also litterbugs and people that "forget" to shovel their walks after a snowfall. And truants.

Also, I have yet to see one compelling bit of evidence that speed cameras are *not* about safety. Please post.

by oboe on Mar 27, 2012 3:42 pm • linkreport

The fact that speed cameras lower speeds is the issue. The fact that the punishment is monetary is irrelevant. If the punishment for speeding was a day in jail (extreme and I'm not advocating for it per se)then would people argue "the city just wants to jail people, its not about safety."? If it was community service would we hear "the city just wants its free labor"? Actually we would but what the point be of having cameras if there was no penalty? How else do you propose to get people to slow down? (Hint: Redesign the streetscape but until then lets use the cameras)

by Canaan on Mar 27, 2012 3:55 pm • linkreport

Look at Connecticut Avenue north of Chevy Chase Circle. The cars go the speed limit.

And somehow they manage this with just $50 fines rather than DC's $125 fines.

by JustMe on Mar 27, 2012 4:02 pm • linkreport

I am still waiting to see all those pedestrians saved by the speed cameras on 295 and in the 395 tunnel.

by dcdriver on Mar 27, 2012 4:05 pm • linkreport

@oboe - Mayor Gray's budget proposal to increase DC revenues by $30m through expanded use of speed cameras is not evidence there are non-safety motivations for speed cameras?

by ah on Mar 27, 2012 4:06 pm • linkreport

@Justme,

Yeah, and that new speed camera on Porter at the bridge interchange where there are no cross walks and one house (that fronts another street) within 100 yards is protecting who exactly? Saving whose life exactly?

DC loses any "safety motivation" argument with that camera.

by ConnAve on Mar 27, 2012 4:11 pm • linkreport

...because only pedestrians are endangered by speeding and reckless drivers. Other cars are impervious to force.

by Canaan on Mar 27, 2012 4:12 pm • linkreport

I'm all for speed cameras - the more the better, and I say that as someone who has gotten nailed more than once. But when cameras are cited in the budget proposal as a way to increase revenue, it's tough to argue that revenue isn't at least a secondary motivation to safety. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

by dcd on Mar 27, 2012 4:15 pm • linkreport

Its clearly partly about safety and that part I commend. But, it's also clearly partly about revenue, hence why some of its advocates liken it to a commuter tax and why there are cameras on roads with no peds. Also, to the point in David Alpert's article a significant increase in the number of cameras should go with at least some kind of reduction in the penalty amount.

Cameras have the potential to be used wisely and be only about safety but it's just too tempting to use it as a revenue device as well.

by Falls Church on Mar 27, 2012 4:18 pm • linkreport

Traffic cameras save lives? Red light cameras, sure.

As for speed cameras, yeah, right.

Those speed cameras at the I-395 tunnel south of NY Avenue sure do improve pedestrian "safety".

As do the ones on 295.

Not to mention the one on the East Captiol Street underpass at 295, where BTW pedestrians are prohibted.

It's about "safety". Yeah, right. I'll believe it when I see speed cameras in areas where pedestrians are prevalent instead of on freeways and commuter routes.

BTW, I've got no problem with traffic cameras deployed to promote safety. I'm 100% in favor of red light cameras. My problem is with the way the speed cameras are currently used. In DC, they're deployed as predatory cash-machines - And based on the locations where they're being used, it is safe to conclude that Maryland commuters are the prime target.

by ceefer66 on Mar 27, 2012 4:23 pm • linkreport

Generally, I have no problem with speed cameras-- they really do reduce speed. However, there are many places where the speed limit is too low for no good reason, and the speed camera fines are way too high.

by JustMe on Mar 27, 2012 4:28 pm • linkreport

@oboe - Mayor Gray's budget proposal to increase DC revenues by $30m through expanded use of speed cameras is not evidence there are non-safety motivations for speed cameras?

If you look at the recent history of speed and red light cameras, you see large revenues on the front-end, tapering off over time. Which is entirely consistent with an effective safety program.

But it's likely--at least at first--that we'll see revenue. Nothing wrong with that, it's a pleasant side-effect of enforcement. Gray would be a bit silly to pretend no money is forthcoming.

by oboe on Mar 27, 2012 4:28 pm • linkreport

Again, if you agree that it should be about safety and that cameras are an effective way of making roads safer (and the evidence supports this) then what penalty would you propose other than a fine?

It's obvious that other factors come into play (like road design) but to say that you can't use cameras until the speed limit is raised to meet the road capacity is just moving the goal posts. I too think it's ludicrous that 395 is 45mph in some places however DDOT spent a lot of time analyzing why thats so and it doesn't negate the need for people to watch their speed going in and out of a tunnel.

by Canaan on Mar 27, 2012 4:36 pm • linkreport

In DC, they're deployed as predatory cash-machines...

No more predatory than the time-honored practice of the small-town cop waiting for speeders behind the billboard. Speeding? You're breaking the law. Slow down.

It's good practice for the pedestrian-choked areas of the city.

Anyway, it's nice to see the second-generation speed cameras coming online in places like Bladensburg Road, Florida Ave, and Connecticut. More like this please.

by oboe on Mar 27, 2012 4:36 pm • linkreport

@ConnAve - the area you're referring to is right on top of the RCP bike trail. Additionally, in at least 2 directions RCP foot paths cross that expressway style interchange. Its an access point to the park for non-motorized travel. That expressway style interchange is grossly misplaced in that location.

by Tina on Mar 27, 2012 4:43 pm • linkreport

@Tina,

I think part of it is that many drivers (particularly non-local ones) are completely oblivious to such hazards. One excellent example is the one at Branch Ave and Alabama Ave EOTR. Before the camera went in, it was pretty much impossible to cross the street here. Pretty residential area, and the Fort Circle Trail crosses Branch Ave here.

You can actually get across now without risking your life. Of course, for most people who never walk in this area, I'm sure it seems like gratuitous "predation".

by oboe on Mar 27, 2012 4:52 pm • linkreport

When it comes down to it, the residents of DC have no obligation to make fast motor travel the highest priority. They can choose the desired tradeoff between fast movement and other values such as public safety, vibrant street life, low noise, whatever. Their choice. Even if that means speed limits in places are lower than the maximum "safe" speed that could theoretically be accomodated.

Some people have an issue with that concept.

by Crickey7 on Mar 27, 2012 5:19 pm • linkreport

I question the safety aspect, as I go through a camera zone every day on my commute and people floor their brakes and then floor the gas again as soon as they get past the camera, and I have almost been rear-ended for flooring my brakes on a yellow at a light when I saw the camera and thought I might get busted.

Thanks being said, if these new camera can detect (and ticket) people blocking the box, I want one at every intersection, facing every angle. Won't do as much for safety, but it sure as hell will help with traffic flow.

by shaw guy on Mar 27, 2012 5:21 pm • linkreport

When it comes down to it, the residents of DC have no obligation to make fast motor travel the highest priority.

If there were some other effective way to move about the city, perhaps by buses that ran on a regular basis, synchronized traffic lights even while driving at the posted speed limits, or more effective metro service, I might have greater sympathy for this argument.

by JustMe on Mar 27, 2012 5:23 pm • linkreport

If you look at the recent history of speed and red light cameras, you see large revenues on the front-end, tapering off over time. Which is entirely consistent with an effective safety program.

No, it is entirely consistent with a human response to incentives. It tells us nothing about increased safety whatsoever, or effective safety.

The fact that speeds have slowed down at a specific location may or may not have a meaningful effect on safety, if speeding was not a genuine safety issue at the location to begin with.

The problem with Mayor Gray's proposal is that it is not made to discuss the need for each of those speeding cameras, or even that MPDC/DDOT have identified an additional 250 (or X) locations where speeding cameras would materially enhance safety, and the budget will provide for those, and it will result in added revenue.

by ah on Mar 27, 2012 5:48 pm • linkreport

I should add that I am dubious about whether safety is always enhanced. I am very familiar with the Foxhall speed camera (and not because I get caught). To be sure, cars through that spot often were speeding, but there are wide sidewalks and the only crosswalk is at a traffic signal (and there are not places where crossing are needed--it is the German Embassy and a reservoir on one side and a big hole being dug by St. Patrick's school on the other, where previously there was a fenced park).

Now what happens is cars speed up to the camera, jump on the brakes down to 20 mph, causing other drivers to have to focus not on the road but the car slowing in front of them, and then speed up again to beat the light.

Yes, at that one point there is less speeding. But I don't think safety has been meaningfully improved by the camera's existence at that location.

by ah on Mar 27, 2012 5:51 pm • linkreport

Now what happens is cars speed up to the camera, jump on the brakes down to 20 mph, causing other drivers to have to focus not on the road but the car slowing in front of them, and then speed up again to beat the light.

Just want to point out that, no, *cars* do not do this. *People* do this. Let's stop pretending this is some sort of implacable force of nature and call it what it is: irresponsible scofflaw behavior on the part of human actors that degrades the urban environment.

In the scenario you describe, more than one speed camera is called for. Or perhaps we should use "dummy" speed cameras that are extremely visible, and easily redeployable. Or "average speed" enforcement devices like they're deploying in Britain. Eventually we'll re-train humans that drive cars (and not the cars themselves) that they have a responsibility to obey the law.

by oboe on Mar 27, 2012 6:01 pm • linkreport

Isn't braking because the car in front of you slowed down paying attention to the road.

by Canaan on Mar 27, 2012 6:26 pm • linkreport

"No more predatory than the time-honored practice of the small-town cop waiting for speeders behind the billboard. Speeding? You're breaking the law. Slow down."

DC isn't West Buttcuss.

As for the "speeding" canard, one doesn't always know when they're "speeding", especially when they are in pace with the other vehicles on the road and when there is no speed limit posted. Get a friend who drives to explain it to you.

by ceefer66 on Mar 27, 2012 6:30 pm • linkreport

"Ms. Sutter has proof."

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

What exactly does Ms. Sutter have proof of?

If you think that "cameras work" means that people act in an essentially Pavlovian way - when something hurts, such as driving through a particular speed camera at a speed which produces a violation, then yes. They work. People remember where they got a speeding ticket and don't speed there again.

However, the stated goal of the camera program is improving safety. To say that you have proof that cameras work -- and you presumably define "working" as "achieving your stated goal" then you need to show that they improve safety. Ms. Sutter has never done this. She has never presented any statistics on accident rates at specific locations in the city, and the effect of a camera on these rates, despite decades of this data being available to her (though not easily to the public).

What nobody has demonstrated is any of the following:

1. The cameras improve safety at the locations where they are installed. What is the history at each, or even any single, location? What is the safety record after installation? How many car accidents? How many pedestrian accidents?< /i>

2. The cameras improve safety throughout the city. (We know this to be untrue, at least as far as deaths go, since the pedestrian fatality rates are all over the place and have no relationship to the history of cameras being installed).

3. The cameras reduce the speed of traffic anywhere except a very small area around where they are actually installed.

4. The alleged safety benefits of the cameras are at least as good as one could achieve by doing other things like, increasing red light timings, reconfiguring dangerous intersections, and so on. What kind of analysis does the city do before installing a camera? Are any solutions other than revenue-generation ones considered, ever?

You have proven that when people get a ticket, they remember it and usually don't do it again at the same location. That is astoundingly obvious.

You have not proved the cameras work.

"Each pedestrian killed costs $3.84 million (in 2005 dollars) from losing wages and productivity"

For this fact to be at all relevant, you need to demonstrate a link between the cameras, and lowering pedestrian deaths. Since pedestrian deaths have varied 300% in the last decade based on the statistics published on MPD's web sites, including a huge jump a couple years after the first round of cameras were installed in 2001, this is clearly impossible to do.

by Jamie on Mar 27, 2012 6:35 pm • linkreport

Because whenever I tell a police officer that I didn't know the speed limit or was just keeping up with traffic the officer takes that as a rock solid defense and lets me get on about my business. The officer certainly never tells me "ignorance is not an excuse".

by Canaan on Mar 27, 2012 6:37 pm • linkreport

@ceefer66
As for the "speeding" canard, one doesn't always know when they're "speeding", especially when they are in pace with the other vehicles on the road and when there is no speed limit posted. Get a friend who drives to explain it to you.

Maybe this friend can explain the DC Motor Vehicles laws to you while he's at it . Unless otherwise posted the maximum speed is 25 MPH on streets and 15 MPH in alleyways. Pretty simple. So no signs are needed.

by JeffB on Mar 27, 2012 7:50 pm • linkreport

@Jamie

Nobody? Nobody in this whole wide world has found speeding cameras to improve safety???

Then I guess this report from our dear neighbor Montgomery County is a mirage ...

EFFICACY OF SPEED CAMERA ENFORCEMENT

Evaluation of Montgomery County, Maryland's Safe Speed Program

Montgomery Country, Maryland began its Safe Speed program in 2006. It uses speed cameras to photograph vehicles traveling 11 or more miles above the speed limit on residential streets or school zones with a speed limit of 35 mph. A September, 2009 study by the county's Office of Legislative Oversight found, among other things, that:

● the number of monthly citations decreased by an average of 78% from the program's first full month compared to the same month in the following year;

● of the half-million vehicles identified on camera over a two-year period, about two-thirds received only one citation, indicating that the accompanying $40 fine deterred most drivers from speeding again;

● average speed where there were speed cameras declined by about 6% one year after the program began;

● after one year of enforcement, the percentage of vehicles exceeding the speed limit when passing camera sites was cut in half; and

total reported collisions within one-half mile of the camera sites decreased by 28% in the year after the program began; collisions involving an injury or fatality declined by 39%.

The complete report can be found at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/olo/reports/pdf/2010-3_speed.pdf.

by JeffB on Mar 27, 2012 8:09 pm • linkreport

"Yeah, and that new speed camera on Porter at the bridge interchange where there are no cross walks and one house (that fronts another street) within 100 yards is protecting who exactly? Saving whose life exactly?"

@ConnAve, as Tina pointed out, you seem to have missed the pedestrians who actually use that area. In fact, there are two pedestrian crosswalks just up the hill from the camera. They have new bump outs and markings, and yet apparently (judging from your sarcastic comment), you still missed them. So, yeah, the speed camera help save the people in those crosswalks. If you're driving 30, instead of 40 or 50, you stand a chance of stopping for them.

by Paula Product on Mar 27, 2012 8:30 pm • linkreport

Tina/Paula

1. Those pedestrian crosswalks are (according to google) 1/4th of a mile up the hill from the camera. This camera cannot and does not affect driving speed a fourth of a mile away as people slow down right before the camera (after they've passed those crosswalks), or speed up right after it coming up the hill.

2. The RCP bike path is UNDERNEATH this grade seperated interchange, not on top of it. Driving speed on the overpass has zero affect or consequence on what people are doing on the multiuse path beneath it. Even when the Klingle bike path is built out, people will be biking underneath the bridge to get to the other side, not on top of it.

As I said, there are no pedestrian cross walks on that bridge, one side doesn't even have a sidewalk and there is one house within ~100 yards that fronts another street. This camera is all about revenue which is fine, but the city is just shoveling piles of BS at people claiming these things have anything to do with safety.

by ConnAve on Mar 28, 2012 8:49 am • linkreport

@ConnAve,

The safety impact of speed cameras is just not for pedestrians. It also applies to other motorists.

You say a speed camera can't impact safety 1/4 mile away. Yet the Montgomery County Speed Camera report used a 1/2 mile zone and did find a dramatic safety improvement. Do you have any attribution to make supporting your claim?

Even stipulating all that you assume from the placement of this single camera is it fair to extrapolate it to the entire program? Is every camera in the program similarly so situated?

by JeffB on Mar 28, 2012 9:22 am • linkreport

@Jamie, you could make those same arguments about police patrols and police-staffed speed traps -- that people immediately speed up after they have passed a cop, etc. This suggests that all forms of enforcement are ineffective. I do not think many people are willing to eliminate all enforcement.

by goldfish on Mar 28, 2012 9:49 am • linkreport

JeffB,

Oh, I see. The argument now has "scope creep". Mayor Gray said himself his plan was to blanket the city with them to make it safer for "pedestrians". No one has ever mentioned this as a car/car safety mechanism. Let me ask, how many car accidents have their been on this interchange on Porter in the past decade? I don't know if any.

Also, have you actually ever been down to this particular camera, ever driven past it? People drive down Porter at pre-camera speeds, right past those new cross walks halfway down the hill and then jam on the brakes right before the camera, as soon as they are past it, they resume their previous speed. Same in the opposite direction. This camera has zero effect on traffic past those crosswalks. If the city wanted to slow traffic down that hill, a speed bump would have been much cheaper and quicker. Then again, there is no money to make from speed bumps.

If speed cameras are so effective as you say at distances of a 1/4th of a mile, why then are the two in Southbound Conn Ave in Chevy Chase only (according to google) 1/10th of a mile apart? Why so close if they are so effective over longer distances?

by ConnAve on Mar 28, 2012 9:52 am • linkreport

I find it extremely ironic how there are speed cameras posted on 295- a major thoroughfare. Yet one could not be placed in a residential neighborhood in a location of the road where numerous accidents have taken place. Yet, the section of the road where the camera is placed is known by many drivers who frequent this road resulting in a streaming rush of vehicles across the intersection but ends in a slow down towards the section where the camera is located-which is at the bottom of the hill. Meanwhile, as this section of the road was granted a speed camera, the section of the road where accidents would most likely take place were only granted rumble strips and a speed sign- a residential street where people live (but was declared as a "major thoroughfare " by the DC department of transportation). This location is at Eastern Avenue where the intersections are Division Avenue and Sheriff Road, a 4 way intersection that does not have a turning signal but has a turning lane, where the Police take their breaks at the 711-feet away from where most of these accidents have taken place and where it is like a constant raceway. This is a residential neighborhood that has been declared as major thoroughfare as the reason why a speed camera should not be placed in this section of Eastern Avenue. Yet a camera was actually placed on major thoroughfare- on 295 where there are no pedestrians or cyclists allowed. Do you see the contradiction in this? This is proof that it is not all about safety, but rather a location and financial situation because if it were about the safety of pedestrians and cyclists then a speed camera would've been properly places in the location of this residential street known for accidents in order to prevent or at least curtail future accidents from taking place.

by W7C on Mar 28, 2012 9:56 am • linkreport

Speaking of scope creep: even if there's no quantifiable safety improvement, speed cameras raise awareness. There's far too much speeding in areas with high-pedestrian and bike traffic. There's a universal conceit by many drivers that speed limit laws aren't really laws--either that or drivers are just forgetful. In either case, automated enforcement reinforces the fact that speed laws exist and they need to be obeyed.

by oboe on Mar 28, 2012 10:10 am • linkreport

I'd take speed cameras a lot more seriously as a policy tool if 50% of the revenue wasn't being sent back to the vendor.

I wonder how much ATS is paying the DC council? And mayor?

by charlie on Mar 28, 2012 10:11 am • linkreport

@ConnAve,

I don't know why you persist so a single camera location. All one has to do is simply obey the speed limit and it and all other speed cameras can be ignored.

Obviously many factors go into where and how closely cameras are sited. Speeding is epidemic in the city. Speed cameras seem to be a very efficient way of ending that.

by JeffB on Mar 28, 2012 10:13 am • linkreport

@JeffB,

Because it completely refutes (this and most of the rest of the locations mentioned above) any claim the city has made about them improving pedestrian safety, which is their entire justification for them.

You want to use them for nothing more than to print money? Great, then say that. The city, and many others nationwide simply lie to you about their utility and folks like you eat it up. Thats too bad.

And a minor correction to your statement above -

Speed cameras seem to be a very efficient way of ending that (within 100 yards of the actual camera).

by ConnAve on Mar 28, 2012 10:47 am • linkreport

I'd take speed cameras a lot more seriously as a policy tool if 50% of the revenue wasn't being sent back to the vendor.

I'd prefer if the city kept that money; as far as policy goes, it's irrelevant.

by oboe on Mar 28, 2012 10:50 am • linkreport

@ConnAve:

Because it completely refutes (this and most of the rest of the locations mentioned above) any claim the city has made about them improving pedestrian safety, which is their entire justification for them.

It does nothing of the sort. Leaving aside the placement of that single camera, clearly there are benefits to raising drivers' awareness that speeding is frowned upon. See, we're talking about it right now!

by oboe on Mar 28, 2012 10:53 am • linkreport

I'm dismayed that *all* of the pro speed camera people aren't able to cite improvements in safety in the District. It obvious that these cameras are not used effectively to reduce speeds on streets with significant pedestrian traffic. If we're going to enforce limits with the purported intent of increasing safety, the cameras should be placed in residential areas, as is done in MD. And the fine amount should be just high to enough to get people to slow down -- not as high the market will bear. There's zero empirical evidence that a $150 ticket has a statistically significant affect on reducing speeds more so than a $60 ticket. The pro-camera people here (especially the author of this post) don't seem to think that logical, empirically based decisions can be made regarding enforcement of speeding via cameras.

We can't have people blind to the fact that the way cameras are distributed throughout the city right now isn't likely to make a significant impact on pedestrian safety. The cameras are all on low or no pedestrian traffic roads.

If we're going to institute a de facto commuter tax, let's be honest about it-- call a spade a spade. Let's also acknowledge the economic incentive affecting Gray and other pols. DC's current surplus was created in no small part by these cameras. The politicians of this city have a very strong incentive to expand the current program, just as speeders now have a strong incentive to slow down. Gray's claim that it's about safety is belied by the fact that these cameras aren't in pedestrian heavy areas: downtown, Dupont, U Street -- and most notably around the Mall. If we really cared about safety, we'd blanket the mall with cameras. (Clearly, there's never going to be political will for this, given the negative impact on tourism that cameras would have -- a perfect example of how our gov't truly values money over safety.)

by tresluxe on Mar 28, 2012 11:20 am • linkreport

@Conn Ave -yes the bike trail is underneath the interchange. But if someone is coming from east or west to access (get on) the bike trail, they must traverse across the interchange. That spot is not just a cross roads for motorists.

Furthermore in your response you ignored the footpaths that, in order to access or continue upon the trail, one must traverse the interchange.

Again, that spot is not only a motor vehicle intersection.

by Tina on Mar 28, 2012 12:28 pm • linkreport

Please don't drag Maryland into this. Outside of MoCo, speed cameras are only allowed 1/2 mile from a school or in a road work zone. That was a simple compromise between pro and anti speed camera legislators, without any analysis of the safety.

The purpose of speed cameras is to enforce the speed limit. Along DC-295, speeding threatens other (largely out of state) drivers and passengers; in other areas it threatens pedestrians, cyclists, and construction workers. If the Mayor chooses to emphasize safety for DC peds over Maryland drivers, so what?

ConnAve and some commenters are overstating the extent to which speed cameras caused a hyper-localized compliance. Some very devoted speeders study camera locations (and buy radar detection equipment); but many casual speeders just say "oh" when they get a ticket and stop speeding in the entire area because for all they know the camera was moved. Nevertheless, ConnAve's concern could be addressed by reconsidering the policy of posting the location of traffic enforcement cameras, until they become ubiquitous.

by Jim T on Mar 28, 2012 12:48 pm • linkreport

If the cameras are all about safety and not revenue, then I propose the following: the total of fines collected each year (with no deduction for operating costs) will rebated on an equal per capita basis to all DC residents as a credit on their DC income tax returns. If Gray et al is still for cameras then, I'll believe his justification.

by adam on Mar 28, 2012 12:52 pm • linkreport

@adam - I thought you were going to say If the cameras are all about safety and not revenue, then I propose the following: that the revenue be used by DDOT to redesign roads so they are safer for non-motorists.

by Tina on Mar 28, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport

@Tina- If the money could be put in a dedicated fund so that neither the council nor DDOT could use it for any other purpose, then I'd be all for that instead. Unfortunately, that one would last only until the next council hearing.

by adam on Mar 28, 2012 1:07 pm • linkreport

I'd put the money into a fund for the victims of uninsured and underinsured motorists.

by Jim T on Mar 28, 2012 2:11 pm • linkreport

@Jim T:

ConnAve's concern could be addressed by reconsidering the policy of posting the location of traffic enforcement cameras, until they become ubiquitous.

Hopefully we'll get point-to-point speed cameras in the not-too-distant future, but I still think "dummy" cameras--and not posting the location of "real" cameras obviously--would be a more effective solution.

by oboe on Mar 28, 2012 2:31 pm • linkreport

@ConnAve
You, like every other camera opponent on this thread, seem to focus on these cameras to say that they are not effective in improving pedestrian safety, and that they are instead a "revenue grab." You claim there's no evidence that cameras are effective. People point you to studies showing that cameras result in lower speeds. You claim that doesn't show they're effective at improving pedestrian safety. They point you to studies showing improvements in pedestrian safety near cameras in MoCo. You say that doesn't prove they improve pedestrian safety in the District. And then, switching gears, you say that if the camera studies are true, then we shouldn't have cameras less than 1/2 mile apart.

What would actually convince you? Would you like a comprehensive study of pedestrian safety in the District? Great. (I do hope you're willing to pay for it, though.)

But let's just suppose for a second that what you imply (without any evidence, mind you) is true - that cameras aren't leading to fewer pedestrian injuries. Let's further suppose is really is just a District revenue grab. What exactly would be so terrible about that? DC has to get money somewhere. It imposes taxes on real estate and sales of goods and incomes and restaurant meals and cigarettes. Even if cameras were designed solely, 100% to raise revenue, whi is that so bad? They impose a cost on people who break the law. So long as there's no trickery going on (like shortening yellow lights where red-light cameras are installed, or putting up false speed-limit signs, or miscalibrating the speed cameras -- and there's no indication that DC is doing any of these things), what's wrong with a fee or tax whose incidence falls on those who violate the law, and is easily avoidable? (I can think of some reasons why relying on such a source of revenue is a bad idea, and can create bad incentives, but I can think of reasons why other fees, taxes, and enforcement schemes likewise have their problems. That doesn't mean those things are worth doing, on balance.)

The fact is, having cars move the speed limit (i.e. slower than they would be going in the absence of enforcement) not only decreases the likelihood of crashes, it tends to decrease the likelihood that injury will be serious or fatal in the event of a crash. (And that's leaving out the benefits that reduced car speeds have on pedestrian access -- pedestrians can actually dare to enter a crosswalk if cars are approaching at a reasonable speed, instead of bearing down at 40 or 50 on a city street.) And as numerous studies have shown, cameras do tend to lead to decreases in speed.

I know you don't want to believe any of the above, and you want to suggest that cameras somehow make things worse. But if you do, then why don't you find some evidence for that? Find the study showing that drivers speed up as a result of cameras (*and* that that extra speed leads to more injuries, and diminished convenience for pedestrians). We all realize that speed limits can feel like a burden when one is driving, and needs to get somewhere fast. Try to realize that having cars speeding by can also be a burden to others.

by Paula Product on Mar 28, 2012 3:33 pm • linkreport


@JeffB

"Maybe this friend can explain the DC Motor Vehicles laws to you while he's at it . Unless otherwise posted the maximum speed is 25 MPH on streets and 15 MPH in alleyways. Pretty simple. So no signs are needed."
------

At the risk of sounding as snarky as you're trtying to be, let me try to make my point a little simpler than I thought I already had.

We all know the default citywide speed limit in DC is 25 mph. That is not the issue here. The issue is with areas where the speed limit is greater than 25 - and they are numerous.

In many of those areas, the speed limit varies, and in many cases drops as much as 10-15 mph in areas where a camera is located. AND, in some locations, the reduced speed limit is NOT prominently posted - if at all.

A good example is the eastbound East Capitol Street underpass under 295. There are no pedestrians or bicycles - they're prohibited. The POSTED speed limit is 40mph, according to a sign about a half-mile before the mobile camera hidden behind the underpass abuttment, where it apparently drops to 35.

Why do I say "apparently"? Because I got a ticket at that spot in 2009 for going 38 mph in a supposed 35 mph zone. THAT's what I mean by "predatory and unfair".

Like I said, have a friend who drives and actually has to deal with the nonsense explain it to you.

by ceefer66 on Mar 28, 2012 4:34 pm • linkreport

@ceefer66,

Hey don't worry about it. I was only parroting your snarkiness with oboe. But I g u e s s y o u m i s s e d t h a t.

Supposedly DC speed cameras are programed for a threshold limit of about 10 MPH OVER the posted limit. So if you really got a ticket for going 38 in a 35 zone I think you should have been able to get it dismissed as it sounds like the camera was programmed for a 25 MPH zone.

by jeffB on Mar 28, 2012 9:36 pm • linkreport

The notion that reducing traffic speed will save pedestrian lives is unfortunately simplistic. The greatest hazard to pedestrians in the city is not the speeding car, but the turning car. Left turns are especially troublesome, as the driver focuses on finding a gap in the oncoming traffic, perhaps neglecting the crosswalk he's about to cross. Speed cameras do no good in that situation.

by Jack on Mar 29, 2012 9:22 am • linkreport

More cameras maybe, but reduce the fines and put the speed limits to reasonable levels.

Speeding doesn't actually kill. Drivers not paying attention kills (get off your phones). Drivers trying to make turns in rush hour traffic kills. Drivers constantly having to change lanes because of parked cars in right lanes and left turners kills.

Also, and the cyclists in the room may want to cover their eyes: cyclists running red lights kills.

Here's a better idea. In order to make DC more pedestrian/bike friendly, you have to make parts of it less friendly. Sorry folks, Connecticut is a major north-south artery into / out of DC. So is 16th street. So is Wisconsin. There is no 395 to handle that mode of transit, though there are plenty of valid north-south commuters in NW (DC residents who commute to Montgomery County for example). Up the speed limit on Connecticut, get rid of the asinine lane-switching system, ban parking in the right lane, cut down on the number of unnecessary left turns during rush hour, and create left turn lanes where left turns are unavoidable. Then Connecticut can properly handle traffic flow and become a much safer street to drive.

by ende on Mar 29, 2012 10:19 am • linkreport

The notion that reducing traffic speed will save pedestrian lives is unfortunately simplistic.

One could reasonably make the argument that *any* pedestrian killed by an automobile is killed by speed. A street where the speed limit is 15 mph, and is enforced by draconian measures is one in which deaths will be virtually nil.

by oboe on Mar 29, 2012 10:34 am • linkreport

You're right oboe. All vehicles should be sustained at a mandatory speed of 0mph.

by ende on Mar 29, 2012 10:39 am • linkreport

put the speed limits to reasonable levels.

The problem here is that "resonable levels" to a person speeding by in an automobile, and "reasonable levels" to every single other user of the public space are radically different things. The speed limits in DC are already "reasonable". They only appear unreasonable to people who have been accustomed to suburban driving where policies have explicitly driven all non-automobile users from the public space. When one spends 90% of your time driving in a suburban traffic sewer, it's understandable why one would think the speed limit on Connecticut Ave should be 40-50 mph. The voters of DC have decided to de-prioritize automobile speed in relation to other interests. Don't like it? Lobby to get those laws changed.

I suggest you go to a military base sometime. The speed limits are usually 20, 15 mph. And they're enthusiastically enforced.

by oboe on Mar 29, 2012 10:43 am • linkreport

@ende,

Not sure how you read "15" and came up with "0". Personally, I think the default speed limit in DC should be 15 given that 99% of drivers exceed the limit by at least 10 mph anyway. DC's default speed limit of 25 is a de jure 30 mph, and a de facto 35 mph.

My larger point is that saying "speed doesn't kill" is overly simplistic. Speed absolutely kills. Unfortunately, 50 years of indulgence of reckless drivers has distorted the way we think of such things, and now a citywide speed limit of 20 mph is considered a draconian affront to liberty.

That's just silly.

by oboe on Mar 29, 2012 10:49 am • linkreport

Also, and the cyclists in the room may want to cover their eyes: cyclists running red lights kills.

I'd be interested in seeing some sort of support for this. Or did you mean cyclists who run red lights are sometimes killed by automobiles?

by oboe on Mar 29, 2012 10:51 am • linkreport

oboe has a point. Why not reduce the speed limit to 15 mph everywhere, strictly enforced with speed cameras everywhere? That would, no doubt, save pedestrian lives. And if you object to that proposal, well, what dollar value are you placing on pedestrian lives?

Fact is, the problem is far more complex than automobile speed. Tell me how many pedestrian collisions on Connecticut Avenue have resulted in non-fatal injuries, instead of fatalities, due to the strict enforcement north of Chevy Chase Circle. None, I'll wager. Pedestrian crossing of that busy highway is hazardous at any traffic speed, and making it pedestrian-safe requires something better than reduced vehicle speeds.

I'm no advocate of fast driving. I'm that old-guy slowpoke that you hate to be caught behind. But I don't believe that setting unreasonably low speed limits, and implementing draconian enforcement, is the answer to the pedestrian safety problem. Pedestrian deaths are down by 43 percent since 1975, and it's not because people are driving slower.

by Jack on Mar 29, 2012 11:06 am • linkreport

@jack and others who are asserting that speed has no relationship to outcome in a crash: Physics.

Additionally, at a slower speed more crashes are avoided b/c of: 1)increased time for driver reaction, 2) decreased stopping distance. Again, physical laws of nature.

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 11:56 am • linkreport

@Tina:

Don't forget 3) Increased time for pedestrian reaction. Ever try to get out of the way of a charging turtle?

Even without a single crash, speeding traffic degrades the urban environment. It's just *unpleasant*, particularly when coupled with very narrow sidewalks. Obviously some will feel that's trivial, but there's a reason the speed limits on the Mall, Haine's Point, and elsewhere are "artificially low".

by oboe on Mar 29, 2012 12:30 pm • linkreport

@oboe -yes I forgot pedestrian/biker reaction time. I agree w/ what you say about speed and urban environment too. I was trying to focus only on the most obvious and quantifiable aspect of the relationship between vehicle speed and crash outcome and vehicle speed probability of crash avoidance. I don't understand the denial of this empirically evident relationship. Shall I take it as more evidence of the poor science education among most Americans?

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 12:41 pm • linkreport

It would be nice if the mobility/safety trade-off that many are circling were addressed head on. Instead we have the usual "speed kills" and "prove it" debate that goes does not advance the discussion.

One more thing, setting speed limit laws with the expectation that it is acceptable that everybody will drive 10 mph faster undermines the respect for law. OTOH setting speed limits unreasonably low also undermines the respect for law. Legal types normally value law greater than life (that is why there is a death penalty).

by goldfish on Mar 29, 2012 1:16 pm • linkreport

@goldfish. The relationship between object speed and impact outcome is long established. WRT specific objects of motor vehicle and humans bodies, the relationship is also long established by the scientific method. These "prove it" comments are like asking for proof that gravity is a force. Those statistics regarding speed and risk for fatality that Marlene quoted in her post were not pulled from her ass. They are long established and well documented.

http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/pub/hs809012.html

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 1:32 pm • linkreport

@Tina, you missed my point -- everybody knows that with greater speed comes risk. Please skip the physics lesson, we all had the F = ma material in high school.

So then, if lowering speeds improves safety, why not set speed limit to 5 mph? Because lowering speeds reduces mobility. Moving people and things are essential for the economy, and lowering speeds increases costs for everybody. And it does so in countless ways: Let's say that the speeds on the highways were magically reduced to 15 mph. This would make commutes from the outer suburbs intolerable, lowering real estate prices there and increasing demand closer to where jobs are (increasing so called "commute friction"). Result would be that housing costs would go up for everybody.

To repeat myself: there is a trade-off between mobility and safety, and finding that balance is the what must be done to set speed limits. You can go too far in either direction.

by goldfish on Mar 29, 2012 1:49 pm • linkreport

One more thing, setting speed limit laws with the expectation that it is acceptable that everybody will drive 10 mph faster undermines the respect for law. OTOH setting speed limits unreasonably low also undermines the respect for law.

I agree here completely. But where I might depart from goldfish is what is "reasonable". Too often in this thread it had come down to the eye of the beholder.

On the German Autobahn - reasonable might well be any speed.
On many US Interstates in rural areas - reasonable might be a pretty high speed.

But in dense urban areas where there are a multitude of road users, many who are not protected by a several ton steel cocoon, I think reasonable has to defined as the speed that is safe for all.

Tina provides the link that supports a 25 MPH speed or less for the unprotected road user to survive.

25 MPH might be workable, but only if 26 MPH or greater were never tolerated. As it is many drivers are going 35, 40 or faster.

by JeffB on Mar 29, 2012 1:52 pm • linkreport

@goldfish-yes I missed your point. we all had the F = ma material in high school.

Fantastic. I'm glad you accept the science. However, you yourself commented that commenters are asking for "proof" of the relationship. So I'm not conviced we all had the F = ma material in high school.

But to your point. Yes I agree there is a compromise to be made for certain circumstances. However, are you asserting that causing drivers to slow down from 45-30mph, via the incentive/deterrence of speed cameras in the District of Columbia will measurably adversely affect commerece in DC?

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 2:05 pm • linkreport

The reason speed limit enforcement usually allows for 10 MPH over the limit is that it's hard to prove that someone was speeding, or that they knew they were speeding.

If you're actually going 26mph, but because of reasonable tire wear your spedometer shows 25, you could likely challenge the ticket and win.

In short, only ticketing 10+ mph over the limit ensures a much greater rate of success in enforcement.

@Goldfish

So then, if lowering speeds improves safety, why not set speed limit to 5 mph? Because lowering speeds reduces mobility.

The relationship isn't linear. Lowering speeds from 35 to 25 makes a huge difference in safety. Lowering them from 25 to 15 likely makes a difference, but not as much.

Or, consider a different scenario:

http://humantransport.org/sidewalks/SpeedKills.htm

Collision with a ped at 40mph: 85% chance of death.
Collision with a ped at 30mph: 45% chance of death.
Collision with a ped at 20mph: 5% chance of death.

Lowering the speed limit to 5 mph isn't going to massively reduce the chances of death the same way that going from 40 to 30 would, or from 30 to 20.

by Alex B. on Mar 29, 2012 2:09 pm • linkreport

@Tina, anybody that disputes that more speed = more risk is probably trolling.

are you asserting that causing drivers to slow down from 45-30mph, via the incentive/deterrence of speed cameras in the District of Columbia will measurably adversely affect commerce in DC?

Yes. Question is, is it worth it?

by goldfish on Mar 29, 2012 2:13 pm • linkreport

^ causing drivers to slow down from 45 to 30mph

The reason I choose 30mph as an example is that I beleive along much of Conn Ave the posted speed limit is 30mph, which is habitually exceeded, and the dif. in fatality risk from 30 to 45 is the stat Marlene provided in her post. Marlene's work has focused on Conn Ave, and I expect that is why she focused on that stat.

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 2:13 pm • linkreport

The reason speed limit enforcement usually allows for 10 MPH over the limit is that it's hard to prove that someone was speeding, or that they knew they were speeding.
If you're actually going 26mph, but because of reasonable tire wear your spedometer shows 25, you could likely challenge the ticket and win.

I agree. Hence the logic behind reducing the speed limit to 15 MPH and tolerating those who speed up to 25 MPH.

by JeffB on Mar 29, 2012 2:13 pm • linkreport

It is not helpful to try to reduce this to a simple-minded "higher speed = more likelihood of pedestrian death" equation. As I noted before, pedestrian deaths have decreased by 43% since 1975. This is despite the greater physical hazard presented by large vehicles, i.e., the SUVs that have taken over our streets. Why is that? It's NOT because drivers are driving slower. People are driving pretty much as before, and are driving more lethal vehicles, yet pedestrian mortality is down.

There is much more to this than the simplistic "speed kills".

BTW, I have a Ph.D. in physics. Don't bother with lectures about principles of physics. The problem is far more profound than "speed is bad".

by Jack on Mar 29, 2012 2:17 pm • linkreport

@goldfish, just to clarify, you are asserting that "commerce in DC will be measurably adversly affected by causing drivers to slow down from 45mph to 30mph, on roads where the speed limit is 30, like Conn Ave".

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 2:21 pm • linkreport

Just want to add thanks to Alex B for providing the Pedestrian Collision chart. It clearly shows that when we operate motor vehicles in a mixed user environment there is a real upper bound of speed that we should not go above.

Automated speed enforcement should just be considered a stop gap measure until we can do the re-engineering of our roads. Many of these roads were built in a time when the safety needs of non-motorists didn't factor into their design.

by JeffB on Mar 29, 2012 2:22 pm • linkreport

is that it's hard to prove that someone was speeding, or that they knew they were speeding.

I am not a lawyer, but I am pretty sure that all that needs to be proved is that a person was speeding -- you do not need to prove that they "knew" they were speeding.

So for a conviction, all that needs to be done is show that the equipment used to measure the speed had the necessary accuracy and was properly calibrated. Thus there could be a guilty for someone driving with a measured speed of 25.5 ± 0.1 in a 25 mph zone. In practice however, I am sure judges will make some allowances for the driver, if for no other reason that judges also drive and are sympathetic to its challenges.

by goldfish on Mar 29, 2012 2:28 pm • linkreport

@Tina: Yes. Again the question is, is it worth it?

by goldfish on Mar 29, 2012 2:30 pm • linkreport

@Tina, it's really great that you're able to take a moment out of your 12th grade physics class to post here on Greater Greater Washington, but you're leaving out a significant number of variables in your thesis. "Correlation isn't causation" is a very important principle in statistics, which is a course that I highly recommend you take as you enthusiastically continue your education. Surely excessive speeding is an important factor in determining the causes of -some- fatalities, and that is why there are speed limits in the first place (nobody's talking about removing them completely after all). More prevalent factors have been enumerated above: frequent lane changes, left turns amid dense traffic, etc.

As noted above, the world is not populated at any one time by pedestrians alone - or drivers alone for that matter - and compromises are needed. Also noted above, DC lacks any major north-south arteries equivalent to 395 in the south. Commuting is a completely valid need for many residents of the district (and visitors). There is plenty of room for pedestrian friendly zones and streets while transforming streets such as Connecticut to serve as a swift conduit for commuters. A cross walk (even with nifty communal orange crossing flags) at a major exchange between DC and Maryland motorists on a major north-south street is among one of the more terrible ideas one can envision for such a location.

Mixed-user environments are just asking for trouble, yet both sets of users require their own environments. Increasing the number of speed cameras if need be, but lower the fines across the board to reasonable levels, adjust unreasonably low speed limits where they exist (most are fine), but more importantly repurpose 16th, Conn, and Wisconsin as commuter roads by banning parking, reducing left turns, creating left turn lanes, and in general promoting stable, fluid, safe traffic flow that facilitates getting people from point A to point B swiftly and safely.

by ende on Mar 29, 2012 2:31 pm • linkreport

@jack, its also not helpful to assert misleading statistics without context. ALL traffic fatalies have decreased since 1975. However as a proportion of all fatalities pedestrian fatalies has not changed. There has not been improvement in pedestrian fatality rates.

The greatest proportion of fatalities occurr in urban settings (like DC). Are you asserting that DC doesn't have the evidence to justify implementing interventions aimed at improving the pedestrian fatality rate?

http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811394.pdf

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 2:37 pm • linkreport

@goldfish. I disagree that causing drivers to reduce speed from 45+ to 30mph in DC will measurably adversly affect commererce. I think there is a credible argument to be made that improving the urban enviromnment enhances local commerce.

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 2:41 pm • linkreport

@ende -- "Correlation isn't causation"
yes that is simplistic. Look up causal inference.

Regarding your assertion that lane changing and what not are more important to the outcome of a crash than speed. Nonsense. I.e. a vehicle is travelling at some speed when it changes lane. The most important modifiable factor is the speed of the vehicle at the time the lane is changed, if you are aserting that the lane changing is what leads to the crash. Its the speed of the vehicle that determines the outcome.

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 2:49 pm • linkreport

@Tina That's ok, I see you are very focused on your studies and unable to expand your thinking beyond a single variable. Keep working at it, you'll get there!

by ende on Mar 29, 2012 2:51 pm • linkreport

@Tina, your assertion flies in the face of common sense. Clearly the time it takes to get somewhere will affect how much must charged for it, regardless of whether it is labor or goods. Consider taxis, that charge for both mileage and time. Consider making deliveries, where the principal expense is the hourly cost of the driver. Or consider the commute time multiplied by the large number of commuters traveling into DC. Consider how a plumber recoups the cost of the increased driving time from one job to the next, by increasing rates. Etc.

by goldfish on Mar 29, 2012 2:52 pm • linkreport

There is much more to this than the simplistic "speed kills".

OK, how about "speed is not the only thing that kills"? That sounds good to me.

I'm assuming that you didn't mean "speed doesn't kill".

by Miriam on Mar 29, 2012 2:56 pm • linkreport

@goldfish:

"commerce in DC will be measurably adversly affected by causing drivers to slow down from 45mph to 30mph, on roads where the speed limit is 30, like Conn Ave".

I don't mean to be rude, but this seems laughable on its face. If there is a impact on commerce, it would be so small it would just as likely be positive as negative. Have you got any kind of support for this at all, or is it just "Yes"?

by oboe on Mar 29, 2012 2:56 pm • linkreport

@ende-nice comeback. I take it to mean you have no answer.

@goldfish - we are talking about DC, which is what 10 miles across at its widest point? 20? The argument about time lost/gained going 30 instead of 45 along Conn Ave e.g., is negilible given all the other factors -stoplights, stop signs, congestion, delivery trucks parked in travel lanes (since you brought up delivery), etc.

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 2:59 pm • linkreport

@oboe, obviously if the speeds on Conn Ave only were reduced the effect would be negligible, because the traffic would move elsewhere. So let us take this to its logical conclusion and reduce the speeds by 1/3 on all arteries. Nah, that won't change a thing. NOT.

by goldfish on Mar 29, 2012 3:01 pm • linkreport

@goldfish your assertion flies in the face of common sense
And I say the same thing to you. Neither of us anything more than an opinion on wherther of not reducing speed on e.g. Conn Ave from 45 to 30 affects commerernce. So please stop attacking me personally.

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 3:02 pm • linkreport

Mixed-user environments are just asking for trouble,

Not true. Mixed-use environments are just fine. The key factor here is speed. As several people have noted up-thread, "frequent lane changes, left turns amid dense traffic, etc..." are all relatively benign with the lack of one single variable: speed.

I agree there are places where automobiles should be allowed to drive at an "automobile" pace. Those places are segregated, limited-access highways. There are very, very few of those in DC proper.

As for the rest of DC's urban fabric, no, thankfully DC public opinion seems to finally be swinging to the point where we're done ceding major boulevards to the automobile. I think those days are over.

by oboe on Mar 29, 2012 3:03 pm • linkreport

traffic would move elsewhere again this an unsupported opinion. I disgree that "traffic would move elsewhere".

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 3:04 pm • linkreport

Does a higher traffic speed even improve throughput, between the erratic driving and larger following distances that it induces?

by David R. on Mar 29, 2012 3:10 pm • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

@oboe Didn't mean that as a universal statement. There are plenty example of very good, safe mixed environments to be found throughout the district.

But DC is not now nor ever destined to be some sort of pedestrian-only district, that's just nonsense. There are DC residents who work outside of DC and there are non-DC residents who work in DC. They require such conduits for transit. There is room enough for both commuters and non-commuters.

Also, what exactly are you referencing in terms of 'DC public opinion"?

by ende on Mar 29, 2012 3:12 pm • linkreport

@oboe, obviously if the speeds on Conn Ave only were reduced the effect would be negligible, because the traffic would move elsewhere. So let us take this to its logical conclusion and reduce the speeds by 1/3 on all arteries. Nah, that won't change a thing. NOT.

Pee Wee Herman impressions aside, you still fail to make your point. Perhaps if DC were some Cartesian plane or simplistic computer model, we could draw the conclusion that a simple 5mph increase in the allowed top speed of vehicles would yield some efficiency benefit. Since vehicles in an urban environment don't operate at a constant maximum allowed speed limit, that's a fatuous conclusion to draw.

Vehicles in an urban environment operate in a range of speeds from 0-Max. In the majority of the time, they operate below the max speed. They're waiting at lights. They're stuck in traffic jams. In the case of delivery trucks, they're sitting in a bike lane, or pulling into an alley.

So what we're really talking about is the tiny fraction of time that drivers see a stretch of open pavement ahead, and decide they're going to "make up some time." It's the jerk I saw in a dump truck driving 10 mph over the speed limit past an elementary school on a residential street who realizes he can really "open it up" for those 4 blocks.

No, I don't think forcing that guy to slow down to the posted speed limit through universal enforcement is going to adversely effect commerce. At least not without a coherent argument beyond, "There are multiple factors and such!"

by oboe on Mar 29, 2012 3:16 pm • linkreport

Does a higher traffic speed even improve throughput, between the erratic driving and larger following distances that it induces?

That's always been my point as well--one that's never been answered beyond "Isn't it obvious?" and references to studies of interstate traffic flow.

There's a reason everyone evacuates in a calm and orderly fashion during a fire, rather than everyone running pell-mell for the exits. Slower traffic speeds would likely lead to an insignificant loss of street efficiency--if not a gain.

by oboe on Mar 29, 2012 3:19 pm • linkreport

But DC is not now nor ever destined to be some sort of pedestrian-only district, that's just nonsense.

No, obviously not. But it's also obvious that the days of wishing Connecticut Ave were more like Rockville Pike are pretty much done. We're likely to see expanding sidewalks, more bike lanes, and as we've just heard, a proliferation of automated enforcement devices targeting automobiles. These are all reflections of public opinion. Whatever policy differences there might have been between Fenty and Gray and Williams, it's pretty clear there's an emerging consensus. Given the stark demographic trends we've seen over the last decade, that consensus is only going to get stronger.

by oboe on Mar 29, 2012 3:23 pm • linkreport

The sniping on the comments here is getting excessive and I've had to delete one item for crossing the line. But several of you are getting close or sticking a toe over.

There's no need to start out your comment by belittling another person's comment. You aren't going to get anywhere with comments that just say "you haven't justified what you are saying." Give your own arguments and facts rather than talking about whether the other person's arguments and facts are or aren't sufficient. Thanks!

by David Alpert on Mar 29, 2012 3:26 pm • linkreport

The assertion made in this GGW article is this: "It's long past time to install more traffic cameras and make our streets safer." This has devolved in this discussion to, essentially, stricter enforcement of speed limits will save pedestrian lives.

The "higher speed = higher mortality" argument assumes that pedestrians will be hit, therefore having the cars go slower will reduce the number of victims who die. I suppose, but I think the problem is much more complex than that.

Re the decline in pedestrian fatalities over the years -- actually the pedestrian decline exceeds the car-occupant decline, pedestrian deaths now accounting for 13% of all highway deaths, vs. 17% in 1975. That's a pretty surprising statistic, given that occupant deaths have been substantially reduced by air bags and anti-lock brakes, factors which do little for pedestrians. Given further that (1) automobile speeds have not decreased, and (2) SUVs are more lethal to pedestrians than sedans -- well, there's much more going on here than just a decline in all highway deaths.

Also more to the point, the subject here is speed cameras in DC, where congestion tends to keep traffic speeds low. To cite examples near me, a speed camera on Porter Street has resulted in a lot of speeding tickets, and evidently has caused traffic to slow, but it's in a location where there is very little pedestrian traffic, so its life-saving benefits are negligible. On the other hand, the intersections considered most dangerous to pedestrians are the Irving Street and Kenyon/Park Road crossings of 14th Street. Speed cameras won't do any good there, yet that's where the pedestrian collisions happen, that's where the risk is.

As for red light cameras, absolutely! Red-light running in DC is, IMHO, far more hazardous to pedestrians than whether a car is moving at 35 mph, vs 25 mph.

by Jack on Mar 29, 2012 3:30 pm • linkreport

@oboe Can you link me to which indicators of public opinion you are referring to? I'm very interested to read about it.

Public opinion is a bit irrelevant though, we don't live in a majoritarian world. The rights of the minority need to be respected too, and includes commuters.

by ende on Mar 29, 2012 3:37 pm • linkreport

@jack, thank you for taking on a more civil tone.

yes there is a decrease in proportion from 1975. However there has been no change in proportion in the last decade. I think that is the more relevant data to consider. 1975 was a long time ago, ~two generations. A lot has changed -a lot more than the things you cited. One factor is discontinuance of social accpetance of drunk driving and/or increased awareness of the risk involved in drunk driving/improved enforcement.

Another is road design with pedestrian safety in mind that have changed since 1975. Take a look at the NTHSA reports. They discuss ways to improve pedestrain safety. They come down to reducing speed w/ road design. Even the 'right hook' you refer to wouldn't be as deadly if drivers stopped before turning right on red. Its the speed of the impact that affects the outcome.

Finally, if the specific place you are referring to near Porter that "doesn't have many pedestrians" is the interchange w/ Beech Dr., I disagree. I personally have walked and biked there thousands of times and I regularly see other people walking and biking there. Its one of the few E-W get-on/get-off points for the RCP trail in addition to other trails. Its ~100 yards by foot to the Klingle Mansion at that point; thats a major destination in RCP.

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 4:10 pm • linkreport

Public opinion is a bit irrelevant though, we don't live in a majoritarian world. The rights of the minority need to be respected too, and includes commuters.

This is, of course, merely a "framing" sleight-of-hand.

The streets are a public space; and that space is a limited resource. Cars should indeed be accommodated. But because they have the potential to do great harm, and because they have a history of driving other users out of the public spaces into which they're permitted, it's simply wrong to cast them as some persecuted minority class that needs protection. Their use drives out other users: bicyclists are the obvious example. They've taken over broad streets, and relegated pedestrians to narrow sidewalks, at least where there are sidewalks. After steady expansion of the role of the auto, they've become a perfect example of the "tyranny of the minority."

Cars have a place in the city--a severely curtailed and highly regulated place.

by oboe on Mar 29, 2012 4:14 pm • linkreport

More red light cameras are certainly workable...but going overboard on this is obviously a money grab. It is rather insulting, in a city with so many homicides, to suggest safeguarding human life is of paramount importance to the Mayor. How about installing a comprehensive network of cameras near open air drug markets for example.

by Pelham1861 on Mar 29, 2012 4:19 pm • linkreport

@oboe

I really can't agree with you much there (except the notion of cars as persecuted minorities is pretty funny). I understand that there is a sizable swath of the urban populace who would rather cars didn't exist and all roads were traversed by cyclists and pedestrians alone. But we simply don't live in that world, and automobiles are a necessary and ubiquitous mode of transportation for a very large number of DC residents, many of whom commute outside of the bounds of the district. There are many parts of the city where they should be expected to drive at a snails pace in the name of safety, etc, but there also need to be fast, high-throughput conduits into/out of the city. For NW, these must include Connecticut, Wisconsin and 16th unless the District plans to build a northern branch of 395 through Rock Creek Park.

by ende on Mar 29, 2012 4:34 pm • linkreport

@ende but there also need to be fast, high-throughput conduits into/out of the city. For NW, these must include Connecticut, this disreagrds that among the deadliest intersections for peds in DC are along Conn Ave. Asking/enforcing drivers to go the speed limit (30 instead of 45) is a reasonable compromise.

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 4:43 pm • linkreport

Why do those roads need to be higher speed/easier to drive through? "For commuters" seems kind of like a tautalogical answer. Why does the quickest way in and out of the city have to be a car especially if it comes at the expense of other modes? Why do some parts of the city get to be safe and others less safe in the name of through-put?

by Canaan on Mar 29, 2012 4:44 pm • linkreport

@Tina I'm saying that Connecticut shouldn't be toted (or encouraged) as a pedestrian friendly street (imho). That said, 35 I think is mostly fair. 45 isn't unreasonable though. I think the bigger obstacle to commuters there is the lane switching, cars parked in the right hand lanes (effectively making those lanes not exist), and left turns stopping traffic.

There is a section of Connecticut by Van Ness, for example, that is 2-lanes northbound in the mornings where a line of cars queueing to turn left and a line of cars queueing to turn right effectively shuts down all northbound traffic until those queues have cleared. That's obviously poor planning.

@Canaan, how does it come at the expense of other modes? Very few people are commuting out/into the district by bicycle (and those crazy few that are certainly aren't doing it along Connecticut). Metro has it's own dedicated conduit. Automobiles need their own as well. Some parts of the city have to be less safe for pedestrians in order to accommodate that. You have to share.

by ende on Mar 29, 2012 5:02 pm • linkreport

@ende

But you're ignoring the reality that tens of thousands of people live on Conn Ave with additional density on the blacks east and west of Conn Ave; that there are hundreds of businesses on Conn Ave; there are 3 metro stops on Conn Ave and a 4th and 5th easily accessed from Conn Ave (Friendship Hts and Columbia Hts). Its already a places where 10's of thousan ds of people walk. Its too late to talk about it as a place "that shouldn't be for pedestrians". The ship has sailed. People live, walk and shop all along Conn Ave. To change that would require radical changes in the structure of DC including displacing 10's of thousands of residents.

by Tina on Mar 29, 2012 5:13 pm • linkreport

I understand that there is a sizable swath of the urban populace who would rather cars didn't exist and all roads were traversed by cyclists and pedestrians alone.

I'm not sure how sizable the swath is, but for my part, I'm quite glad that cars exist. The issue isn't reserving roads for cyclists and pedestrians alone, but rather allowing cyclists and pedestrians meaningful access to roads at all.

One thing's for sure: If speed limits were set at 15 mph, the aggrieved sense of entitlement that seems to overcome every area driver as soon as they get behind a cyclist would be greatly diminished. How about "15 mph When Cyclists or Pedestrians Are Present" since we're all about finding a reasonable compromise.

by oboe on Mar 29, 2012 5:33 pm • linkreport

Let me note again that I'm that old geezer that you hate to be behind, because I simply won't go as fast as the tailgaters behind me want me to go. So if anybody should be in favor of lower speed limits and tougher enforcement, it ought to be me. But I have a lot of trouble with this notion that "speed kills", period, as if that's the totality of it.

Here's a fact. Pedestrian fatalities are down by 60% since 1975, and down by 10% in the last decade. Why? Is it because drivers are going slower? I don't think so. Is it because cars are safer? They're surely safer for the passengers, but not for pedestrians, the high profile of SUVs making them exceptionally pedestrian-lethal.

So it's got to be other factors, and focusing on speed, as if reducing vehicle speed is the answer to the problem, is a mistake.

Re Porter Street, that's a place where I have to dive to the right just as soon as the second lane opens up, to get out of the way of the demons behind me who are in a big hurry to get to that left turn to Beach Drive. Pedestrians? Occasional, but nothing like the numbers found at the 16th Street and 14th Street intersections. And that's where the pedestrian collisions, and pedestrian fatalities, occur.

Clearly road design, and lighting, are crucial. The one fatality here in recent years was due to a left-turning bus, the driver simply failing to see the pedestrian, the pedestrian somehow failing to see the bus. Speed, not a factor. We've taken measures to reduce that left-turn hazard.

A pedestrian near-fatality here is indicative of another problem: distracted walking. How many times have you seen pedestrians strolling across a street with their eyes, and minds, focused on a cellphone, talking or texting? The very unfortunate incident here involved a person simply walking into the side of a turning truck, and falling under the rear wheels. Speed, not a factor.

Don't underestimate the role of pedestrians in road fatalities. Half of all adult pedestrians killed after dark were legally too drunk to drive, a factor possibly contributing to the incident.

Sure, slowing traffic is nice, but numerous other factors are involved in pedestrian safety. Annoyed as I am by those drivers pushing me to "go faster", I don't think speed is the principal factor, or even a major factor, in DC pedestrian fatalities. The great decline in pedestrian fatalities in past decades, in the absence of any (to my knowledge) decline in traffic speed, says that other factors are predominant here.

by Jack on Mar 29, 2012 6:02 pm • linkreport

Tina said it best for me but I'll add,

again if the choice is going to be auto speed or pedestrian safety I'm gonna go ahead and suggest that I find it reasonable that we're better keeping the whole city safe for pedestrians rather than giving parts of it up (or reclaiming spaces that were given up)

by Canaan on Mar 29, 2012 6:42 pm • linkreport

A pedestrian near-fatality here is indicative of another problem: distracted walking. How many times have you seen pedestrians strolling across a street with their eyes, and minds, focused on a cellphone, talking or texting? The very unfortunate incident here involved a person simply walking into the side of a turning truck, and falling under the rear wheels.

You've actually put your finger on how we've acheived such amazing an amazing improvement in pedestrian fatalities. As a society, we've pretty much shifted the blame from drivers onto pedestrians. Your scenario of the pedestrian being run down by a left-turning truck illustrates this.

If a left-turning truck ran down a pedestrian, he was by definition travelling too fast. Whether or not the pedestrian was able to obey the law of GTFOOMY is of secondary importance.

Regardless of the benefits of some individual speed camera at some individual intersection, cultivating a culture of driver care is valuable in and of itself. Higher fines, or ubiquitous fines is one way of doing that.

by oboe on Mar 30, 2012 9:30 am • linkreport

"You've actually put your finger on how we've acheived such amazing an amazing improvement in pedestrian fatalities. As a society, we've pretty much shifted the blame from drivers onto pedestrians. Your scenario of the pedestrian being run down by a left-turning truck illustrates this. If a left-turning truck ran down a pedestrian, he was by definition travelling too fast. Whether or not the pedestrian was able to obey the law of GTFOOMY is of secondary importance."

No, you have it wrong. The truck was making a very slow LH turn from one narrow residential street onto another in our neighborhood. The pedestrian walked into the side of the truck, behind the cab, ahead of the rear wheels, and fell under those wheels. The truck driver immediately stopped and backed up. Speed had nothing, nothing, nothing whatsoever to do with it.

Similarly, the pedestrian killed by the left-turning Metrobus was not a victim of excessive speed. More to the point, in neither the bus case nor the truck incident would speed cameras made any difference. Neither driver was anywhere near the speed limit. Neither driver was driving recklessly. The Metrobus driver evidently didn't see the pedestrian in the dark, the truck driver could not possibly see the pedestrian behind his cab. It's about visibility, not speed.

by Jack on Mar 30, 2012 10:06 am • linkreport

@jack-Speed, not a factor.

respectfully, you do not know that speed was "not a factor" in the bus crash. Also, that example is not the only example of pedestrian fatalities in DC "in recent years". See @oboes's comment. By definition if the bus turned so fast the driver was not able to see and stop for pedestrians the vehicle was going too fast.

Re Porter St -so you see how people drive there habitually -- does it surprise you that you don't see more pedestrians? even though you don't see them, they are there, despite of the behavior of drivers. I am often one of them. Maybe you don't see pedestrians b/c many drivers "don't see" pedestrians and bicyclists. I often feel invisible when I'm on the road. For 6 years I traversed that interchange every weekday morning and evening by bike on my way to work, so your insistence that its not used by non-motorists is not going over very well with me. I crossed that interchange on foot every weekend walking from an eastbound foot trail to a northbound foot trail. I encountered many other people doing the same. Non-motorists cross there. It is not a solely motor vehicle cross-roads.

Of course there are many factors on every road in an environment like DC. You keep insisting that vehicle speed as its affects crash outcome is simplistic. Yet vehicle speed is the most important modifiable contributing factor to the outcome of a crash. And your response to this is to dispute the assumption that a crash will occur. But ignoring speed in that equation ignores that speed contributes to the risk of crash as well as to its outcome.

Again, according to NHTSA, (see link above)pedestrian fatalities as a proportion of all fatalities has remained the same since at least 2000. And, again, all fatalities have decreased since 1975, again according to NHTSA. So looking at raw n's doesn't tell us whats happening.

by you people on Mar 30, 2012 10:16 am • linkreport

"respectfully, you do not know that speed was "not a factor" in the bus crash. Also, that example is not the only example of pedestrian fatalities in DC "in recent years". See @oboes's comment. By definition if the bus turned so fast the driver was not able to see and stop for pedestrians the vehicle was going too fast."

The assertion made by this GGW report is that speed cameras will save lives. Fact is, in this bus incident, the bus could not possibly have exceeded any speed limit, not in making a sharp left-hand turn from a standing start.

As for "windshield perspective", I know that well, having been a bicycle commuter in DC for many years, and still putting 3000-plus miles on my bicycle every year, in the city. Speed isn't the problem. Driver disrespect for bicyclists, and bicyclist disregard for traffic laws, is.

As for the Porter Street matter, yes, there are occasional pedestrians and bicyclists. When was there ever a collision there? Compare the 14th and 16th Street intersections, where hordes of pedestrians cross, and, yes, that's where the collisions happen. But speed isn't the controlling factor. It's about visibility, and distractions, and drivers and bicyclists failing to respect the limitations on drivers. The greatest risk comes from turning vehicles, not straight-through, and speed cameras are irrelevant.

by Jack on Mar 30, 2012 11:06 am • linkreport

But speed isn't the controlling factor.

Speed is the controlling factor in the outcome of a crash. Speed contributes to crash risk.

by Tina on Mar 30, 2012 11:38 am • linkreport

Also, that bus made a left turn with the green light. The pedstrians that got hit were in the crosswalk crossing with a walk sign. The bus driver definitely did not begin the turn from a stop, or even from a slow down. If he had there would have been time for him and the pedestrians to see one another and react to avoid the crash. Thats an example of how speed contributes to crash risk/avoidance - reaction time before impact/avaoidance of impact.

Speed played an important role in the outcome of that fatal crash just as it does in all fatal crashes. Recognizing the contribution of speed to the outcome of a crash is not the same thing as dismissing other factors that contribute to crash risk. No one here including me has denied there are other factors in an urban setting (any environment) that contribute to crash risk. B/c there are other variables contributing to crash risk speed is even more important b/c its a factor of driver behavior thus can be modified. Vehicle size is unmodifiable; congestion is unmodifiable; people stopping to turn left is unmodifiable; delivery trucks parked in the travel lane is unmodifiable; the requirement to stop for red lights is unmodifiable. Driver behavior is modifiable. Speed is modifiable. Because speed is modifiable so is total crash risk and predicted outcome of crash.

by Tina on Mar 30, 2012 12:58 pm • linkreport

"Also, that bus made a left turn with the green light. The pedstrians that got hit were in the crosswalk crossing with a walk sign. The bus driver definitely did not begin the turn from a stop, or even from a slow down. If he had there would have been time for him and the pedestrians to see one another and react to avoid the crash. Thats an example of how speed contributes to crash risk/avoidance - reaction time before impact/avaoidance of impact."

We don't know why the pedestrian didn't see the bus coming, and the driver didn't see the pedestrian in the crosswalk. Fact: left turns are especially hazardous. In the dark, from inside a bus with interior lights on, dodging oncoming traffic -- visibility is challenging.

"Because speed is modifiable so is total crash risk and predicted outcome of crash." And how is a speed camera going to affect the speed of a bus making a left turn? How are you going to control, or limit, the speed of a bus making a left turn?

"The bus driver definitely did not begin the turn from a stop, or even from a slow down." You don't know that. "Definitely"? You're just guessing.

"Also, that bus made a left turn with the green light. The pedstrians that got hit were in the crosswalk crossing with a walk sign." No longer. We brought about a revision to the intersection, which now has a dedicated left-turn phase, oncoming traffic stopped, pedestrians with a "wait" light.

by Jack on Mar 30, 2012 1:23 pm • linkreport

"The bus driver definitely did not begin the turn from a stop, or even from a slow down." You don't know that. "Definitely"? You're just guessing.

There were witnesses and the event is documented. The driver had a green light.

How are you going to control, or limit, the speed of a bus making a left turn? this is driver behavior. Human behavior is always modifiable. In this case "how?" With better training.

We don't know why the pedestrian didn't see the bus coming Lets say they did see the bus. Why didn't they get out of they way? Probably b/c there wasn't time. Why wasn't there enough time? B/c of the speed the vehicle bearing down on them was travelling.

visibility is challenging Yes. This is one of those other factors contributing to crash risk. But visibility does not contribute to crash outcome. Speed does.

We brought about a revision to the intersection, which now has a dedicated left-turn phase, oncoming traffic stopped, pedestrians with a "wait" light. Bravo us. This is one example of an intervention that can reduce crash risk. Crash risk, not crash outcome.

by Tina on Mar 30, 2012 1:44 pm • linkreport

"We don't know why the pedestrian didn't see the bus coming Lets say they did see the bus. Why didn't they get out of they way? Probably b/c there wasn't time. Why wasn't there enough time? B/c of the speed the vehicle bearing down on them was travelling."

I don't think we're talking about the same incident. The incident I'm referring to was on January 16, 2007, and involved a single pedestrian. As for the bus, certainly it had the green, but southbound traffic on 16th is always so heavy that anyone making the left turn has to stop and wait for a break.

by Jack on Mar 30, 2012 2:54 pm • linkreport

I don't think we're talking about the same incident.

seems so. I'm talking about a more recnet crash that killed two peds downtown. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JhsmDMIRNo

Which of course makes the crash you're referring to not "the only one around here recently" that resulted in a fatality. In every crash, speed of the vehicle is a major contributing factor to crash outcome. Speed is especially relevent with large vehicles. In the vidio clip it is apparent to a reasonable observer that at a much lower speed the outcome of that crash would be predictably different and/or avoided altogether.

Yes, there are many factors contributing to crash risk -which is greatest at intersections (like the intersection of Porter St & Beech Dr). Speed of the vehicle is the major modifiable contributing factor to crash outcome. Drivers control speed. Driving is a human behavior and is modifiable. Vehicle speed -even at intersections where busses turn left -is modifiable.

Incidentally there are ~8 bus stops within a 1/4 mi of the Porter St Beech Dr intersection. Who rides busses? Pedestrians. How will they reach those bus stops? By walking on or near that interchange -the bus stops are NOT all at cross walks.

by Tina on Mar 30, 2012 3:30 pm • linkreport

Let's consider a hypothetical: I'm driving on of those courtesy carts through an airport concourse. While doing so, I run over someone's child. Is "speed" a factor? From the pedestrian's perspective, at some point if you're going too fast to exercise due care, you're going too fast. Of course, from the driver's perspective, there's a point at which a certain level of speed is non-negotiable.

by oboe on Mar 30, 2012 3:57 pm • linkreport

@JeffB: Sorry for the late reply. I've had a chance to peruse that report and it is certainly interesting.

First Year Reductions in Average Driving Speeds
at Fixed Speed Camera Locations:

6 percent

Camera with Greatest 12-Month Reduction: 11%
Camera with Least 12-Month Reduction: 1%

"11+ Miles Per Hour Above Speed Limit (before) 2%
(after) <1%"

"To date, 32% of citations have been for
vehicles measured at exactly 11 miles per hour above the speed limit"

I think these numbers speak for themselves.

As for the "total reported collisions within one-half mile of the camera sites decreased by 28%" - well - that's certainly interesting.

Unfortunately, these numbers are pretty small, and probably vary a lot from year to year. The pedestrian fatalities in DC vary up to 300% from year to year.

"Before Camera Activation (Four-Year Average)"
"After Camera Activation (One Year)"

Sorry. That's not proof. Interesting, but comparing an average to a single year isn't proof of anything.

by Jamie on Mar 30, 2012 9:53 pm • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

A couple of years back I decided to drive at 5 mph below the posted speed limit, at all times, no exceptions. I did this for about 6 months. Besides enduring the honks and the tail-gaiting by drivers stuck behind me -- even by the police, who pulled me once over for going too slow -- the time it took to get somewhere, anywhere, increased by quite a bit. I invite you to try a similar experiment. I am sure you will find that it takes longer to get around. Now you could claim that if all drivers slowed down by this much would have no effect on commerce -- but then you could justify that only if you think peoples' time has no value.

by goldfish on Mar 31, 2012 12:55 pm • linkreport

Sorry. That's not proof. Interesting, but comparing an average to a single year isn't proof of anything.

Forgive me if I say that you are moving the goal posts here. I agree it would be informative if there were followup to this study. But budget cuts being what they are ...

What is most curious to me in this thread is all the anti-speed enforcement posters keep arguing that there is no safety benefit to controlling speed on our local roads. Therefore the cameras can only be there for the purpose of revenue enhancement.

Setting aside the very legitimate argument that enforcing the posted speed limit itself (apart from any other benefit) is reason enough for installing speed cameras it would seem to me that the argument as constructed by the anti-enforcement posters here fails as soon as you show reasonable evidence that enforcing speed limits does reduce crashes and injuries and so has a safety benefit.

This thread is full of anti-enforcement posters offering personal anecdotes why there can be no such benefit. What not a single one of them has done is offer up any link to an authoritative source supporting their contention.

And when the pro-enforcement posters respond with such links supporting their position the information is instantly dismissed as being "insufficient". It is pointless to argue with people who have chosen to tie one lobe behind their head.

So I'll just conclude with one final link to a NIH summary survey of speed cameras and safety. By the way all this takes is 5 seconds with Google.

Speed cameras for the prevention of road traffic injuries and deaths.

AUTHOR'S CONCLUSIONS: Despite the methodological limitations and the variability in degree of signal to noise effect, the consistency of reported reductions in speed and crash outcomes across all studies show that speed cameras are a worthwhile intervention for reducing the number of road traffic injuries and deaths. However, whilst the the evidence base clearly demonstrates a positive direction in the effect, an overall magnitude of this effect is currently not deducible due to heterogeneity and lack of methodological rigour. More studies of a scientifically rigorous and homogenous nature are necessary, to provide the answer to the magnitude of effect.

by JeffB on Apr 1, 2012 9:53 am • linkreport

I had decided to walk away from this discussion, figuring that it had become pointless. But this latest -- "all the anti-speed enforcement posters keep arguing that there is no safety benefit to controlling speed on our local roads" -- is just too outrageous to ignore. Put up an absurd statement like that as a target, and of course it's an easy target to shoot down. I know of no one who believes such a foolish thing.

The pro-camera argument is elementary: speed cameras save lives. Unconditional, no exceptions. That's the fallacy: that if speed cameras reduce accidents and save lives under some conditions, then speed cameras must reduce accidents and save lives under all conditions.

I don't think so. Certainly there are places where speed cameras will contribute to safety, in particular, on arterials through populated urban areas. I've asked for speed cameras at certain locations myself. But there are other places where the hazard is small, and the speed limits may be unrealistically low. Speed limits are commonly set by politicians, not by traffic engineers. When a speed camera results in hundreds of citations every day, one has to question the validity of the speed limit.

A characteristic of the inner city is that traffic accidents generally involve turns, not straightaway collisions. In my neighborhood, I have yet to see the case where speed was a factor. Visibility, especially of pedestrians crossing streets after dark, is a problem. Drivers running red lights is a problem. Bicyclists willfully violating traffic laws is a problem. Pedestrians ignoring the "don't walk" sign, or crossing the street in mid-block, after dark, in dark clothing, is a problem. Pedestrians paying more attention to the cellphone in their hands than to the traffic around them, is a problem.

Traffic speed is an annoyance, no doubt, for the minor arterials crossing my neighborhood, so I hear plenty of calls for controlling traffic speeds. But I have yet to encounter the case where a speed camera, causing a driver to go only a little over the posted speed limit, made the difference in a collision either not happening, or having less dire consequences.

In fact, I can point out two instances of residents of my neighborhood being killed by speeding cars. In one case, the driver was fleeing the police (he thought), so a speed camera wasn't going to change his behavior. In another, the speeding driver blasted through a red light, drunk. Again, a speed camera wouldn't have changed his behavior. But in those cases, as in the case of the pedestrian killed by the left-turning Metrobus, the result was a fatality, and speed cameras are irrelevant to the outcome.

Speed cameras are fine in certain places, no doubt. But the notion that any speed camera will "save lives" anywhere, anytime, whatever the road conditions, isn't valid. The problem is far more complex than that.

by Jack on Apr 1, 2012 10:35 am • linkreport

@goldfish,

Bicyclists willfully violating traffic laws is a problem. Pedestrians ignoring the "don't walk" sign, or crossing the street in mid-block, after dark, in dark clothing, is a problem. Pedestrians paying more attention to the cellphone in their hands than to the traffic around them, is a problem.

Your point is essentially that drivers should be able to drive very fast, and that the problem is that pedestrians aren't attentive enough in getting out of their way. Frankly we've seen enough of that kind of framing. Again, if a child were run down on an airport concourse by a courtesy shuttle, the idea of blaming it on the kid, or his parents for being insufficiently attentive, would be ridiculous. Since we've had 60-70 years of shifting the blame for any traffic deaths from drivers to pedestrians, the balance is now completely opposite, and when a driver runs down a kid, he's held completely blameless--unless he's either drunk (assuming he doesn't flee) or driving 20 mph over the speed limit.

Sorry, but stepping up enforcement to change those attitudes is a completely legitimate use of speed cameras and other types of enforcement.

As you said "traffic speed" is an annoyance. As I said above, it degrades the urban environment. Again, perfectly legitimate to curtail such behavior, even if people aren't dying. We have noise ordinances for similar reasons.

At the end of the day, the DC electorate sets the rules. If you want to increase tolerance for speeders, take it to them.

by oboe on Apr 1, 2012 12:05 pm • linkreport

Speed limits are commonly set by politicians, not by traffic engineers. When a speed camera results in hundreds of citations every day, one has to question the validity of the speed limit.

I'm curious: what on Earth makes you think that "traffic engineers" are the ones who should be setting speed limits? Or that the speed the majority of *drivers* choose is the 'right' maximum speed.

I'm sorry, but in my opinion, that's considerably more absurd than the idea that consistently enforcing the law leads to more law-abiding behavior.

by oboe on Apr 1, 2012 12:18 pm • linkreport

Your point is essentially that drivers should be able to drive very fast, and that the problem is that pedestrians aren't attentive enough in getting out of their way.

Said the man before the judge charged with assault:
"It's not my fault, your honor, that he put his nose where I was swinging my fist".

by JeffB on Apr 1, 2012 2:11 pm • linkreport

@oboe: Bicyclists willfully violating traffic laws... I did not write that.

by goldfish on Apr 2, 2012 8:22 am • linkreport

These cameras are about revenue, not safety. They allow local officials to circumvent state laws to pad their pockets. According to state law, the police officer pulls over the offender and writes a ticket. Points are issued against the driver. If the driver accumulates enough points, his license is suspended because he is deemed an unsafe driver. With speed/red light cameras, the violator is allowed to pay the fine and keep driving. He can violate the law as many times as he likes as long as he has the money to keep paying fines. Does this sound safe? Don't believe it when they tell you it's about safety. It's about money.

by DeeDee on Oct 29, 2012 2:11 pm • linkreport

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