How big of a joke are the City’s speed cameras? You can find a lot of examples that could make the program look like nothing more than a money grab. But one in particular might be the most damning.
It is on the north side of Irving Park Road between Sheridan Road and Clark Street.
The City’s speed cameras were installed to protect what then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel called “Children’s Safety Zones.” Each was supposed to be within an eighth of a mile of a City park or school. Cameras near schools would only be turned on between 7 AM and 7 PM, and those near parks would operate during regular park hours.
In the photo above we see that the camera is between two cemeteries. There is some foot traffic on this stretch of Irving but it is hardly a pedestrian hot zone. And the two parks the camera is supposed to be protecting are all the way back by the white train overpass in the distance.
These parks are located adjacent to each other on a narrow strip of old railroad land. It is about fifty feet wide. Those who have lived in Chicago long enough will remember that the Milwaukee Road used to bring freight cars up to the CTA and interchange them here. The CTA picked them up, via a long ramp that is now demolished, and delivered them to customers on the far North Side and in Evanston.
Challenger Park is nothing but a parking lot, as the photo below shows. It is located on the north side of the street. In fairness there is a dog park located on the back end of it. But that is about half a mile away on Montrose Avenue. Originally there were basketball hoops here. But one by one they have been removed over the years. The primary function now is Cubs game day parking. When that is not happening very little goes on.
Kelly Park, seen below, is directly across the street from Challenger. It is an actual park. But there is not a high level of foot traffic. Practical Chicago spent a good thirty minutes in the area taking photos. This was on April 17, 2021, a sunny Saturday afternoon. Only one or two meandering dog walkers came by in that time.
So this particular camera protects close to nothing. Certainly the cemetery residents do not need assistance. And if the occasional grown adult dog walker cannot wait for a gap in traffic to cross Irving Park Road they probably have not really grown up.
Driving patterns make the situation even more ridiculous. The camera is pointed west. So anyone receiving a violation has already passed the parks. You would think making people slow down before reaching this “Children’s Safety Zone” would be the best strategy. But there is no camera for eastbound traffic.
This past March Mayor Lori Lightfoot reduced the threshold for speed camera tickets. Under new restrictions, drivers caught on camera going six to nine miles per hour over the limit will get $35 tickets. Add in this final factor and the situation almost seems like sketch comedy. It is hard to see how the difference of four miles an hour is doing anything to keep people safe.
But the Illinois Policy Institute estimates this lower threshold could mean nearly $100 million a year for the cash-strapped city. Maybe that tells us all we need to know.
© 2021 practicalchicago.com
Related Web Sites: