Eyes on the Street: Gompers Park Speed Cameras in Effect

In the video, one car will be issued a warning. Watch for the subtle flash reflecting against the trees.

Chicago’s first two speed cameras started monitoring car traffic yesterday around the Gompers Park “children’s safety zone” in North Mayfair. The speed cameras are at 4124 W Foster Avenue and 5119 N Pulaski Road and will only be issuing warnings for the first 30 days, as will be the case with all new cameras in the city (individual drivers also will also get a warning for their first infraction, wherever they incur it). By the end of the year, 50 speed cameras are scheduled to be installed citywide.

Automated enforcement has the potential to drastically improve compliance with the speed limit. When speed cameras were installed in Washington, D.C., the proportion of vehicles speeding by more than 10 mph dropped 82 percent. In Norway, speed cameras led to a 20 percent decline in traffic injuries.

Speed camera near Gompers Park
Signs advising the photo enforced-speed limit were erected in both directions on Foster.

These speed cameras will slow traffic on Foster Avenue, where a group of residents recently banded together as A New Foster Avenue and called on the Chicago Department of Transportation to improve safety. Marked crosswalks are provided at only some of the intersections on Foster, and in the one mile between Pulaski Road and Cicero Avenue, there are only two signalized intersections where residents can get to the park. While the cameras are no substitute for the physical street design changes that residents want to see, they will make it safer to access the park from the neighborhood.

Speed camera near Gompers Park
Signs were also posted on side streets.
Speed camera near Gompers Park
The Foster speed camera monitors westbound traffic.
  • Ryan Lakes

    I really like that this is proven elsewhere to reduce speeding and injuries.

    I love how this should increase public desire for roadways to be designed for the maximum speeds allowed, enabling road dieting and complete street projects to get more support.

    “We wouldn’t be getting these tickets if you would just narrow the lanes and build pedestrian bump-outs!!”

  • Ryan Lakes

    “It’s not fair! My car is built for speed, man! Add some raised cross walks and throw in a chicane or two while your at it! I can’t take all of these fines and insurance hikes!”

  • Ryan Lakes

    But few people know about road-speed design. They just assume managing their speed is only under their own control, and yeah, anyone could floor it at any time not matter what, but… there should be initiatives to educate people about how narrower roads, etc. naturally reduces driving speeds so that they know what to ask for.

  • Jon

    I’ve personally seen one car crashed into a house on this stretch. I’m sure there were more. We need more of these cameras and they need to be in operation 24 hours.

  • The other road design modifications that can be made to reduce speed are described in Chicago’s first-ever pedestrian plan and in the Complete Streets Design Guidelines.

    I’d like to see CDOT do a more scientific study of the outcomes of these speed mitigation techniques in comparison to speed cameras. For example, the cited study from Washington, D.C., looked at comparable streets in Baltimore where speed cameras had not been installed. One of the study’s aims was to look at the effect of speed cameras on citywide speeds, not just where speed cameras had been installed.

    CDOT could install speed cameras on one part of Foster Avenue and a road diet on another part of Foster Avenue (or a comparable street) to see if the road diet and speed cameras have similar outcomes.

    You can guess which speed mitigation technique is cheaper, though…

  • The proposal had always been to run the speed cameras at times when children (minors) were likely to be present, so that’s why they only operate during park hours and during school hours.

    However, the cameras will be recording video 24/7 for surveillance purposes. This is why some aldermen voted against the speed camera-enabling ordinance, 33-14. This ordinance had the biggest opposition I’ve ever seen in my 7 short years in Chicago.

  • Brian

    Are you sure it only monitors westbound traffic? When I was driving through there last night as fast as I could (50-60), it was flashing as I went in each direction. I really question how it can distinguish between cars in each lane. We’re just supposed to “trust” that they are accurate.

    Also, the state law requires that they are calibrated WEEKLY. Who wants to guess how quickly it will be discovered that these aren’t being calibrated weekly.

  • Chicagio

    I believe the law you’re referring to applies only to police officer speed radars. The city is handing out tickets not because they’re violating the state motor vehicle code but as an administrative violation. It’s the same thing as the red light cameras. Since they can’t tell who is driving the vehicle, they hand out a ticket to the owner of the car.
    Also, in addition to the still-frame photography (hence the flashes) most of these have lower-quality video camera so they can review violations before they’re automatically sent out.

  • When I was there, it seemed to only flash for cars being driven westbound. The graphic on CDOT’s website shows that the camera points to a car’s rear.

    Also, not everyone drives with a front license plate.

  • Brian

    Click on the pdf, read page 18

    http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=097-0672

    This equipment needs to be tested weekly

  • Brian

    good point- you’re probably correct, but then why was it flashing when I was heading eastbound? I would call that inaccurate.
    Now, when I was heading northbound on pulaski, again, speeding, it did not go off, so that one seems to be operating correctly.

  • Ever since we moved here, I’ve thought it really odd that the riverside bike path ends up in Eugene Field Park, then there’s a little gap and wonderful trails in the part of Gompers Park that’s west of Pulaski and south of Foster, and then the trails pick up again north of Foster at the west end of the south-of-Foster chunk of Gompers … with no sign whatsoever of what slow cyclists or pedestrians (or kids) are supposed to do to get from one part to another. Especially with the park and trails so very sunken below road level, my pipe dream has been a pedestrian underpass just east of the field house on Foster, with a tunnel like they have under Lake Shore Drive, but I presume that would be prohibitively expensive.

    Some kind of explicit, clearly designed “and then the trail climbs the hill towards Foster and crosses the street in a nice, defined, sheltered way before continuing west and north” physical enablement is necessary here. The speed cameras are really for the sake of the people in North Mayfair who live across Foster from the park and forest preserve, not for people coming from the east through the trails system.

  • It flashes at cars that have *already* passed the camera pole, so when you pass the camera pole going eastbound, it may be flashing for a car that you had passed prior to reaching the camera pole.

  • I was looking at the satellite view of where the camera is and it appears there are trails that lead to Foster along the river but don’t cross Foster. The southern one hits a fence (although it seems there’s an opening right by where the bridge begins).

    Here: https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zn8j3LRYcVTw.k6r_VAs1K8Lg

  • Brian

    i see, so it must have been flashing for cars the were heading westbound as I was heading eastbound.
    It’s important to know which directions one can speed and not get caught.
    Thankfully my daily commute no longer involves heading westbound on Foster, as it did 10 years ago. That’s a great stretch to really move.

  • Right where you’ve drawn that southern green line, the grass between there and Foster is about 15deg off vertical — that’s embankment. There’s a dirt desire-path continuing the line you can see on that Google image (which is also trampled dirt, not paved) over to the north of the baseball field and connecting to the actual sidewalk, which is the only non-hiking-vertically way out of that end of Gomper’s.

    Which is why a tunnel right there (through the vertical walls of grass on either side of Foster) seems so logical to me — my grandparents lived at 2130 N Lincoln Park West my whole childhood, so I’m very familiar with all the underpass tunnels around that part of Lincoln Park, by the Shakespeare statue and so on. :->

    When I’m doing a long walk westward from the river trail, I come over on Carmen to Springfield (where you can’t cut through those parking lots — 6′ iron fences that my activist mom used to call ‘rape traps’ around all of them), up to Foster cautiously on the sidewalks across Pulaski and then a quite long walk southwards across the river bridge to get on trails (and under cooling shade!) again. Then out of Gompers at the northwest corner of the park, walk along Foster on the sidewalk some more to the signal at Tripp, and into the path system.

    Google imagery really flattens the contour around there; north of Foster, there’s a 20-30′ dropoff right past the tree line except right at the field house.

  • Looking at your map in more detail, that’s a good spot for the speed camera, but a better one would be around Kenneth — I regularly see cars breaking above 50 there (when I am in my car doing 30 and they power around past me on the right for Going Far Too Slow). Most of the pedestrians who try to cross to the park WANT to cross somewhere between Kenneth and Kildare, because of the playground; they either have to play lifesize Frogger with the speeders or walk way out of their way to the traffic light at Tripp, which is in REALLY a stupid place from the point of view of desire-paths and how people actually use the park.

  • Chicagio

    Thanks for the reference.

  • The signs that say “photo enforced” are posted in both directions. I don’t know why if photo enforcement only happens in the westbound direction.

  • Ryan Lakes

    But which speed mitigation technique ‘creates more jobs’?
    ..vs. costs individuals more in fees?

  • Anonymous

    The usage of the trail in Labagh Woods might further increase once the planned extension of the NBT is complete in summer of next year. Today, a lot of traffic, once coming of the trail uses Bryn Mawr to go east.

    http://chi.streetsblog.org/2013/01/23/branching-out-the-north-branch-trail-to-extend-further-south-east/

    Also, the neighborhood group is in conversation with the alderman to make additional improvements to Foster, but I don’t believe an underpass is part of the conversation

  • Anonymous

    These are not your father’s speed cameras. They can track the speed of up to 20 vehicles simultaneously. So they should be able to figure out which vehicle is speeding and which not.

  • Anonymous

    Cheaper for who?
    The city, or individual drivers?

  • Well, right now the trail along the North Branch doesn’t connect to the northbound spur trails at all (unless you ride in the lane in Foster for a good long while), so an underpass, while it would be my SELFISH favorite, serves a minority of the people wanting to access the part of Gompers north of Foster, especially the playground and ballfields. There isn’t even a paved path from the picnic grove area over into LaBagh woods at all (though there are lots of trampled desire-paths crossing or using the railroad right-of-way, which hopefully will get Rails-to-Trails-ed soonish).

    Long-term, a road-diet-type reengineering of Foster between Kolmar and Keeler is a better investment, and makes clear to the drivers that they are passing through a RESIDENTIAL neighborhood, not using a freeway.

  • Anonymous

    That link to A New Foster Avenue is mostly a political discussion, strongly opposing Ald. Laurino and anything she does.

    Also, I can understand the “photo enforced” signs, and how complaints could be made if they weren’t posted. But what prevents these signs from being posted on other streets as well, where no cameras are located. How could drivers complaint about that?

  • The cried-wolf effect would diminish the usefulness of the signs and cameras if fake signs went up everywhere.

    However, people who aren’t speeding have no need to worry about it. :->

  • Anonymous

    The Weber Spur (the railroad you mention) is scheduled to be turned into a trail from Elston to Lincolnwood in 2016 or later.
    I am looking forward to that too. It will connect the NBT extension with Bryn Mawr, meaning that you can take the NBT from 4300 W Bryn Mawr all the way to the botanic garden.

  • The bonus to me personally of the Weber Spur getting properly trail-ized is being able to walk or bike from my house (Wilson/Pulaski) to the Whole Foods up at Cicero and Peterson with greater convenience. :->

  • Anonymous

    That was my point – posting the signs everywhere would discourage speeding everywhere – and not just discourage speeding where the cameras are located!

  • Yes, but if people didn’t actually get tickets from them they’d start ignoring them the second week — the point of the cameras is actually getting tickets to speeders consistently and in a timely fashion (something the CPD hasn’t had manpower to bother with for a decade or more).

  • david p.

    Posting the signs where speed cameras are not present are against federal law concerning the placement of traffic control devices.

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t know that. Can you quote me the law, or give me the citation?

  • LeeStar

    I’m reading that politicians are skirting these red light cameras and speed cameras because their plate numbers are being kept out of the DMV data base so when it looks for a plate number and it’s not in the DMV data base there is no citation issued.

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