Cardenas at today’s protest. Photo: 12th Ward
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. About a year ago, Citzens to Abolish Red Light Cameras collaborated with 12th Ward aldermanic challenger Pete DeMay on a protest against new speed cams on the 3200 block of South Archer in McKinley Park neighborhood, near the Mulberry Park green space. The demonstration was partly targeted at incumbent alderman George Cardenas, who voted in favor of Chicago’s speed camera ordinance. Cardenas won reelection last winter, and this morning he joined forces with CARLC to hold a second protest against the Mulberry cams.
In Chicago, speed cameras don’t require drivers to go anywhere near the speed limit. The city currently only issues tickets for violations of 10 mph or more over the posted limit, which is usually 30 mph. Studies show that while pedestrians struck at 30 mph usually survive, those stuck at 40 mph or higher almost always die.
Therefore, it would actually make sense to lower the 10 mph threshold but, due to pushback on the cams, it’s unlikely the city will do that anytime soon. Still, many local drivers have bristled at the notion that they should have to pay more attention to their speedometers.
The Mulberry speed cams are particularly controversial because the park is a relatively small green space that’s visible, but not conspicuous, from Archer. Therefore, CARLC has argued that the city installed the cameras in an effort to raise revenue, not improve safety.
Last year’s protest included supporters of Cardenas’ opponent, Pete DeMay. Photo: John Greenfield
However, since state law dictates that speed cams can only be installed within an eighth-mile of parks and schools and parks, it’s likely that the city’s main motivation for installing these cams was to address crashes on Archer and nearby Ashland Avenue. Mulberry Park’s safety zone, the one-eighth-mile buffer around a park or school, was in the top ten percent of Chicago safety zones for crashes, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation. Between 2009 and 2012, there were 214 crashes near the park, including six causing serious injury or death. In 68 of these collisions, speeding was a factor, and 47 of the crashes involved children.
While he was being targeted by the anti-cam crowd, Cardenas launched his own assault against Mulberry cams. He put up an online survey asking constituents whether the cameras should be relocated or removed. Unsurprisingly, since many of the the respondents were likely drivers who had been caught speeding, 65 percent said the cams should be eliminated. Emboldened, Cardenas proposed the novel idea of bulldozing the park, so that CDOT would be legally required to take down the cams.