Speed Camera Cut Dangerous Speeding Next to Senn Park By 73%

Senn Park & High School speed camera
Cameras have tamed what had been an epidemic of 40+ mph speeding next to the “Young Lincoln” park, along Ridge at Clark and Thorndale in Edgewater.

Fast times on Ridge Avenue, in front of Senn High School, are now over: The speed camera that CDOT installed in front of Senn Park has sharply cut the number of speeders cruising at a dangerous 40+ mph. Right after the camera was first installed, roughly seven out of 1,000 drivers received an official mailed warning for driving more than 10 mph above the speed limit. After the camera had been on for 44 days, it finally began issuing citations but sent tickets to fewer than two out of every 1,000 drivers.

While researching street conditions on Ridge Avenue for an upcoming article Streetsblog crunched the numbers from the first days of Senn Park’s speed camera, to see whether it was working. The change was startling: During the 30-day initial warning period, 6,725 vehicles received warnings for driving more than 10 mph over the speed limit – but in the first 30 days of live citations, only 1,811 vehicles were ticketed. That’s a 73 percent drop in the number of dangerously speeding drivers. That rate remained the same well into the camera’s second month of issuing citations.

Ridge Avenue is subject to the citywide speed limit of 30 mph, and the speed camera only monitors traffic during park hours, which are from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Although Illinois law allows citations for drivers going 6 or more mph over the speed limit, CDOT currently only issues warnings or citations when its cameras see a car exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph or more. Since Ridge at this location is within a school zone, with a speed limit of 20 mph when children are present between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., the camera could also enforce that lower limit.

Streetsblog followed up with our own speed survey of our own, training our radar gun just south of the camera at Wayne Avenue – and found that although the camera may have tamed truly dangerously high speeds, drivers are still going too fast on this block. Wayne is right where drivers see “SAFETY ZONE” painted across each lane, but before where the speed camera monitors northwest-bound cars.

During one weekday rush hour, 35 out of 195 drivers in the curbside lane over 15 minutes – 18 percent – were exceeding the 30 mph speed limit. None of these drivers were going fast enough to trigger the camera, and thus a ticket, but all of them were still putting pedestrians at risk. Had any of them happened to crash into a pedestrian at those speeds, the pedestrian would probably have died: a majority of people hit by cars at 30 mph live, while 80 percent of those hit at 40 mph die.

Correction: The number of drivers observed speeding was misreported. 18 percent of drivers were clocked speeding, not 68 percent. I regret the error.

  • Eli N

    I used to live right on Ridge along this stretch (and am still only a few blocks away), and it really is awful. There are marked crosswalks across Ridge at Wayne and at Ardmore but they are completely ignored by drivers. At Ridge and Hollywood, there is a light, but inexplicably there is only a crosswalk over Ridge at the southest side of the intersection–so if you need to get from the north corner of Ridge/Hollywood to the southwest side of Ridge you have to wait through two full light cycles (and the light cycles at this light are extremely slow).

    Several years ago the former alderman, Mary Ann Smith, proposed adding street parking on Ridge between Broadway and Clark and reducing traffic to three lanes; in the morning there would be two eastbound lanes (for traffic going to LSD) and in the afternoon one would switch to be a westbound lane. The primary purpose of this plan was traffic-calming, and it was supposed to be accompanied by bumpouts and so on to make it easier for pedestrians to get across. Sadly, residents on the neighboring streets were strongly opposed to it out of fear that traffic would end up cutting through side streets. Seemed misguided to me, as all the side streets nearby are riddled with speed humps and, anyway, none of them make very good routes to get from I-94 to Lake Shore Drive or vice versa, as Ridge does. But at that point I think Smith had already decided she wasn’t going to run again and didn’t have much appetite for taking on that opposition, so the plan just got dropped. It’s unfortunate, because the heavy traffic on Ridge really divides Andersonville from north Edgewater in a way that is harmful to both.

  • I’ll be incorporating this history into my upcoming article about the street life (or lack there of) on Ridge in relation to the its heavy car traffic attribute.

    Only one intersection got bumpouts, at Glenwood, but these aren’t the kinds of bumpouts that are most needed at this intersection to make it easier for pedestrians to cross. The need is to cross Ridge, not Glenwood – which already has a light so it’s not as much of a problem here.

    Did you know that Ridge once had three lanes in one direction and one lane in the opposite direction up until 1991?

  • Fred

    How did affect safe speeding?

  • Barnet Fagel

    Was this data collected and analyzed by someone with traffic engineering experience ?

  • hello

    This is great news!

  • Brian

    Are you kidding? Another hack-job of a story by someone who likely isn’t trained to use water gun, let alone a radar gun.
    So I guess less than 1% of cars speeding represents an epidemic?

    Steve- get over yourself. When I drive past a speed camera- I slow down, then punch it once I pass it. Speed cameras will not cure this “epidemic”. How can you even write something like that and keep a straight face! Incredible!
    Thankfully there has been enough heat and light on the so-called safety cameras, that we’ll likely see city council work to end the programs, and hopefully a republican governor work to make it illegal to use cameras to enforce laws!
    And just think, Steve, then you can do stories about how traffic slowed, and now cars are speeding again!

  • Brian

    Thank god the neighborhood had their wits about then and opposed that plan!

    So how do you propose cars speeding down Ridge suddenly stop when YOU want to enter a crosswalk?

    How is it that children can safely cross the street, yet adults seem to have such a problem with it?

  • Alicia

    During one weekday rush hour, 134 out of 195 drivers in the curbside lane over 15 minutes – 68 percent – were exceeding the 30 mph speed limit.

    “Exceeding” is nonspecific. 31 mph is exceeding, but makes very little difference in safety. How fast were these people going?

  • Alicia

    So how do you propose cars speeding down Ridge suddenly stop when YOU want to enter a crosswalk?

    We don’t propose you “suddenly stop.” We propose you don’t speed in the first place. If you’re driving at the proper speed, slowing down at a crosswalk should be no problem.

  • Alicia

    When I drive past a speed camera- I slow down, then punch it once I pass it.

    People with driving habits like yours are the reason speed cameras are necessary. I hope you get your license suspended soon.

  • “So I guess less than 1% of cars speeding represents an epidemic?”

    The epidemic was that 7 out of 1000 drivers had been speeding over 40 mph — more than 10 mph over the speed limit and fast enough that if they struck a pedestrian, the person would almost certainly die. 68 percent of drivers are still speeding, at over 30 mph.

  • duppie

    Best to ignore Brian. He is Streetblog’s resident curmudgeon. Whenever Streetsblog writes about speed cameras or red light cameras, Brian shows up to comment. But I’ve found that he doesn’t add much to the discussion.

  • Exceeding is quite specific. It means greater than the 30 mph speed limit.

    “but makes very little difference in safety”

    This isn’t the case. Increasing speed is correlated with an exponentially increasing likelihood that a person hit by a car will die. Here’s a graph and some background info.

    The same is true for vehicle driver. Higher speed, exponentially higher probability of dying in a crash. See graph:

  • I don’t have traffic engineering experience. Using an off-the-shelf radar speed gun to observe the speeds of drivers as a way to begin talking about what residents see as a problem in their neighborhoods is not something that requires such.

  • Brian

    John- please stop deleting my comments! If you can’t handle the criticism- you really shouldn’t be here
    Remember- I’m always one step ahead of you! You can try and block me all you want, but I’ll always be here!
    So just stop, ok?

  • Brian

    Wow- data from over 30 years ago. Very relevant. Cars haven’t changed at all in 30 years.

  • Eli N

    No, I didn’t know that–that’s interesting.

  • duppie

    Not sure if 30 year old data is valid in this case. Since then, improvements have been made to reduce fatalities for drivers: Airbags and active seatbelt restraints come to mind. There may be more that I am not aware of.

  • Ryan G-S

    The change from day 30 to day 31 is so striking that it makes me wonder if the conditions for issuing a warning (in days 1 through 30) were broader or looser than the conditions for issuing an actual ticket (from day 31 on).

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Almost all summer long there has been one of those flashing signs that gives drivers their speed. Probably explains why.

  • The result has held true in subsequent studies. I picked this chart because it accurately shows the exponential relationship between driving speed and likelihood of dying in a crash.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Hey, its US Route 14 aka The Ronald Regan Highway.

  • skyrefuge

    If your goal is “accurately showing the exponential relationship”, this is NOT the chart to show. It explicitly shows a polynomial function, not an exponential function (and so gives the impression that it was sloppily constructed). An exponential function has ‘x’ as the exponent. A polynomial function has an integer as the exponent. Yes, I’m being totally pedantic, but when we’re actually discussing detailed statistics, we’re in one of the few situations when pedantry is actually important! Who knows, an exponential function may have fit their data just as well, but then they should have actually shown that rather than doing this half-assed job.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Well because it is a US Route, they could not just add parking to Ridge.

    It would take not just city approval, but state and federal. Mary Ann Smith would throw these “ideas” out knowing full well they would never get approval, but then she could shrug her shoulders to her constituents and say, “well, I tried.”

    I threw in the Ronald Regan Highway just as a fun fact.

    I actually think a couple of well placed rumble strips in the road would help.

  • Dee Regulation

    In that case we should just let the free market determine the speed limit.

  • FG

    Is it actually legal to clock drivers?

  • FG

    I remember calling MAS out on stuff at a public meeting, she had to eat her words (not on this issue, but it was about Senn) so it’s likely she had no clue about regulations, etc, on her proposals.

    I don’t really see where the traffic would go, other than right down Elmdale or Thorndale – people going from West Rogers Park etc aren’t suddenly going to stop driving to Lake Shore Drive.

    I don’t remember Ridge being “reversible” back in the 80’s unless it was rush hour only.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    This was typical of MAS. She hid behind the block clubs and Edgewater community council, she let the Edgewater historic society block and stymie development, and caved to the Lakewood Balmoral crowd and allowed Broadway to be downzoned.

  • oooBooo

    looks more like the data is no longer being entered. Either that or the display for me is fubar… real data for the first 30 days then zeros….

  • oooBooo

    I would rather not crash at higher speed than crash at a lower one. While not applicable to residential streets (the speeds are too low for driver fatalities, even if technically ‘speeding’), the focus on crash severity has created problems on major roads.


  • Ken

    This is a great chart – and goes to show that speed cameras are not about safety- only revenue. Forcing people to slam on the brakes and drive erratically causes more harm than good.
    But most people here can’t connect the dots and just refuse to believe facts.

  • I came across this same chart (in more than one review/study) while I was looking for a chart to show the exponential relationship between speeding and likelihood of death.

    The conclusion from the chart and the study it’s pulled from is one reason why we have minimum speeds on highways. And you’re right that it’s not applicable to residential streets.

    So now I ask the question, what kind of street is Ridge supposed to be? Is it for getting people to and from the places on Ridge, or past them? Can a street do both?

  • oooBooo

    The most famous study is something like 50 years old now, but there were others before it and after it. Still the 85th percentile method is widely ignored.

    I am not familiar with area so I can’t say what this specific street was supposed to be, really is, or otherwise. However that question is the first one to answer when designing a roadway.

    As to being both, the present american mentality makes that impossible. That’s why there’s a road that apparently can handle 40mph, a 30mph SL (with a 20mph school zone?) and a speed camera. To get a street that is good everyone in areas like this may require designing a slower street but with good throughput via the removal of traffic control devices. I don’t know this area so this may not be the place for it, but generally speaking if you want good a-to-b traffic flow and ped safety, have the slower roads without the stop signs, stoplights, no turns, etc and so on. The result is greater throughput at lower speeds and thus lower travel times.

  • oooBooo

    People can connect the dots, but people also want that other guy busted, but not themselves. Never mind they are both over the arbitrarily low SL. Largely that’s what police do. They’ll ticket a 25 year old male driving a Camaro, but not a 45 year old woman driving a minivan the same speed on the same road at the same time of day in the same weather.

    Automated enforcement however is widely hated because it doesn’t make social distinctions.


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