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Archer Avenue Motorists Upset They Can’t Drive as Fast as They Want

mulberry park speed camera
Speeding was a factor in 32 percent of crashes within 1/8 mile of Mulberry Playlot Park. Map: CDOT

Some motorists are complaining about a new speed camera along the busy 3200 block of Archer Avenue in McKinley Park. The accusations of a "speed trap" focus on the camera's location, which is not immediately adjacent to the small park that, under Chicago's "safety zones" rules, justifies the camera's placement. But the camera is located in a part of Chicago where speeding is endemic and crashes are frequent.

CDOT spokesperson Pete Scales said that the Mulberry Playlot Park safety zone was ranked in the top 10 percent of safety zone locations "in terms of priority for needed safety improvements," placing it 135th out of 1,500 citywide. Within the 1/8 mile buffer around the park, 32 percent of crashes from 2009 to 2012 involved a speeding driver, and 22 percent -- 47 crashes -- involved children.

DNAinfo recently interviewed a few people who feel they should be able to drive as fast as they want on Archer Avenue and reported that 12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas wants to relocate or remove the speed enforcement camera. They are missing the point of automated speed enforcement.

Cardenas, who has also opposed street changes that would improve travel times for Ashland bus riders, told DNAinfo, "There's no reason why the camera should be there. It's a stretch to call [Mulberry] a park."

Mulberry Park Playlot
Alderman Cardenas says this is not a park. Image: Google Street View

Mulberry Playlot is indeed a park, with a playground, swings, and a water feature, all surrounded by residences. It's also the only children's play area for several blocks around.

The motorists complaining that they can no longer speed with impunity also seem to be blind to the park's presence. Lupe Castillo posted a video to her Facebook page saying she couldn't find a park near the new camera. "The only park that I know around here, closest to here, is McKinley Park, which is almost two miles away," she said in the video.

Castillo said she thinks that the visual presence of a park will automatically slow drivers, but that's not the case. Streetsblog's analysis of the speed camera next to Senn Park and Gompers Park have amply demonstrated that. Speed cameras have also been shown to reduce motorist speeding beyond the immediate area they monitor, which means people crossing not only Archer but other streets to get to the Mulberry Playlot will benefit from slower-moving cars.

Because of the gloomy streetscape and fast traffic, it's no wonder that DNAinfo said they "tried to interview some pedestrians for their reaction, but couldn't find any." Bringing the prevailing speed down closer to 25 mph will increase the livability for residents and workers along Archer.

The city continues to phase in the speed cameras and is only citing motorists driving 35 mph or faster here -- state law allows citations to start at six mph over the speed limit, but the city is only issuing fines to drivers who exceed the limit by 10 mph or more

While the city's framing of the speed camera program has been problematic – reduced speeding is good for everyone, not just children – this speed camera location is not.

And to his credit, Cardenas has asked CDOT for a speed camera on Ashland Avenue. The agency is currently evaluating it. The CDOT-provided crash map above shows many crashes happen on Ashland as well.

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