Today’s Headlines

  • Tribune: New Study Proves Red Light Cams Don’t Improve Safety. Actually, They Do.
  • Emanuel Wants to Introduce His Own Ordinance to Codify Privatization Process (Sun-Times)
  • Broadway Named One of USA’s Best PBLs of 2014 (RedEyeChicagoist)
  • City Debuts an Online Map of Residential Parking Zones (DNA)
  • Emanuel Halts Rent-Free Use of City Land by United Center Parking Companies (Sun-Times)
  • Ice on the Ohio Feeder Ramp Leads to Crashes (CBS)
  • Service Disruptions on the Green Line This Wekend for Cermak Station Construction (DNA)
  • MPC Celebrates Its 80th Birthday
  • A Look at Chicago’s “Crash and Grab” Burglary Epidemic (ABC)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Pat

    Re: Red Light Cameras

    I wholeheartedly agree that they save lives, which is the most important thing. What I don’t understand is why the city doesn’t moderately increase the yellow-light if that is what helps save lives. Keep the cams but help your credibility here.

    Same goes for speed cameras. I do believe they are effective at reducing speeding, but when you fail to put them in obvious places like Cannon in Lincoln Park or Clark Street by the Zoo, you undermine your whole argument.

  • Chris Chaten

    Speed cameras, which the other link primarily tracks, are wholly different from red light cameras.
    Red light cameras make drivers slam on the brakes when they otherwise wouldn’t. Speed cameras don’t have a corresponding safety hazard. And yes, making yellow lights shorter hurts everyone, particularly cyclists who take longer to get through the intersection.

  • Considering the tribune article spent several paragraphs talking about how serious and scientific of a study it was, there are some rather obvious questions that seemed untouched…

    – For an article about “safety” there is very little mention of safety to people and plenty of discussion about the cost of damage to cars. The study found a decline in T-bone accidents as well as an increase in rear-end accidents. Isn’t that substituting a less threatening accident type for a more dangerous one? Both may cause injuries but I’d rather have the soft-tissue neck damage of a rear-ending instead of injuries caused by a T-bone (like death?). They should include stats on fatalities, hospitalizations, and some grading of the severity of the injuries.

    – Maybe this is included in their study, maybe not, it’s not mentioned… I know the tribune likes to pretend that drivers are the only users of roads but there should be some discussion of the safety to pedestrians and bikers.

    – They do not address the behavior changing effects that red light cameras (or any form of law enforcement) can have. By only studying intersections with the cameras, they discount drivers being more cautious at non-camera intersections because of the threat of a ticket. They even mention the overall decline in traffic accidents in their article, but the study should have addressed how cameras may change behavior at all intersections and their role in the overall decline in accidents.

    – The article is written in a way where people that are in rear-end accidents at camera intersections are portrayed as victims. The following car in that
    situation is still guilty of a moving violation. A law is still being broken. The real story (although one the tribune would never write) is that there are a lot of unsafe drivers. Even the car that is stopping short/slamming on their brakes is not operating their vehicle safely because drivers should be proceed with caution at intersections and be ready to stop.

    In the end, I’m not sure what the tribune’s point is with this vendetta against traffic law enforcement. Are red light cameras imperfect? No doubt, but how else would they suggest these laws be enforced? Should drivers be allowed to run red lights? An article written about the leading non-natural cause of death ought to be written with a bit more purpose rather than for the cheap thrill of trolling the masses in a tired Chicago trope about disingenuous politicians.

    Edit: Just to make sure I didn’t miss something, I confirmed that the word “death” only appears once in their article, in a quote by Rebecca Scheinfeld. The word “fatality” does not appear. This was a study about safety, right? ;-)

  • Ryan Wallace

    The Tribue article is entrenched in the old auto-dominated and old-school engineering worlds.

    – Even if the increase in rear end collisions produce more “injury” crashes, they fail to acknowledge that the intersection may still be safer. We have finally begun to learn that crashes are not wholly about rates, its about quality not quantity. A rear-end collision is always preferable to a right angle crash, even a rear-end that does cause injury is prefereable to a right angle that does not; because it’s preferable to have a collision that has a lower likelihood of *serious* injury or death.

    – Longer yellows are not inherently safer. Feel free to post as many studies as you want that may point towards the opposite, but all you are doing is repeating the same mistakes we have been making for decades now. Longer yellows fall into the same category as wider lanes, wider shoulders, wider clearzones, etc. All these things do technically increase the safety *for drivers*, they do so by being overly forgiving. This overly forgiving design is what leads to streets that vehicles are allowed to travel higher speeds that the limit *by design*, which makes them unsafe for everyone that is not in a vehicle.

  • Chris Chaten

    I prefer longer yellows on bike. Gives me time to get through the intersection. Short yellows often aren’t long enough for a casual cyclist to cross before the light flips.

  • Runthelight

    so funny, the Tribune could report that the sky is blue, and people here would argue and argue that the sky is red. You people are really unbelievable – you think rear-end crashes are ok? You don’t understand basic physics and traffic engineering?
    red light cameras have NOTHING to do with safety, and were solely brought to Chicago to generate revenue, which is why federal charges were brought against redlfex and city officials.
    But again, people here would still believe they mayor or anyone at the city cared about safety.

  • Pat

    I never claimed that the were the same or involved the same risks, but are instead just decried as a money-making program by the city. The city should counter these criticism by closing the holes in their argument that both are for above all, safety.

  • Pat

    Yah. I don’t know if they are safer or not. If people know its a longer yellow are they more likely to speed through it?

    I would think having greater lag time between opposite light cycles would be pretty effective at reducing t-bone crashes too.

  • Ryan Wallace

    Understandable, but this is a completely separate discussion regarding how signalized intersection work for and treat cyclists.

  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, both rear and side/angle impacts each account for 30% of all collisions. However, rear impact collisions only account for 5% of all traffic deaths while side/angle impact collisions account for 20% of all traffic deaths. No accident is preferable but rear impact collisions are the “safer” accident.

    Edit: Just an FYI, run-off road collisions account for 16% of all accidents but cause a leading 32% of traffic deaths.

  • Chris Chaten

    Agree. The city does itself no favors by gaming the system to increase violations. It mixes the message. Priority should be safety, and fines/revenue are methods of enforcement. When they implement policies that first aim to collect revenue and involves a level of deciept (short yellows) , there’s a valid claim that it’s just a nuisance tax.

  • Why is it that “safety” is always raised up the poll as the highest-level concern and transportation investment priority, yet the actual expenditures we make overwhelmingly perpetuate reliance on the most dangerous mode?

    From 2000 – 2009, driver/passenger fatalities (per billion passenger-miles) were over *30 times higher* for cars/small trucks than those for urban mass transit.

    Meanwhile, the Tribune focuses on yellow light timing . . . and we keep building more road capacity.

  • BillD

    Streetsblog headline: “Tribune: New Study Proves Red Light Cams Don’t Improve Safety”

    Tribune headline: “Tribune study: Chicago red light cameras provide few safety benefits” (Note that article authors are not headline writers)

    My summary based on reading the article: “Chicago red light cameras provide mixed safety benefits”

    Clearly the city has abused statistics to make its points. Who would guess that they might do something like that?

    It seems just as clear, the advice to completely review the program is in order.

    Advice to red light camera lovers (and haters) – when a reasonable study conflicts with your beliefs, you might want to examine your own level of certainty.

  • Anne A

    There’s a valuable bit of little-known information that’s not even touched in the Trib piece. If you are hit by a driver at a location with red light cameras, video from those cameras may be very important in identifying the vehicle if it’s a hit & run, or may clearly show the driver to be at fault, making your case in an insurance claim.

  • Chris Chaten

    Even for cars, this isn’t about what I think works. There are formulas for safe yellow light durations. At 30 mph, a standard intersection should be at about 3.2 seconds. The goal is to limit folks running red lights, not game motorists into tickets.

    For reference:


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