Ordinance introduced to allow towing bikeway blockers, speed cam vote gets deferred

A trucker blocks a bike lane on Leland Avenue in Uptown, near the site where Lily Shambrook, 3, was killed earlier this month. Photo: John Greenfield
A trucker blocks a bike lane on Leland Avenue in Uptown, near the site where Lily Shambrook, 3, was killed earlier this month. Photo: John Greenfield

A lot of transportation-related stuff happened at today’s City Council council meeting. Alderpersons, led by Ald.Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), introduced a resolution calling on the CTA to explain its plan to address unreliable service.

And after a ComEd trucker illegally parked in a bike lane in Uptown, contributing to the bike crash death of Lily Shambrook, 3, on June 9, Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) introduced an ordinance that would allow the city to tow vehicles inhibiting “the free-flow of traffic on a street path or lane designated for the use of bicycles.” Encouragingly, 45 out the fifty alders signed on to the legislation, at last count.

As for Ald. Anthony Beale’s proposal to roll back the speed camera ticketing threshold, so that drivers can do 39 mph in 30 zones – a speed at which struck pedestrians almost always die – with impunity, the meeting was a little anticlimactic.

Currently Chicago speed cams issue $35 tickets ($17.50 for low-income residents) to drivers who speed by 6 to 10 mph, and $100 fines ($50 for low-income residents) to motorists who speed by 11 mph or more. Beale’s ordinance, which calls for only ticketing drivers who speed by 10 mph or more, passed by a single vote yesterday in the City Council’s Finance Committee. The legislation needed to garner 34 votes from the full Council today to avoid a veto from Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

When it was time to discuss the ordinance, Lightfoot ally Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) discussed his reservations about becoming more lenient with speeding drivers. “Speed is not our friend… Individuals are losing their lives. Speed Kills.” He noted that Ja’Lon James, 11, was killed by a speeding hit-and-run driver last Thursday in North Lawndale.

Ervin and other allies of the mayor, then requested that Beale’s ordinance be “deferred and published,” a parliamentary procedure used to delay votes on legislation, in order to bury it, or at least buy time to persuade more alders to vote against it. “The ordinance is deferred and published,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot presides over today's Council meeting.
Lightfoot presides over today’s Council meeting.

Beale unsuccessfully tried to appeal the decision. Then he and his ally Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) retaliated by deferring and publishing every other proposed ordinance from the Finance Committee. Ald. Vasquez then said he was “thoroughly embarrassed” by Beale and Lopez’s hijinks. “I ask them to cease and desist.

After the meeting, Lightfoot’s budget office threw shade on Beale by publicizing his remarks from a 2012 hearing on speed cameras, in which he voiced support for fining drivers $35 for speeding near schools.

The exchange suggests that Lightfoot wasn’t confident that she had enough votes to kill Beale’s ordinance. The matter will likely be decided during the next Council meeting next month. Hopefully aldermen will then decide, as the Active Transportation noted in a statement this morning, “raising the ticketing threshold during the current traffic safety crisis is irresponsible.”

ATA has set up an online form where you can send an online letter to your alderperson asking them to vote against Beale’s ordinance.

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