The Chainlink

With today being perhaps the last sub-freezing day of winter, does today also portend unimaginable animosity between drivers and other road users (namely cyclists)?

Today begins Emmanuel-enabled and Lightfoot-enhanced ticketing by automated cameras for drivers going 6mph and higher above the speed limit. From the Chicago Tribune:

As the city prepares to start ticketing drivers in Chicago going as little as 6 mph over the posted speed limit, warnings mailed to people caught exceeding the new threshold show the change promises to be hugely lucrative for the city and a significant burden for residents already struggling to pay fines.

In the first week of the grace period that started in January, 52,498 warning notices were sent out, according to the Finance Department. The notices were intended to get people used to the fact they’re going to receive $35 tickets for being caught by any of more than 100 speed cameras around the city going from 6 to 9 mph too fast, according to the Finance Department.

Over a full year, such numbers would work out to over 2.7 million $35 tickets, with total revenue to the city of $95.5 million.

Under existing rules, cars caught by a camera going 10 mph over the limit get a $35 ticket, while those traveling 11 mph and up above the posted speed get tagged for a $100 fine.

For myself, as a driver, cyclist, taxpayer, and Chicago government skeptic, my feelings are mixed...

When Rahm installed the cameras, he could barely contain his smirk while insisting they were being instituted "for the safety of our children" (cough).

It didn't take long for my (and most people's I suspect) suspicion to be confirmed that the whole thing was drenched in "the Chicago Way" and several of the major players in the deal are currently serving prison sentences. However, the cameras still stayed....

I remember riding on some stretches of road that used to make me wince as my peripheral vision caught flashes of strobe light, but soon, speeds on those stretches came down and became more civil. But after the prison sentences were announced, it seemed to me that some of the cameras were decommissioned. Speeds increased. I saw no more flashes.


During the last year of Covid, I wondered if any of them were still on. The other day, As I drove east on Montrose from California (going 21mph) I got passed on the left, around the pedestrian island in front of the camera, and there was no flash. Has the city been keeping the cameras dormant and is going to spring them upon the populace today to maximize revenue?

Anecdotally I would estimate that 99% of Chicago drivers exceed the speed limit by more than 6mph 99% of the time. I think the city's estimate of $100 million in fines for the first year is very conservative. And with Lightfoot's decree of not suspending licenses or increasing penalities for non-payment of ticket debt, the incentive is still there to not change behavior.

But eventually, it will be time to pay the piper, and I wonder how much animosity will have built up between drivers and "you bikers who don't pay any taxes for the roads", let alone the scooters and black Divys who will probably be going faster than cars in many places and won't be subject to any fines.

At the end of the day, I think too many people drive too dangeroulsly in Chicago and fear of getting a ticket will force change in their behavior to the betterment of society. As to the notion that this is a regressive burden on those who can least afford it, I say BS. Driving safely has no socioeconomic threshold. I just wonder what other repercussions may come of this which we may later regret.

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Dirke, I  hear you and  I  suspect some drivers will think that way. I use all modes in the city.  I drive.  I use CTA and Metra. I ride. I walk. There is no question the  City of Chicago's decision to have cameras ticket drivers more than 6 mph over  the limit was not  about  safety but was about money.  All governments are hurting for money and  dreaming of ways to spend less and raise more  cash.  That being said, everybody will be safer if we all adhere to staying  within 6 mph of the  limit. I  will  eat my words when I am the only person  on  a street in a car going  35 in a 25 mph zone but hope I will  have the sense to  know my ticket is a good thing.  As for the wrath  of drivers against me when  I am on  my bike...my reaction is unprintable.  I have less than  no sympathy and will take no crap whatsoever  from them.  I will extend the same courtesy I extend to all  other users of the road and I will extend the same intolerance  for all who think they own the  road whether they are driving a BMW or a Huffy.  We are endangered by reckless,  distracted and impaired drivers. If a person has a vendetta because they do not  like the  way the  speed limit is being  enforced are they going  to drive more recklessly or  will they begin  to drive murderously? If so, there is not  much we can  do about it other  than roll out our Zombie  Apocalypse cycling maneuvers and we never  really thought those would  work...did we?

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