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Speed cams questioned amid installation of 10,000 speed humps

Speed bump residential street 18th   S. Calumet Avenue Tuesday April 10 2012 . |  John H. White~Sun-Times.

Speed bump on residential street at 18th & S. Calumet Avenue, Tuesday, April 10, 2012 . | John H. White~Sun-Times.

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Updated: May 12, 2012 8:15AM

Chicago has installed 10,000 speed humps in streets and alleys and created 450 cul-de-sacs, 400 traffic circles and 250 “bump-out” curbs since 2005 alone — many of them near schools and parks — raising questions about why the city also needs speed cameras.

Thousands more speed bumps and cul-de-sacs were installed prior to 2005, but the city has no record of the overall number or location of those “traffic-calming devices,” according to Peter Scales, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Transportation.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley started openly touting cul-de-sacs and speed bumps in the early 1990’s.

On Wednesday, the City Council’s Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety is scheduled to vote on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to use red-light cameras and cameras concealed in vans to catch motorists who speed near schools and parks.

After learning that Chicago installed 6,000 speed humps in streets and 4,000 in alleys since 2005 alone, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) questioned the need for speed cameras.

“With the 10,000 speed humps, they were obviously spending money on it, so it has to be working. What I said to them was, show me that none of these things have worked around schools and parks and maybe you have an argument for speed cameras,” Waguespack said.

“You could use a speed camera where you have an indication that there’s speeding — on a major thoroughfare like Milwaukee or Western. But, that’s not where they’re looking.”

Before blanketing the city with cameras, Waguespack urged the mayor to experiment with “dynamic displays” that flash the speed as a motorist drives by.

“That allows you to be more mobile. Then, you’re not blanketing every school and park with a camera that doesn’t necessarily need to be there,” the alderman said.

The prevalence of speed humps around schools was evident on Wednesday, when Emanuel traveled to Disney II Magnet Elementary, 3815 N. Kedvale, to announce his revised plan for a longer school day. The school was surrounded by speed bumps that make it difficult to speed without damaging your vehicle.

Scales acknowledged that many of the speed humps installed since 2005 are located near schools and parks. But, he said that does not mean speed cameras are superfluous.

“Things like speed bumps and traffic circles and cul-de-sacs are helpful in reducing speed. They are all part our tool box in safety zones. But, there are locations in the city where it’s not practical to place them and it becomes more practical to place speed cameras,” Scales said.

“Before we make a decision about where we’re placing these traffic-calming devices, we do a comprehensive review of safety zones, including looking at existing traffic safety devices, traffic patterns and accident rates to determine what we can do to make it safer. In some of those locations, that will include speed cameras. In other locations, it won’t.”

To appease recalcitrant aldermen, Emanuel has agreed to cap the number of cameras at 360 — 20 percent of the 1,800 “eligible safety zones” — and roll back the hours they would operate around schools from 6 a.m.-to-8:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

He has also promised to issue two tiers of warnings to motorists — including an unlimited number during the first 30 days after cameras are installed and one more-per-driver after the break-in period is over.

After that, motorists caught going between six and 10 mph over the limit near schools and parks would be slapped with $50 tickets. Those who exceed the limit by 11 mph would face $100 fines.

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