Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Speed Camera Enforced"

Could signs like these soon be rising in neighborhoods across St. Louis? STL Rising hopes so.

Reducing speeding traffic on residential streets has been a long time effort here at STL Rising. The host of this blog has served as a St. Louis regional contact for the Keep Kids Alive - Drive 25 program for almost ten years.

Just this week we received a telephone call from a nice lady in University City interested in bringing the KKA - Drive 25 program to her neighborhood. Like many other concerned citizens, she and her neighbors have grown weary of distracted drivers racing down their neighborhood streets.

When the issue of dealing with speeders gets down to the block level and the nitty gritty of what works and what doesn't to slow traffic, that's where talk of controlling speeding traffic goes from someone else's idealogical conversation to the din of noisy engines, squeeling tires, and frequent distress over cars racing past your front yard.

People think controlling speeding is easy. It's not. These are real problems that have plagued neighborhoods for decades. If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times: "All you have to do is put a police officer on the block for a month and the speeding will stop."

Besides the fact that once the officer leaves, the speeding goes back to the way it was before the cop sat on the block, I have this question for those who think cops should set up speed traps to catch speeders: Do we really want the limited resources of our police departments devoted to sitting in the cars ticketing speeders?

There is technology today that does this automatically. It works and it is not prohibited in the state of Missouri. The use of speed cameras can enforce speed limits in targeted areas 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There is no constitutional protection to violate the law. If our aim is to enforce speed limits, especially on neighborhood streets, why not use the most recent technology available?


Jon said...

How about "no".

I've lived in cities (Kansas City) which set speed limits on large thoroughfares arbitrarily low in the sole effort of catching speeders. In the end, this resulted only in lining the cities coffers, and diverting speeders to other roads which were NOT intended to handle that amount of commuter traffic.

Moreover, in countries like the UK and Germany where speed cameras have become prevalent, a black market has also grown specializing in goods that are designed to defeat speed cameras. And once this market rises here, thanks to you, the drivers will be driving no slower.

So how bout this? Use speedbumps. Or better yet, move out to suburbia.

Cities are loud. They have lots of traffic. Such is life. Putting up obstacles to people's already long commute may - in the best case scenario - only divert traffic away from your street onto someone else's street. And hell, if that's all you want to do, then just put up some mistimed stoplights like they have on Delmar. That's probably why Lindell between Kingshighway and Skinker gets so much more traffic than Delmar.

Rick Bonasch said...

The technology is based on the use of video cameras. Speed is determined by how long it takes a car to pass from Point A to Point B.

The technology is not based on radar. I'd be curious how people can defeat the cameras? Put a cover over the lens maybe? Try something like that and I'm sure you'd be subject to a lot more than a $100 fine.

Re. speed bumps, they are not allowed on city streets in St. Louis. This is because of the damage they cause vehicles and the problems they create for snow removal.

Jon, what's your defense for speeders in neighborhoods?

Jon said...

From a special clear coating applied to license plates that makes it difficult to discern the actual lettering (also used to defeat red-light cameras) to simply moving license plates to heavily-tinted rear windows (that police officers would see, but not cameras) - there are a number of methods that have been used that would not raise the suspicion of Police, or would at least save them from getting points on their license.

Maybe a move to repeal the speed bump prohibition would be a better choice.

I have no defense for speeders on residential streets that are not intended for traffic. I simply would prefer a practical measure that actually slows drivers down over something like speed cameras which lets the offender continue their possibly dangerous behavior while simply netting the city more cash.

That said, I would hope that a decrease in speed limit in residential neighborhoods be met with an INcrease in speed limits on major streets. For example, when it comes to speed limits, there's no reason for me to use McCausland (a heavily traveled 4-lane road) over any other residential street nearby, as both speed limits are posted at 30mph. Most traffic along McCausland actually travels at about 40mph because most drivers find that 40mph is the more reasonable speed. fear that people like yourself would want to put up speed cameras on streets like that eventually, because after all it IS technically a "residential" street, although it has numerous stoplights and carries a lot of traffic. And don't get me started on the speed-trap that is Manchester east of Hanley.

Rick Bonasch said...


Thanks for your comments. The problem is, while you and I debate the merits and problems of speed cameras, various speed limits, and speed bumps, the speeding continues.

What I'm getting at is that there have been millions of words said on these matters, and the only that really works is speed cameras.

People facing speeding traffic on their blocks have tried various options for years and years with little if any improvement.

The pat answer is, "put a cop on the block and the speeding will stop." That sounds good, but it is not a permanent fix.

Speed bumps have been ruled out in St. Louis.

If a few people want to game the system by covering their license plates, that's a separate issue. Cops could be pulling over drivers with illegible license plates. I'm sure there are already laws against that.

My interest in this issue is to find things that work on a permanent basis.

Talking about this issue with law enforcement, I'm hearing the only thing that works is speed cameras.

Everything else is a temporary fix.

miguelito said...

Baltimore has speed bumps everywhere on its residential streets. They're very gentle bumps, though. Baltimore also uses speed strips to remind drivers they are entering an area with pedestrians. These multiple, mini-bumps don't do damage to your car, but the noise is loud enough to cause you to tap on the brakes.

Jon said...

That's the thing - I can tell you from personal experience that this is not a permanent fix. In europe, where they have mobile speed cameras, they report the exact locations on every radio stations along with other traffic news and weather. This merely makes people slow down for the 1000 yards that they're effective for, and then speed back up again afterwards. It's a temporary solution.

And it's substantially more expensive than simply changing the law on speedbumps and installing those instead. There are neighborhoods in KC that have large speedbumps that slow traffic in residential areas. Their weather isn't any different than ours (in fact, it's typically worse).

Are you proposing putting these on all streets in the city? Or just certain streets? Which streets? If you're proposing every single block of every single street, then i'd like to see the costs of this in comparison to mobile police officers (who can cover more than a single street). If you propose only certain streets, who decides who's more worthy of the speed cameras, and who gets to live with the traffic that will be redirected onto their street instead?

Speed cameras, like Red-Light cameras simply generate money, and have little to no impact on improving safety.

Rick Bonasch said...

From what I understand, the incidences of people running red lights at intersections with red light cameras are way down.

Tickets are still being issued, but at a lower rate of violations.

As far as where to install the cameras, I'd be happy with more rather than less. It's my understanding that the camera companies cover the cost of installation.

As far as the use of a gentler, kinder variety of speed bumps, if someone will post details of the product name and manufacturer, I will forward that information to the City of St. Louis Street Department and members of the Board of Aldermen.

Jon said...

The ones in Kansas City are large speed bumps - about half the length of a vehicle.

The method I would prefer to see used here, and what I've seen actually work in Europe are typically two things - sometimes used together when deemed necessary.

1. Parking on one side of the street with large planter barriers at the beginning and end of each zone, alternating on each side of the street for the length of the street. It cuts down on street parking spots, but also forces drivers to pay more attention and slow down because they have to move left and right as the parking zones change.

2. Large raised sections of the road. Typically, these will be about 30meters long, and will repeat the length of the speed zone. Car goes up, drives a bit, car goes down, drives a bit, up, down, up down.

3. Both are used simultaneously, where a raised platform will have the large planters on it and be where the alternating parking starts and stops.

Here's a VERY basic drawing:

Jon said...

further examples of effective anti-speading measures that aren't as expensive or draconian as cameras on every street, and can still be maneuvered around and over by plows:

Anonymous said...


Good for you. Stand up for law enforcement and for a better environment for pedestrians and cyclists, especially for our youth. A variety of steps need to be taken to improve conditions for our most vulnerable road users. Laws need to change, speed bumps installed, cameras used, etc to make our public streets safer and livable.

Cash strapped municipalities have little choice. Of course cameras will be preferred as they increase revenues while speed bumps only increase costs.

Rick Bonasch said...

The city doesn't have the funds to install expensive speed bumps.

If speed cameras can be had at no out of pocket cost to city taxpayers, why not use them?

Jon said...

because they're not effective at keeping EVERY street safe. It'll be just a big ugly box at the end of each street.

I'm amazed that someone supposedly so interested in urban renewal is so against a number of proven solutions that would actually solve the problem better, while beautifying the streets and neighborhoods of our city simultaneously. Instead you favor a "no cost" solution that has proven ineffective simply because it's "cheap". The "no cost" solution adds yet another eyesore to our streets, invites vandalism (are replacement cameras "free" too?), and like red-light cameras won't actually increase safety - merely city cash-flow.

What a hypocrite.

Rick Bonasch said...


For starters, it is the policy here to permit unmoderated, anonymous comments; so, you're welcome to post. However, with only your first name, I consider you an anonymous poster.

If you want to start making personal attacks by calling me a hypocrite, I may remove your posts.

However, if you want to call me a hypocrite and are willing to divulge your true identity, your posts will stand.

That said, it sounds like you're well researched in this topic and I appreciate your passion for the issue. I don't know what neighborhood you live in, what block you live on, and what your personal suffering is when it comes to speeding traffic.

I do know lots of people very personally impacted by this issue, and these struggles have continued for over 15 years in one case. Much has been tried and NOTHING has worked. I repeat, NOTHING.

Well, let me take that back. When I used to live on a block with severe speeding problems, there were times I would personally sit in the parking lane, either holding a sign or pointing a blow dryer at speeding cars, looking the driver in the eye, guilting them to slow down. That worked.

I have a proposal for you. If you are serious about making permanent, real improvement on the issue of speeding traffic, contact me and I will introduce you to people who are currently WORKING on this issue.

You can reach me via email

Chris said...

That crap you spray on license plates to prevent speed or red light cameras doesn't work--trust me. I coated my license plates with the stuff and still got speeding ticket from a camera.

Jon said...

Speeding really doesn't affect me personally. I'm just tired of people thinking that cameras and sensors, etc.. will fix their problems (whether they be crime, speeding, or running lights), even though other proven, practical measures exist.

Maybe the various things that have been tried in the United States have failed because they were simply flawed from the start. I would highly advise you or any other person interested in controlling speeding to visit Europe and simply see how they've combated the problem with low technology. They have simply used basic physics to control the problem, and it works. It has worked for decades.

It may not have the shine and luster of a spiffy overpriced camera that really only returns a profit for the camera maker - but I can assure you it works and I have never, EVER seen it used in the United States. On the other hand, I have seen speed cameras used in Europe which typically just result in vandalism. Spray paint is cheap.

While calling you a hypocrite was uncalled-for, I do have to question your objectivity on the matter. I have grown extremely weary about anyone claiming they have a "no cost" solution to any problem. Especially when I've seen that the "no-cost solution" really isn't a solution at all. At best it redirects speeders to other neighborhoods, and at worst it incentivizes cities to set up speed traps all over town with the sole purpose of trying to raise money.

Rick Bonasch said...

I have visited Europe and have family in Germany who drove me down 12-foot wide streets through low density neighborhoods at probably 90 miles per hour in their Mercedes coupe.

Since you're not personally affected by speeding, it's interesting that you have such a problem with the people who are affected by it trying to do something about it.

I offered you an invitation to get involved which you did not acknowledge. Posting comments on a website does not equate to action. People might read them, but the comments by themselves don't do anything.

Step away from the computer, meet with neighborhood representatives, share your expertise in person, provide cost estimates and financing plans and then you become a true partner.

My offer for cooperation stands. And it extends to anyone else intersted in working on this issue.

Lots of others are working on the issue. If you want to be part of the solution, there are people eager to work with you.

In fact, that volunteer community spirit is one of the things that makes St. Louis a good place.

Jon said...

Hell, I can't even convince you to support the extremely low cost option of getting the city to revise its anti-speedbump/strip rules, so that they can install speed strips (which is cheaper than my proposed alternative, and more effective than cameras).

I have found that active involvement with politicians results in little change. Plus, what would a politician say when comparing your plan for "no-cost" cameras vs a project which would be effective and beautify the city, but come at a cost?

They'll go with the ineffective no-cost option any day. Why? Because they're politicians and they prefer people to feel safer on the cheap rather than actually being safer at a cost. It gets them votes.

As for your comment about me having a problem with those affected by speeding - please do not put words in my mouth. I only have a problem with people who would rather waste their time on ineffective measures that are "no cost" (like a Kia for "zero-down") rather than proven effective solutions - simply because one has a clear price, while the other simply hides its costs.

After living in Germany for 5 years, I can confirm your point with regards to speeding in neighborhoods. I never said that every neighborhood in Europe had these measures. However, Germans are impatient people. This is why the methods that I've seen work in that country should carry some weight.

Rick Bonasch said...

Thanks for thinking that anything I have to say about this matters. That's not how it works.

Blogs don't change things - people do. And in St. Louis, it's organizations that matter.

Good ideas need to be embraced by the organizations that make things happen.

In St. Louis, those are community organizations. Elected officials work with community organizations.

Without organizational support, good ideas go nowhere.

Good ideas, on the other hand, can get organizational support. If they can't, then they're probably not very good ideas.