Speed cameras can reduce speeding and collisions while simultaneously bringing in funds to make permanent physical safety improvements to streets. And they can do all this without involving an armed police officer, sidestepping the issue of biased policing. Or at least, that’s how it is supposed to work.
Whose Streets? Our Streets! is “a BIPOC-focused workgroup” that Seattle Neighborhood Greenways convened in 2020 to “use a pro-equity, anti-racist framework to review laws and practices related to transportation in Seattle,” according to the group’s press release (see full text below or in this PDF). They are “asking the City of Seattle to put the brakes on expanding its automated speed camera program until critical equity issues are resolved.”
The problem is that biased policing isn’t the only source of injustice baked into our city. Communities of color are also more likely to live near streets with high rates of speeding dues to a long list of historical injustices such as redlining, segregation and so-called “urban renewal” projects like freeways and their related high-traffic collector roads. At the same time, our city and state departments of transportation have historically neglected to make street safety improvements in communities of color.
The result is that communities of color are more likely to have streets designed to encourage speeding, such as streets with too many lanes that are too wide. These are the kinds of streets most likely to give out automated speeding tickets, which means that a disproportionate share of speed camera tickets end up going to people of color. It’s a classic example of trying to create a “color-blind” system that actually just reinforces existing inequities. Instead, it will take intention to craft a speed camera policy that is both effective and fair.
Whole Streets? Our Streets! has produced a report documenting the problem and suggesting ideas (PDF). More details from their press release:(more…)