Commendably, River Ward Councillor Riley Brockington has put forward a motion to take some preliminary steps to bring a bit more safety to our streets. He moved, seconded by West-Carleton March Councillor Eli El-Chantiry, that the city ask the province for permission to use photo radar as a traffic enforcement measure (basically).
In the past, Brockington has talked about speeding being a big concern for his ward, so good on him for trying to do something to address the issue.
Even though the city always touts the Three-Es of road safety (Education, Enforcement, Engineering), not all councillors are ready to sign on. Here’s Stittsville Councillor Shad Qadri (via Glen Gower):
There are many instances of well-intentioned traffic mechanisms not always operating as intended. Stop signs, for example, may effectively work to bring vehicles to lower speeds; however, reckless drivers may run through the sign, endangering the lives of pedestrians who thought it was safe to cross the street.
Help me out, is this an lol nothing matters response or a just wanting to watch the world burn response. I’d like to know just what strain of nihilism or anarchism he’s embracing as a public safety philosophy.
You see, photo radar, like stop signs, won’t stop reckless drivers, so why have ’em, amirite? And I guess we can do away with stop signs, too, and traffic lights and pretty much the entirety of the HTA. We can’t stop everyone, so why bother trying.
Thieves can pick locks, murderers can get guns, criminals gonna criminal. The law’s just a really wordy shruggie emoji.
Yes, yes, I know. You’re going to call reductio ad absurdum on me. I don’t care. Qadri’s argument is so absurd on its face, there’s really very little reductio upon which to embark.
But I don’t believe Qadri’s been flung into some sort of existential crisis about road safety and city building. That comment was really just a cover for his true intent, to protect the ability of drivers to speed with near immunity.
Likewise, photo radar’s effects may prove unpredictable. Though a speeding deterrent, it will need to be demonstrated that the immediate effects will work to actively slow down drivers rather than simply punish them long after the risk has already been incurred.
Alternatively, I will need to examine whether or not the tool can successfully compensate in the areas where police simply do not have the manpower to monitor.
Let’s take a closer look and see what he actually said in those two paragraphs.
First of all, he said, plain and simple, that photo radar is a speeding deterrent. He says the effects “may prove unpredictable” (how’s that for hedging so you don’t actually have to do anything about a serious problem?), and he tries to wave away the positive impact by writing, “Though a speeding deterrent” (emphasis mine), but it’s still clear as day. He calls it a speeding deterrent.
(I’m not sure what he means by the effects being unpredictable when he also calls it a deterrent. The degree to which it is a deterrent is unpredictable? The revenue generated is unpredictable?)
Next, he demands that the effects be “immediate”. Well, what does “immediate” mean? More importantly, why the myopic view for public safety? If it takes two years to see a noticeable decrease in dangerous driving, accidents and injuries is that okay? What if it takes five years, is it not worth it then? What a horrible perspective for our civic leaders to have.
In the final sentence of the first paragraph of that quotation, he states he doesn’t want to punish these lawbreakers “long after the risk has already been incurred”. What the hell kind of argument is this? It’s fundamentally flawed in two ways. Since when do we decide criminals and scofflaws can get away with their infractions if they’re not caught in the act? I’m starting to lean towards nihilism, here.
Worse, though, is his inability to comprehend the risk that is on our streets. An episode of dangerous driving isn’t the risk, dangerous drivers are. A dangerous driver getting away with his dangerous behaviour and pulling into his garage does not signal the end of the risk. The risk persists until that driver has his behaviour corrected or until he loses his license (or, in extreme cases, more severe punishments).
Drivers are not external to the risk they pose. They are the risk.
Finally, Qadri argues that he will need to study the issue before he can be convinced of its usefulness (even though he’s already admitted it’s a speed deterrent!). This is status quo bias mixed with a toxic driving culture.
Thankfully, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson has the information Qadri needs! The question will be, as it always is, if the politician will actually look at the evidence (via Chris Begley).
But there’s another problem with that final paragraph (I know, Qadri is a master at fitting multiple problems in a single line of text!). Brockington isn’t proposing that Ottawa use photo radar (though I assume that’s his end game). He’s proposing that Ottawa seek the ability to use photo radar.
So, Qadri isn’t saying no to photo radar with this stance. He’s saying no to even having the option…even though he claims he would support it if the evidence does (which it does!), even though he says its a speeding deterrent.
For all of these reasons, I see this entire post of Qadri’s as some epic concern-trolling. I see no reason to believe he is open to implementing photo radar. I see no reason to believe he is open to having his mind changed on the issue.
He’s protecting driving culture. Safety be damned.
(By the way, you can sign a petition to support photo radar. I did.)