Each day the governor's office was issuing lists of the legislation that he decided to sign or veto that day. I keep looking for AB 645 — the proposal to allow a handful of Bay Area and SoCal cities to pilot the testing of automated speed enforcement — and finally it appeared on the last list for this legislative "season." Thanks to Governor Newsom for signing the bill and approving these pilot efforts to improve traffic safety and protect those on foot and bike from speeding motorists.

Walk San Francisco issued a press release with a complete summary of their work over multiple years to get to this point and what the bill means.

While AB 645 is the only state-level transportation legislation I've blogged about, there are a couple other bills of interest to improve walking, biking, and traffic safety across California. For a useful overview, this blog post titled "2024 Legislative Recap: Big Wins for Active Transportation Slate" from the California Bicycle Coalition.

What about downsides? What about unintended consequences? Also, what about...?

To get this point of just being able to run pilot programs to test the efficacy of automated speed enforcement cameras, advocates have had to navigate through many questions about privacy and equity.

Some of those questions are certainly substantial and important (could these systems provide data to federal immigration enforcement? will the policies and penalties have a disproportionate impact on certain populations and further entrench unfairness across racial or class lines? see Walk SF's press release and past blog posts for substance on these questions) while other questions feel more like "what about this?" and "what about that?"

For example of the latter, here's an argument between Jamelle Bouie, a New York Times opinion columnist, and author Amanda Joy (as well as assorted others on the social network BlueSky) about unpaid fines for automated speed cameras in Washington, DC:

Post and replies on BlueSky on October 18, 2023
For the record, I removed access to twitter.com from all of my web browsers a few months ago. While I do miss #alamtg and a few other personal and professional connections through Twitter, it's been overall positive to get away from that "Hellsite." Currently I dip into BlueSky about once a month to get a taste of social media juice, and today just happened to be that day.

Leaving aside questions about whether these modes and styles of online argument are positive or useful for anyone involved, I do see this as a useful example of how the structural causes of our country's outrageous rate of serious injuries and deaths on roadways are extremely hard to describe and discuss. There are many ways to misinterpret, many byways to go down that may be somewhat genuine but also take us all further from practical solutions.

Are nearby hospitals with trauma centers more important than speed cameras? Of course, it's not an either/or question. Oakland has "one of four adult Level 1 Trauma Centers in the San Francisco Bay Area, and one of only 13 in California." I was somewhat surprised but not entirely surprised to read that "[a]lmost 70 percent of Highland Hospital’s trauma patients are victims of traffic accidents and seniors with injuries from falls."

Did you read the 3,000+ words I recently wrote on the "three E's" of traffic safety? No need to actually answer that question :) I just ask as a rhetorical question. Traffic safety in 21st century America might be a simpler problem to solve if it were a simpler problem to describe. But it's not one problem. It's a set of interlocking problems from vehicle design to land-use patterns to professional engineering practices... and many of those problems interact and compound with the US's racial and class disparities.

So, it's to the credit of Walk SF and San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets who have worked since 2017 to navigate through a thicket to get to the goal of using cameras to reduce unsafe speeding in a fair and equitable manner. The city transportation departments and agencies in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose can now proceed with their pilot program. The pilots are designed to get into specifics of the cost of fines, how the fines might be graduated to be less of a burden for poorer people, where the cameras will be sited, and so on. Should the empirical results prove positive, it will be to everyone's benefit to have a new "tool" — a thoughtfully calibrated tool — to add to the traffic safety toolkit of California cities and suburbs.

Speed cameras will be carefully tested in Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose