Oakland's department of transportation proposes an expensive project to address street safety that doesn't address the actual problem of speeding, creates privacy risks, and puts Black lives in more danger
Update: I attended a presentation with Oakland DOT, Assembly Member Chiu and others which provided more information on the proposal. I’m still not on-board with the plate reader part, but Assembly Member Chiu made it clear that he is aware that traffic enforcement by police and sheriff’s deputies put Black lives in danger. I’ll revise this post based on what what I learned today.
Getting police out of traffic enforcement is as important as redesigning our streets to prevent speeding. I’m glad that everyone behind AB 550, which I’m still skeptical of, understands this.
Oakland’s DOT and California State Assembly Member David Chiu (D, San Francisco) have proposed using cameras with plate readers to deter speeding.
It’s an expensive project to address street safety that doesn’t address the actual problem of speeding, creates privacy risks, won’t change the behavior of people who can afford to pay or contest speeding tickets, and puts Black lives in more danger.
It doesn’t address the problem
Speeding on Oakland’s streets (not just residents, but cops as well) causes crashes, and kills bicyclists and pedestrians. A camera doesn’t stop someone from speeding. Not being able to speed prevents speeding.
There are known and proven ways to slow down car and truck traffic and keep pedestrians and cyclists safe including: separated grades for transit, trucks/cars, bicycles, and pedestrians; roundabouts; and lights timed to make drivers stop frequently.
Spend public funds on infrastructure which directly slows down motorized traffic.
It’s a privacy risk
A database of locations and images of vehicle tags is a database to be maintained and defended against attackers (internal and external.)
The cost of maintaining the database and the expected cost of breeches doesn’t slow down cars.
Affluent white people’s behavior won’t change
Tickets and points from speeding cameras can be eliminated through contesting tickets, attending drivers schools, and other means which people of means can afford.
This won’t change this group’s behavior. But the proposed system will put marginalized people at risk.
It endangers Black lives
A speeding camera can’t kill a Black driver directly.
One may even think a plate reading camera will remove cops from the matter.
But a ticket can lead to a unpaid fine, which leads to an opportunistic traffic stop, which is where Black people are murdered by police.
Protestors have been saying the names of Black drivers who died at the hands of police for several years.
Even if one does not care about Black lives remember that trials, settlements for wrongful deaths, and protests are expensive and don’t prevent speeding.
Center the problem, not punishment
We know what the problem is: people speed causing accidents, injuries, and deaths.
We know how to make streets safer through traffic calming measures.
We need to make these changes in order to have livable cities.
Let’s implement the solution instead of an expensive non-fix that will harm people.
A roundabout won’t shoot a Black driver in the back.
The Oakland DOT/Assembly Member Chiu proposal will get Black people killed.
Correction: Assembly Member Chiu represents San Francisco, not Oakland. I’ve correct that above.
Responding to a writing prompt about families in space
Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz have a Patreon for their Hugo-Award-Winning podcast, Our Opinions are Correct.
And on that Patreon, they publish writing prompts. This week’s prompt was about families in space.
Several years ago, I was in an informal writing workshop with some friends and acquaintances and one of the weekly prompts was “tasting the season.” I wrote an epistolary story from a parent on an university exploration expedition to the child who got to stay home so as to not miss school.
I remembered the story, pulled it up, gave it some edits, and I’m posting it here in response to the new prompt.
12 Juli 2103
SS Johannes Kepler
Joint Oxford/University of California Expedition
My dear Stéphane,
Your sibling sends their love.
Again, I regret that I insisted that you stay in school while one of your mothers and Zuli tramp across the galaxy.
As I write, you are on vacation. Did you and your other mother go with your aunties and cousins to Vermont? I miss the lake at our camp.
We have an ‘endless’ pool in the rotation ring, but I would rather have an early morning swim in the lake.
Do you still spend the afternoons on Mount Royal with your friends?
I should not pry, but do you still fancy your classmate that you spent so much time with last summer? Esme, so shy around us. I hope you are treating them to ice creams, curries, poutines, and little Japanese candies.
Here, aboard the Kepler, the seasons never change. It is always early summer, except that I never need a jacket in the evenings. Half of the sciences staff would like to have a campfire in one of the hangers, so we could sing songs and roast sausages, and that drives the engineers mad. They have tried to accommodate us with something that looks like a sausage.
Is it as bland as the rest of the food. Imagine, a ship filled with people from around the world, and we let the British build the catering!
When we return, your other mother and I will visit every one of our favorite restaurants, for months.
We have anchored in a star system a hundred light years from Mother Earth, and will stay here for at least the summer (your summer, that is.) The planetary science team has the chance to do something other than download and study imaging from the advance team’s probes.
After we jumped in the robots investigating this system were chattering with our ship, excited (as much as machines become excited) about a world in the inner system.
On this world we’re orbiting, it has been winter a long time, my estimate is at least 50,000 years. Remember what I told you about ice ages on Earth? How the glaciers came down from the North and covered what would be Montreal, and people from Asia walked across what is now open sea to Alaska?
This world, even though it orbits close to its sun like Earth, is colder. The only open sea uncovered by ice is at the equator.
The engineers and the safety committee thought it would be safe enough to let the scientists come down from eternal summer and visit the ice world.
There’s no elevator stalk, so we rode down from the Kepler on a rocket plane. The advance probes had already peppered the world with a million little weather stations dropped as they flew by on their surveys, but we set one up of our own. We posed for podcasts as if we were those old explorers in Antarctica, bundled against the cold in heated suits. Even if the air was so cold that you had to wear a mask so that breathing didn’t hurt, we enjoyed having a sky over our heads and a horizon for the first time in months.
No, your sibling did not come with us, although she protested as robustly as you’d imagine. Four is too young for running around ice planets, even with of of their mothers looking out for them.
I packed some snow in a thermos and took it back to the Kepler after our outing on the surface. I gave some to the safety and biology team to check for hazards, and they ruled it clean.
I grabbed a bowl from the canteen, and brought out the precious little stash of maple syrup I packed. Just enough to remind Zuli and me of home when we needed it. I poured a little on the snow I brought back from the ice planet.
Even if we can’t enjoy real summer with you, we did get to taste winter.
There’s podcasts and video attached. I miss you both. Listen to your other mother and your aunties, be sweet to Esme, and I will write again as soon as we get another resupply packet coming through.
©️ 2021, Emma C. Humphries