This week another politician learned exactly what people think about photo radar. Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson wrote a condescending and inflammatory article on his blog about drivers and photo radar, saying he was "fed up" with photo radar critics and concerns about speed traps (among other things). The backlash against the mayor was quick and decisive; so much so that he's edited his blog and replaced it with a completely different (toned down) version.
We oppose photo radar for a wide variety of reasons you can read about on SENSE BC's website. BC learned in 1995 that it was to get photo radar and soon afterward SENSE (later branded SENSE BC) was formed to fight it. Although we already knew there were many issues with photo radar, we felt that one could not critique ineffective, dishonest, and unfair enforcement without questioning the reason why it was deemed necessary and seen as justified by some in the first place.
Speed limits are one of those things that require intellectual inconsistency from people who believe in civil society. Reasonable and otherwise law-abiding citizens often unknowingly become lawbreakers when they drive on highways at safe and perfectly reasonable speeds with the majority of other drivers. When everybody routinely disobeys a law, often (not every time), the law is an ass. And, the law is an ass on many BC and other Canadian highways because it's made lawbreakers out of the reasonable and safe majority. The results of this costs families a loss of mobility (through impoundments), financial hardship, and a tremendous misallocation of precious police and court resources...in the name of safety.
So we had a petition in 1996. In those days it was pen and paper with photocopies on clipboards with volunteers. The petition called on the BC Minister of Transportation to immediately remove photo radar. Additionally the petition demanded the province conduct an independent review of speed limits and their correct setting using the 85th percentile (the speed to which 85 percent of traffic travels to) in order to improve compliance and reduce the number of tickets issued (back then approaching 500,000 citations per year, the majority of which were for speeding).
When we had the time to go canvassing, we found no shortage of people lining up to sign our petitions (we stopped at 25,000) but we frequently encountered people with LOTS of experience with photo radar....ALBERTANS.
Albertans hated photo radar, even back then, and were always disappointed when we told them they couldn't sign our petition in BC. However, we were dumbfounded that in province we BCers often stereotype as gun-totin', can-do roughnecks, conservatives, tax hating, free enterprise, no-nonsense business people with a leader like Ralph Klein, would put up with the epitome of a nanny state, money-grab like photo radar.
BC this year took the step of reviewing and modifying some of the speed limits on approximately 1,300 km of provincial highways. We say "step" because although 120 km/h on the Coquihalla and North Island highways make those the highest speed limits (notice I did not say "speeds") in Canada, the 85th percentile on those roads means they should be set at 130 km/h. There's also a matter of the rest of BC's rural and urban highways that need reviewing and adjusting; but Rome wasn't built in a day.
Here we are almost two decades later. Ralph Klein is long gone and finally rumblings of discontent coming from Alberta, at long last. Several papers have run stories about BC's speed review and suggested it's time for Alberta to do the same. There's an online petition calling for the removal of photo radar in Edmonton (so far nothing in Calgary, but what the organizers might consider is going to the provincial government for a ban provincially... just a thought).
What we found fascinating was the level of hostility the mayor encountered when he wrote his piece. He even had blowback in the form of a couple of editorials including the Edmonton Journal, saying "Iveson usually says the right thing at the right time, but came off here as full of himself and intransigent, which was pointed out to him repeatedly on his own blog" and another paper essentially labeling Iveson a tyrant for his views.
On the subject of photo radar and speed limits, Alberta seems to have come to the party an uncharacteristic two decades late. However, the online petition, flurry of recent news, oped pieces and increasing hostility towards photo radar apologists gives us hope that Albertans will reject big brother and demand reasonable speed limits on Alberta highways. Go Alberta.
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