Councilman Kevin Flynn Votes Against Denver’s Red Light Camera Program

Despite marked reductions in red light running and crashes since Denver PD began enforcing the law with unmanned cameras in 2008, City Councilman Kevin Flynn isn’t ready to commit to the program long-term. He voted against a new contract with Xerox, the contractor Denver PD uses for the program, at a committee meeting on safety Wednesday.

The contract would expand the red light camera program beyond the four intersections it covers now, and provide more nimble cameras that Denver PD can easily move from intersection to intersection. The contract Flynn voted against also covers the city’s speed camera program, which enforces speeding at 150 locations with a heavy focus near schools and parks.

KevinFlynn_bioHeadshot
City Councilman Kevin Flynn.

Flynn’s colleagues voted to send the contract on to a full legislative session. He held out because he wants to give drivers more time to stop with a longer yellow light, effectively giving them a better chance of avoiding fines.

Denver PD officers presented data showing that after an initial drop in red-light running, drivers adapt to a longer yellow signal and just begin running reds again — even though they have more time to stop. It wasn’t good enough for Flynn. Drivers are speeding, he said, and red light cameras should account for that.

“If we make this [longer yellow light] commitment and stop giving $75 tickets to people who are just driving normally, but they’re caught because we’re using the posted speed limit as our guide instead of how fast people are actually going — people have to stop from how fast they’re going, not how fast we wish they were going — I could support this.”

But the point of speed cameras and red light cameras is to make streets safer for everyone by changing drivers’ behavior, not catering to it.

“Our purpose is to change people’s driving habits, whether it involves speeding or red light running,” said Ted Porras, Denver PD’s photo enforcement unit supervisor. “As Denver continues to work on becoming a more wallkable, bikeable, and safe environment for residents and all transportation modes… photo enforcement becomes a more important tool in traffic safety and acts as a force multiplier.”

Denver only has red light cameras at four intersections citywide: 6th and Lincoln, 8th and Speer, 6th and Kalamath, and 36th and Quebec. The program is “quite small” compared to other cities, Porras said. But it works. Before Denver PD launched red light cameras in 2008, those intersections averaged 76 crashes a year at legs where the cameras would later be placed. According to Denver Public Works, as of 2015, those legs averaged 39 crashes — and that’s with an exponential increase in traffic [PDF].

Denver is a Vision Zero city, which means ending traffic deaths and serious injuries is the priority. Engineering is crucial to reaching that goal — as Councilman Jolon Clark said Wednesday, intersections need to be redesigned “to keep bicyclists and pedestrians alive.” But enforcing laws that protect people from dangerous driving is also an important tool. Vision Zero is about saving people’s lives, not saving reckless drivers money.

  • John Riecke

    The streets and the intersections should also be designed to keep cars travelling at or below the speed limit. If Flynn wants to make it “fair”…

    • djconnel

      This attitude, that speed limits are de facto too low and drivers know best, needs to be resisted at every opportunity. The problem is drivers care about their own safety, not generally the safety of others, while the speed limit needs to be set for the safety of all users, most especially the most vulnerable. So simply catering to what drivers want to do is insufficient.

      What an idiot.

      • TakeFive

        I don’t see where Kevin even talked about posted speed limits? I think he was speaking to how most people tend to go faster than the speed limit. That, I would guess, is a fact.

        • Ben Schumacher

          “…but they’re caught because we’re using the posted speed limit as our guide instead of how fast people are actually going — people have to stop from how fast they’re going, not how fast we wish they were going…”

    • mckillio

      And this is what theoney from these.programs should go towards. Raiseoney with them, use the money to redesign the intersection and part of the street that people are speeding on and then move the cameras to another place with the problem.

  • MT

    Oh god, not this “just make the yellow longer to accommodate speeding drivers” crap.

  • TakeFive

    I wouldn’t pay any mind to one City Councilman. A variety of opinions is the nature of politics.

    • MT

      Great idea, just ignore the problem. I’m sure it will all be fine on it’s own if we don’t pay any attention to it.

      • TakeFive

        There are 13 city councilmen. Please explain how 1 out of 13 has any power.

        I don’t think I said anything about ignoring any problems. With respect to red light cameras I think they’re a good idea.

        • MT

          He has the same amount of power as any other member of city council.
          I hope the other 12 disagree, but that’s no reason not to correct his inaccurate and dangerous views on an issue has has direct voting power on.

  • PhotoRadarscam

    If engineering really was a priority, they would lengthen the yellow light times above the MINIMUM standards, as not every intersection should be set with MINIMUM timing. The difference between an intersection with lots of crashes and an intersection with few crashes isn’t the drivers! It is the design and timing. Stop blaming the drivers!

    The police data is also bogus as drivers do not grow accustomed to longer yellow light times. In my daily drive I would not notice one bit if the yellow light timing was lengthened, nor would that enter my mind as I approach and the light changes. No one thinks like that, but the police don’t want to lose their precious MONEY source.

    • Anthony

      Yellow light times are based on a calculation that takes into account reaction time to move your foot to the brake, posted speed limit which is typically set at the 85th percentile, and stopping distance of a motor vehicle. Taken into consideration are the design vehicle and climate. It’s not just some arbitrary number some dude in an office randomly came up with, it’s based on physics. The length of a yellow light isn’t the problem. Part of the problem is the time it takes a driver to decide whether to “gun it” or actually obey the signal being given. Part of the problem is drivers who think they are going to save time by making this one light (hint: they won’t).
      I have successfully seen a light change to yellow, apply my foot to the brake, and stop in time to not run a red light on many occasions. I have tried to beat physics and gotten a red light ticket before and it was entirely my fault (bad teenage Anthony!). See, I take my responsibility to operate a motor vehicle safely very seriously. If I don’t want a red light ticket, I don’t run red lights. This method has proven to be quite successful in preventing my getting red light tickets in the mail when I do drive.

      • TakeFive

        Could I conclude from what you said the we should outlaw all drivers between the ages of 16 and 25?

        Haha, I do like this though: “Part of the problem is the time it takes a driver to decide whether to “gun it” or actually obey the signal being given.”

        Driving along there’s those situations where going through easily makes a better choice than slamming and skidding. Then there’s that area where stopping is obvious (or should be). But then there’s also that grey area where you have to think fast to make the right choice.

        Given that humans don’t come out of a physics book I’d be OK with extending the yellow a bit.

        • Anthony

          Haha that wasn’t my implication so I’ll let you defend that position! =)

        • PhotoRadarscam

          The answer is, why NOT extend the yellow light? It costs almost nothing, unless you factor in the lost ticket revenue.

          • MT

            Because extending the yellow light signals to drivers who are driving too fast that what they are doing is acceptable. It is not.

          • PhotoRadarscam

            That is not why you extend the yellows. If you have studied traffic engineering and intersection timing you would know that there are several factors that may require adding additional yellow time to account for factors not included in the equation. For example, did you know that guidelines suggest that in areas with older populations more time is recommended to account for slower reaction times of old people? Or do you want to hold old people accountable for having longer reaction times than younger people? And is 1/2 second of traffic volume worth the reduction in safety? Is that what you are saying?

          • MT

            No, I’m saying people are driving too fast. You have plenty of time to react if you drive an appropriate speed.
            The answer to people driving too fast is not to accommodate them, but to use street design and enforcement to slow them down.

            Thanks for making up a bunch of crap that I never said though.

          • PhotoRadarscam

            Your reply shows your ignorance on the issue because if you understood light timing then that’s exactly what you meant. It’s not a matter of driving too fast, it’s a matter of optimizing the light timing for safety. Every intersection is unique so often adjustments above the minimums are required. Not sure why you are so opposed to optimizing light timing for safety.

          • MT

            Not sure why you are opposed to slowing vehicle speeds for safety.
            Probably because you don’t actually care about safety, only about taking down red light and spees cameras, as your screen name clearly shows.
            Thanks for putting your bias upfront though, at least you are honest about it.

          • PhotoRadarscam

            If it were actually about slowing speeds for safety then there are proven and effective ways to achieve this naturally through the science of traffic engineering, rather than cashing in on engineering deficiencies. Why don’t you want to FIX the problem instead of cashing in on it?

          • MT

            I do. I desperately want lanes reduced and narrowed, and more space dedicated to transit, bikes, and walking. I want traffic slowed on just about every street in the city.
            Until that happens, we can’t take cameras down that are making intersections less dangerous.

      • PhotoRadarscam

        It’s clear you haven’t studied the issue as extensively as I have.
        Yes there are formulas to set the light timing but the formula isn’t exact and very often it isn’t applied correctly, and the formula is only a guideline to establish a minimum. Often times adjustments are needed to account for each unique location that aren’t factored into the formula. Light timing can be set to make violators out of the best drivers or to achieve very few violations. The problem is, if you add too much yellow light time violations plummet and the camera no longer makes money. So if safety is really the motive, why not add yellow light time? Well clearly we know what the motivation is.
        You still fail to address my scenario. You would probably agree that statistically there are intersections in town where there are high crash rates and some with low crash rates. Do you honestly believe that the difference in crash rate is caused by the quality of drivers in that location vs the other and that “education” of those drivers by means of mailing a ticket to them weeks later will actually improve crash rates at that intersection?

  • iBikeCommute

    I am all for speeding and red light enforcement but it would be nice if they focused the speed traps on high conflict corridors. There are hardly any pedestrians or crosswalks along 6th ave or 1st ave by country club, I don’t think those do much to reduce crashes.. Now I would love to see a radar van on south broadway where the average speed is probably 45 and lots of pedestrians and businesses.

  • Anandakos

    “Drivers are speeding and red light cameras should account for that”. What an effyouseeking tool!. Yeah, that kind.

  • Sanperson

    Cringing at some of those cars running red lights! WTF were they doing?? This is why we need red light cameras!

  • Roads_Wide_Open

    increase the all red phase…

  • AndrewReker

    Is this the same Kevin Flynn that ran the blog/column at the RMN?

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