Watch above: As two city councillors push for information on how well photo radar is doing, the mayor suggests speeders should stop complaining. Laurel Gregory has the update.
EDMONTON — An online petition calling for the end of photo radar on Edmonton streets is picking up speed.
The petition, which was posted on change.org at the beginning of the week, had received 10,000 signatures by Thursday afternoon. By Saturday morning, that number had jumped to more than 13,300. On Monday morning, it had 17,255 supporters.
“It definitely blew up a lot faster than I thought it would,” said Patrick Dyas, the Edmonton man who started the petition.
WATCH: The debate over photo radar is heating up again after one Edmontonian decided to do something to voice his opposition to it. Vinesh Pratap explains.
Dyas says the feedback he’s received has been overwhelmingly positive,
The Edmonton driver says he’s had it with photo radar, calling it a “blatant cash grab.”
“If you want to make money off your citizens, use cameras. If you want safety, bring back police officers to the streets,” said Dyas.
Councillor Amarjeet Sohi said on October 6 that he would ask for an inquiry into the photo radar program that week. He added that it’s something he and Councillor Dave Loken have been discussing for some time, and that the “petition just influenced the timing.”
“Last year, 23 people died in collisions on our streets,” Iveson wrote. “Thousands were injured in an average of 68 collisions per day, which altogether caused millions in damage and worsened congestion on our roads (source).
“The good news is that injury and fatality rates are coming down, thanks in part to a suite of integrated traffic safety programs including Automated Photo Enforcement.
“Given all this context, it’s unfortunate to me — just as we’re making progress — that some voices are calling for an end to photo enforcement,” he wrote.
“Nevertheless, there remains a powerful misconception that the City operates this program to earn revenue.”
Iveson added there might be merit in having the city look at other ways photo radar revenues could be dealt with and even possibly look at capping the amount of revenues from the program the Transportation Department has at its disposal.
Dyas believes, if used, photo radar should be placed in residential areas and near schools, not on large thoroughfares. And it seems thousands of Edmonton drivers agree.
“If it was about safety, cars would not be hidden. Seeing a cop car parked on the side would stop speeding, but since it is about money they are camouflaged. It is ridiculous,” Manuel Zuniga wrote after signing the petition.
“It’s ridiculous that they hide. On top of over passes. Behind bushes? Isn’t the point of this to slow people down not trap them,” added Sarah Atkins.
While city councillors say the online petition doesn’t have any legal grounds, they aren’t dismissing it all together.
“Would it have legal force? No. Not according to the Municipal Government Act,” said Ward 8 councillor Ben Henderson. “Does it have meaning, however? Absolutely… Every petition has meaning.”
“They (petitions) do send us a message about the frustration in the public and I share his frustration, even though I do support the use of photo radar as a safety measure,” added Ward 12 councillor Amarjeet Sohi.
Both Henderson and Sohi say they constantly hear from Edmontonians who have concerns and issues with the photo radar program, but both believe the enforcement tool works.
“The reality with photo radar is all the evidence shows it’s slowing people down,” said Henderson. “I have to say I get frustrated at this kind of myth that’s out there that it’s a tax grab, it’s a money grab. It is a way to try to get people to drive safely.”
“People do slow down and it definitely is on their mind if they get a ticket,” added Sohi. “That’s what we hear from our Office of Traffic Safety.”
However, Sohi says there are some misconceptions about how the program is run, and he admits the city needs to do a better job of explaining why and how photo radar is used in Edmonton.
“We haven’t done a good job of explaining the value of photo radar and why we deploy it and the outcome,” he said Thursday. “Any revenue generated from photo radar doesn’t go into the city’s general revenue, it goes towards improving safety for the pedestrians, for the motorists, for everyone.”
Dyas knows the online petition doesn’t legally compel the city to act, but says that won’t stop him from driving the point home.
“I think if enough people do take notice, I think the city will do something eventually. Obviously it’s going to take a large amount of people, but we’ll take that as it comes. And if we have to do a written petition or something along those lines, we’ll see what we can do.
Dyas is also frustrated over a recent auditor general report which revealed the cost for the city to set up the photo radar program was nearly $47 million more than originally projected.
With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News.
*Editor’s note: This story was originally published Thursday, October 2, 2014. It was updated at 7:46 MT Friday and again at 12:17 p.m. on Monday)