When you hear the screeching of tires and burning of rubber or see drivers speeding through your neighborhood, don’t worry, the Richmond Progressive Alliance has a plan. It’s Item 0.2.a on the July 5, City Council Agenda, sponsored by McLaughlin, Jimenez and Martinez. The Agenda Report states:
Members of the community have organized themselves to express major concerns about street safety, especially at certain dangerous crossing areas, such as pedestrians trying to cross Carlson Boulevard when walking their young children to Nomura Preschool. Parents and their toddlers have experienced many “close calls” from speeding cars nearly hitting them. In addition, residents throughout the city have expressed concerns about sideshows. Most recently, residents have organized and sent emails to the City Council about sideshows along Key Boulevard and Barrett Avenue. Last year other areas, such as El Sobrante Valley, Hilltop, and Marina Bay have expressed concerns of sideshows. (Agenda Report Item 0.2.a)
As a basis for Item 0.2.a, the RPA City Council members cite the Draft Richmond Roadway Safety Plan that was presented at the June 7, 2022, City Council meeting. From the Agenda Report:
On June 7, 2022, the City Council heard a presentation on the Local Road Safety Plan. On June 21, 2022, the City Council approved the FY 2022-2023 Operating Budget and Capital Improvement Budget – both include street safety funding. Then in fall of 2021, the City Council authorized City staff to implement engineering solutions for sideshows. (Agenda Report Item 0.2.a)
A glaring omission from the RPA-sponsored Item 0.2.a is anything involving law enforcement. Although the Richmond Roadway Safety Plan includes numerous improvements of bike facilities, crosswalks and other features to promote safety, it also includes recommendations for robust law enforcement, which, of course, is anathema to the RPA.
Enforcement Since 2020, the Richmond Police Department has leveraged one or more Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) grants per year to bolster its capacity to enforce traffic policies. Grants have primarily focused on addressing driving under the influence, but also address traffic safety issues such as distracted driving and bicycle and pedestrian safety enforcement operations. The City’s Engineering and Capital Improvement Projects department is charge with conducting speed surveys and performs or manages updated studies on an approximately 5-year cycle. Speed surveys inform ongoing programmatic and infrastructure improvements throughout the City. These and other City of Richmond departments collaborate on planning and engineering efforts to mitigate persistent hazards in the public right-of-way and seek to reduce the occurrence of sideshows and other unsafe driving practices (Richmond Roadway Safety Plan, Page 17)
Primary Collision Factor (PCF) A primary collision factor (PCF) is the one element or driving action which, in an investigating officer's opinion, best describes the primary or main cause of a collision. In Richmond, the most common PCFs are Vehicle Right of Way Violation (23%), Unsafe Speed (18%), and Traffic Signals and Signs (16%). For KSI collisions, the most common PCFs are Unsafe Speed (20%), Traffic Signals and Signs (15%), and Pedestrian Violation (13%). Figure 5 compares the cited primary collision factors for all injury collisions versus KSI collisions. The Pedestrian Violation PCF indicates that the pedestrian violated a rule of the road, such as crossing outside of a crosswalk, as opposed to the Pedestrian Right of Way Violation PCF, where the vehicle violates the pedestrian’s right of way. The Pedestrian Violation category overrepresentation in the data may be reflective of lack of clear information related to collision circumstances. . (Richmond Roadway Safety Plan, Page 22)
Driving Under the Influence Drugs or alcohol increase the likelihood that a collision will be more severe in Richmond. While 10 percent of all injury collisions involve drugs or alcohol, 25 percent of KSI collisions and 35 percent of KSI pedestrian-involved collisions involve drugs or alcohol, as shown in Figure 6. These percentages reflect the portion of collisions involving one or more parties determined to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Driving under the influence may not always be listed as the primary collision factor even if a driver is found to be under the influence. (Richmond Roadway Safety Plan, Page 22)
High Visibility Enforcement High visibility enforcement is a multifaceted approach to enforcement that involves garnering public attention to traffic safety laws through highly visibly patrols, such as checkpoints: saturation patrols, or message boards. Across several topic areas, high visibility enforcement is often the most effective form of enforcement, in terms of safety outcomes, according to NHTSA research. The goal of high visibility enforcement is to promote voluntary compliance with traffic laws. High visibility enforcement can target specific traffic violations for a short period of time to encourage drivers to stop engaging in a traffic violation. For example, speeding can be targeted in an area so that the public is aware that speed limits are enforced in the area. Another high visibility enforcement strategy is publicized sobriety checkpoints which are used to deter impaired driving on national holidays or weekends where more people are likely to drink and drive. (Richmond Roadway Safety Plan, Page 40)
Driving under the influence and running stop signs and red lights are major sources of collisions involving both pedestrians and vehicles, and they can only be addressed by law enforcement.
Figure 1 - Richmond Local Roadway Safety plan, page 57
Figure 2 - Richmond Local Roadway Safety Plan, page 61
Figure 3 - Richmond Roadway Safety Plan, page 17
The RPA City Council members sponsoring this item are only supporting physical measures, eschewing any traffic enforcement by the Richmond Police Department that they have so successfully depleted, understaffed, demoralized and defunded. Traffic calming measures are great, but they only work where they are located. There are hundreds of intersections in Richmond wide enough to accommodate donuts and sideshows. Putting in a few roundabouts or Botts Dots will just divert offenders to other locations. Without police enforcement of traffic laws, what the RPA City Council members are proposing is dramatically incomplete.
Item 0.2.a is an attempt by the RPA during election season to salvage their reputation for being unsympathetic to traffic enforcement, particularly speeding and sideshows. For the past two years, RPA City Council members have been either passive about sideshows or openly supportive.
Note the following from media accounts last year, featuring mayoral candidate Eduardo Martinez as sideshow cheerleader-in-chief:
- When the problem of rampant sideshows made it on the Richmond City Council agenda last fall, the RPD, which has seen its staff of police officers slashed by 26 percent since the RPA members began its march toward majority control of City Council in 2015, proposed a number of alternative solutions including procuring license plate reader technology to hold drivers accountable, along with hiring a civilian operator to monitor the city’s Closed Circuit TV cameras which are currently unmanned. The RPD also proposed roadway engineering solutions, such as temporary or permanent roundabouts at hotspots for such activity, or Botts Dots and raised circular markers that work to deter reckless driving. (https://richmondstandard.com/richmond/2022/02/08/sideshows-are-out-of-control-in-richmond-whos-to-blame/)
Martinez is also infamous for blaming mostly senior citizens for speeding in neighborhoods.
On July 22, 2021, the City Council directed staff to draft an ordinance to “deter and/or prevent unauthorized auto sideshows in Richmond,” but nothing ever happened because the RPA City Council members did not want to use police to make arrests relating to sideshows. The Minutes of the July 22, 2021, meeting include:
I-2. The matter to discuss and provide direction to staff to draft an ordinance to establish stronger penalties to deter and/or prevent unauthorized auto sideshows in Richmond was presented by Councilmember Bates. This item was continued from the cancelled July 20, 2021, meeting. Discussion ensued. The City Council suggested that the Reimagining Public Safety Committee could give input on the ordinance. The possibility of a sideshow park that could be established as a spectator sport would be placed on a future agenda for consideration. The following individuals gave comments via teleconference: Madalyn Law, Jan Mignone, Randy Joseph, Leisa Johnson, Naomi Williams, Tarnel Abbott, Mike Parker, and Marena Brown. Further discussion ensued. A motion made by Councilmember Bates, seconded by Mayor Butt, directed staff to return at the end of September 2021, or sooner with the draft ordinance, passed by the following vote: Ayes: Councilmembers Bates, McLaughlin, Willis, and Vice Mayor Johnson III. Noes: Councilmember Martinez and Mayor Butt. Absent: None. Abstain: Councilmember Jimenez. I voted against it because it involved exploring a sideshow park and the Reimagining Public Safety Committee. The Richmond Pulse reported:
Additionally, an ordinance will be drafted to deter and prevent automobile sideshows. The motion passed 6-0-1, with Jimenez abstaining. The drafts are due at the end of September with the car sideshow ordinance taking priority. (https://richmondpulse.org/2021/07/26/city-council-erupts-in-argument-over-mayors-discretion-to-cancel-meetings/)
The reason the RPA City Council members eschew any use of law enforcement to increase traffic safety or prevent sideshows and donuts is that they hate police. They consider police unnecessary and overpaid. See the RPA’s latest rant on police at https://www.richmondprogressivealliance.net/the_next_step_in_police_accountability_a_look_at_rpd_s_expiring_contract.
Figure 4 - The RPA wants to continue reimagining the Richmond Police Department until it goes away (https://www.richmondprogressivealliance.net/reimagining_public_safety)