No Speed Bumps … on the Streets That Is

speed humpsEvery day I get Google hits at this site by people who are angry about speed bumps on streets near them. Occasionally I get people searching for the opposite too – people who want some speed bumps put in. They are interested in “traffic calming devices” (where do they come up with these names?). So I decided to look into this issue.

First, no doubt on some streets, especially on longer stretches of road in some residential areas with children, a speed bump can make sense and is not much of an inconvenience when driving. I know of three or so within a half mile of my house, and I don’t mind them much. They are on longer stretches of roads in residential areas where people tend to pick up speed. And they do serve to slow down drivers, including me. And okay, yes, they do perform traffic calming.

In the right circumstances I would support adding a speed bump on my street. For example, if my street was used as a shortcut connecting major streets, drivers might often drive on this road too fast. The road that my house is on is not like that, so I don’t have this problem.

On the other hand, in certain local political environments, the number of speed bumps can quickly become excessive and highly annoying.

Last Christmas my family went to my sister-in-laws for Christmas dinner. On a long residential street near them (near downtown Dallas) there were about 30 speed bumps in a row. It was both humorous and annoying. If you had to drive this road everyday, I think annoying would be what comes to mind. You just start picking up speed – and then you have to hit the brakes or you get one heck of a jolt in your car (I got a couple that day). I could see even wanting to move if I had to deal with that speed bump gauntlet everyday.

Now if speed bumps (some call them speed humps) started showing up all over the roads in my town, I am sure that I would get very annoyed. Apparently this is what has happened in places like Oakland, California. Oakland is sometimes called the speed bump capital of the USA:

The city suffered a rash of pedestrian accidents during the 1990s, culminating in the death of a toddler when an 18-year-old driver plowed a truck into a preschool playground in 1995. Residents on the preschool’s block were on the city’s waiting list for a speed hump.

In the five years following the incident, Oakland installed 1,600 speed humps and came to be known as the “speed hump capital,” Tester said.

There are about 2,000 speed humps on Oakland streets. The waiting list for the devices is so long that the city instituted a yearlong moratorium on requests for them last year to catch up on the backlog.

Sounds like a case of local busybodies run amuck. With roads this bumpy, you could almost go back to unpaved roads. So perhaps they should save money in Oakland and just stop paving the roads altogether. The natural roads, in the dirt, become quite bumpy. For anyone that tried driving a car across the US before there was a highway system, they quickly learned this. But aspiring to a pre-modern road system isn’t very appealing to most of us.

Others in the Bay Area are bucking the trend:

Berkeley instituted a moratorium on them in 1995 after firefighters complained speed humps impeded emergency response time. Disabled drivers in Berkeley said the bumps jarred their bodies and caused pain.

Excessive speed bumps follow the same pattern of governments everywhere when the do-gooders get too much power. In the 1970s, the highway speed limits nationwide were changed to 55 mph to help deal with the shortage of oil. But after the energy crunch was over, it took another 20 years before Congress finally let the speed limits rise to the speeds that the highways were designed to support. Why? Because it saved lives if everyone slowed down.

But this logic then can be taken farther. Why not lower the highway speed limit to 40 mph? At some point, these kinds of overzealous policies eat into the freedoms that we take for granted as we go about our daily business.

If citizens don’t fight back, the do-gooders will shove the nanny state down our throats. Why not outlaw motorcycles? They don’t meet the safety standards of even the most dangerous cars. Why not outlaw cigarettes? Hazardous substances for recreational purposes should not be permitted to be sold. Why not outlaw any alcohol consumption before driving? Why not outlaw guns totally (some places are trying!)? Why not …. you get the idea.

And why not just stick speed bumps all over every road everywhere except for highways? If someone is speeding – bam – that will teach them to not drive so fast!

In the UK, they are actually talking about outlawing knives to prevent stabbings! (For poking daily fun at the Nanny State in the UK, see this site.)

So for those after information about fighting speed bumps, go to this site: No Speed Bumps. (That’s right, the same name as my site but with spaces added!). For a list of other problems with excessive numbers of speed bumps, just scroll down on their webpage. Here is a brief summary:

  • Emergency response times and trips to hospitals are slowed.
  • Speed bumps hurt property values (reminds me of that road near my sister-in-laws described above)
  • Cars run less efficiently when stopping and starting. This wastes fuel and increases air pollution.
  • Cars wear out more quickly.
  • The disabled have a harder time.
  • Tax money is used to install the speed bumps.
  • Some drivers can go berserk and kick their dogs (okay, I made up this one)
  • Want more? Then visit Americans Against Traffic Calming

    Still, to take an extremist position of demanding a total absence of speed bumps anywhere is going to far. I have a strong libertarian streak, but speed bumps really can save some lives.

    Ironically, there is a connection between speed bumps (the real physical kind placed on the roads) and the speed bumps discussed at the blogsite you are reading now. NoSpeedBumps.com often talks about the government-created kind of speed bumps that restrict your freedoms. Speed bumps on the roads slow free citizens down as they go about their day. Worse yet, they paid for the damn roads! It seems like there ought to at least be community input before adding any new speed bumps. Even if at times it can be brutish – in a democracy the majority rules. Well, okay, the majority only rules in democracy as long as they don’t violate your fundamental rights. But do people really have a fundamental right to speed bumps on roads? I must have missed that in the Constitution.

    My advice: If you want speed bumps, and the majority opposes them, then move somewhere else rather than claiming that you have a right to speed bumps.

    Update1: Hmm, how about an automatic speed bump?

    Update 2: In the roads throughout the Middle East, there were often complaints about there being too many Camel Humps for protecting thirsty camels before it was discovered that the dang things don’t even hold water (… okay, I made up that controversy. But come’ on, admit it – you thought that they held water too).

    6 Responses to “No Speed Bumps … on the Streets That Is”

    1. Bob Says:

      First, I prefer the term “Big Mother” to “Nanny State”, and have always felt it was more appropriate than Orwell’s “Big Brother”when refering to a control-freak government. If you look around in real life, the really obsessive control-freaks are either women or men who aren’t quite masculine. Like lots of liberals.
      (It’s been a long time since there was a serious discourse about the dark side of the feminine; all the focus, except for some defensive reaction, has been on the evil that men do.)
      Second, they’re traffric annoyers, not traffic calmers, and the doublespeak is typical of the kind of control-freaks that like the phrase, “It’s for your own good.”
      Now, how to defeat them: brake just before the bump, enough to lower the
      nose of the car a bit, and then release, so that the nose of the car rises as it crosses the bump and crosses it with de-stressed front springs. When the nose goes back down, it raises the rear end as IT goes over the bump. Then, briefly accelerate with enough
      firmness to hold the back end down, in order to avoid the oscillations. This reduces the impacts quite a bit. Practice makes perfect.
      I have wondered if the engineers who design roads and highways are as a group
      the engineers at the bottom of their college classes. I noticed years ago that education majors were thelowest-scoring occupational group taking GREs, which explains much about educational policy in thiscountry. Highway engineering is about the least sexy area of engineering there is, so it stands to reason that the least-skilled would fall into those jobs.
      This is just a hypothesis that came to me while observing the many idiocies one encounters in highway design.

    2. Debbie Says:

      HA – what a funny thing – great site by the way!
      I found you doing a google search trying to figure out who is actually benefiting from our tax dollars to change the signs and the painted markers on the pavement from BUMPS to HUMP in and around Los Angeles. This is one of the most insulting waste of tax payers money. Santa Monica has wasted all sorts of money on silly “traffic calming” stuff – but this one is just way too stupid.

    3. Lara Says:

      I saw your ad and I just had to let you know about this! I moved to a house on a private road about a year ago. I bought from our neighbor’s daughter. It is a very quiet road. 9 residences total. Well, anyhow our neighbor placed 4 speed bumps within 200 feet of each other. That is counting from the 1st speed bump to the last speed bump the distance between them was 200 feet with 2 speed bumps in the middle. So if that is not ridiculous enough he has them placed at an angle so each of your 4 tires hits 1 speed bump at 4 separate times! It was the most annoying most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen! Did I mention that where he put the speed bumps only 4 out of the 9 residences would drive over them—ever! It’s a dead end road. It’s not a shortcut to a major highway, there aren’t people that go 70 miles an hour–the FASTEST you can go on the road is 20!—it’s a dead end road with 2 90 degree turns in it! The 1st speed bump begins before the 1st turn and then there are 2 speed bumps then there is another turn with another speed bump following that! The part of the road he put speed bumps on is only used by us and my 3 other neighbors! To top it all off—-it’s a private owned road–right? Well, he doesn’t even own the road!!!!! Needless to say they were removed–and he now he is SUING us for the damages! Unbelievable, unbelievable.

    4. Redtail Says:

      Your advice to “…move somewhere else rather than claiming that you have a right to speed bumps” is ridiculous! Why should I move just so that people who don’t even live on my street, ie don’t pay the property taxes which benefit my street, can speed up it? Thats just dumb! We shouldn’t have to worry everyday that we’re going to get killed just so some idiot thinking he can take a short cut past our houses can drive like an ass!

    5. Dan Morgan Says:


      But I also wrote, “In the right circumstances I would support adding a speed bump on my street. For example, if my street was used as a shortcut connecting major streets, drivers might often drive on this road too fast.”

      If you live on an ordinary street that attracts few speeders, and your neighbors all oppose a speedbump, then I don’t think that you have an automatic right to a speedbump. Roads are owned by the public.

      If every person who wanted a speed bump in front of his house could have one put in, every road in America would be covered in speed bumps.

    6. speedbumpsspeedhumps Says:

      Believe it or not there is a difference between “speed bumps” and “speed humps”. Speed bumps were designed to slow traffic from 0 to 15 mph. Whereas speed humps slow traffic down from 10 to 20 mph.

      The main difference between the two is the profile.

      Speed humps are tapered more and make for a less abrupt transition between the roadway surface and the speed hump.

      The speed bump is not tapered as much as the hump and makes you almost stop before you cross it.

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