Every 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!
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:
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).