Better World Club

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Faster the Better?

Service Calls, Yes; Neighborhood Safety, Not So Much

AAA Spokesperson Calls Speed Bumps "Raised Potholes"

Speaking as cyclists and parents (and not trying to sound like the old codger down your block who screams at your kids to slow down on their training wheels), we think that it's not a bad idea for motorists to drop their speeds when, say, children or bikes are around.

In our last AAA Watch we reported on the California State Automobile Association's successful campaign against a California State Assembly bill that would have revised the definition of "local street or road" so that smaller jurisdictions could decide which streets should be limited to 25 mph speed limits. Well, it seems that in the meantime AAA had also taken aim at another speed control measure: the speed bump.

Sure, speed bumps can be annoying. But they're also effective in dealing with the safety concerns of many residential neighborhood dwellers by reducing the speeds of motor vehicles on multiuse roadways. And, unlike speed limits, they're not easily ignored.

AAA Mid-Atlantic disagrees. When interviewed for a Washington Examiner article on the proliferation of speed bumps in the D.C. area, a AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson had this to say about speed bumps: "They're raised potholes is what they are. They confound motorists, they confuse neighbors. Only a city planner could love them."

We won't deny that there are probably a few speed bump happy planners out there, but to dismiss speed bumps out of hand by equating them with a road hazard prone to damaging vehicles seems to be going too far (or should that be too fast?). For one thing, speed bumps are visibly marked, and motorists know what to do when they approach them. Who knows, though? Maybe D.C. metro speed bumps just pop up out of nowhere. But why get rid of an effective safety measure just because it might be poorly executed? In other words, don't throw out the bath water with the baby, just look for a better transportation planner.

First the speed limit and now the speed bump. AAA must really be feeling the heat of our competition, because why else should they be so concerned with rushing their service vehicles around residential neighborhoods? We hope our members will understand the one or two minutes extra it might take our service providers to slow down and get over the "raised potholes" on their streets. At least the bumps we're driving over won't be the neighbors.

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  • As a city planner, I resent the AAA spokesman's remark. :) I actually don't much care for speedbumps- they're a last resort. There are other more effective methods of traffic calming! Speed *tables*, bumpouts, raised/textured sidewalks, chicanes, on-street parking, heck- even more street trees can all serve to lower the average speed, and all without the jarring (and sometimes snowplow-damaging or otherwise hard to maintain) speedbumps.

    By Blogger FakyMcFakerson, At April 20, 2010 at 5:10 PM  

  • I basically concur with our 1st commenter (FMcF) -- as a former chair of a neighborhood association, I'm aware that traffic bumps can cause as many problems as they attempt to address, and that indeed, they should be a last resort. There are more effective methods of traffic calming. As for speed limits, I'm all for them. I've noticed that the Portland metro area has lowered the limit on a number of major thoroughfares, usually by 5 mph (45 to 40 SW Multnomah, 35 to 30 SW Garden Home, 30 to 25 SW Capitol Hwy ... ), and that both Beaverton & Portland have used solar powered speed indicators, which seem to have some effect.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 20, 2010 at 6:05 PM  

  • As a driver, the driver ahead of me, or behind me, with his/her unknown opinion of appropriate deceleration rate and terminal speed to cross the traffic impediment, makes for a rear-end collision risk.
    As a cyclist, speed bumps are as much of a risk to rider's safety as at grade train tracks that are diagonal to the road.
    Do the speed bumps not go to the curb, intended for cyclists' comfort, yet as a result making it MORE dangerous for cyclists, by tempting drivers to move closer to the curb to avoid at least half of the bump?
    Please, there are enough problems with roads, for pedestrians, cyclists and driver alike, to make compounding the situation nonsensical.

    By Anonymous Jonathan, At April 21, 2010 at 12:05 PM  

  • I basically agree with the prior commentors. I like the 'bump-out' traffic calming solution better. But, and this is only a guess, but, I imagine they are hard to retrofit and only easily put in new development. Speed tables are better.

    All that said, I live on a residential street some people--as often as not a minivan driven by a mother with a busload of nose-miners, late for the daycare center--zooming down the road with no regard for anyone else's safety. If it weren't for people like that, speed humps wouldn't be necessary. I really don't have a problem with someone going a few over a posted limit on an interstate (other than the wasted fuel), but in residential areas, *why* is it such a problem to slow the down? People don't like speed humps, well, they don't like taxes to pay for more police either. Drive friendly. Everyone is someone else's mother/child/loved one.

    By Blogger Unknown, At April 22, 2010 at 4:16 AM  

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