There's a love for speed bumps and humps in Takoma Park. I mean a real, tall love. A love so tall it smacks the bottom of your car.
When a resident of Takoma Park sees a speeding motorist, they immediately run to City Council demanding a speed bump. The problem is, speed bumps don't work as desired and cause more problems than they solve--the worst of those consequences is killing people.
The conventional wisdom is that speeding cars are killing our children. Putting a speed bump in place slows cars down, thus saving dozens, perhaps hundreds of flattened kids. Unfortunately, that's not true.
What they actually do is slow responding emergency vehicles. In a heart attack or other serious medical situation, seconds become crucially important. An ambulance is delayed for each speed bump by five to ten seconds. Multiply that delay by ten speed bumps on your way to the hospital, and you've delayed your arrival by nearly two minutes.
Two minutes? That's all? That shouldn't make a difference? But it does.
One report from Boulder, Colorado, suggests that for every life saved by traffic calming, as many as 85 people may die because emergency vehicles are delayed. It found response times are typically extended by 14% due to speed-reduction measures. Another study conducted by the Austin, Texas, fire department showed an increase in the travel time of ambulances when transporting victims of up to 100%.
Emotion causes people to request bumps. But data shows that those bumps do more harm than good. Are you so worried about speeding cars that you're willing to risk the certain death of your neighbor having a heart attack? Perhaps City Council Member Seamens is. He commented at the May 23 meeting that a speed bump he's familiar with "worked as intended and hasn't created a dangerous situation at all." Apparently, for Mr. Seamens, killing heart patients is just what we intend in Takoma Park.
Don't care about data on deaths? Well, speed bumps actually increase speeds between bumps. Drivers jump on the gas peddle and accelerate faster than the speed limit after the bump. So while your kids may be safer, your neighbor's are road-kill.
And boy are those bumps bad for the environment <cough, cough>. When people gun the engine after that bump, their cars pump out pollution. That pollution increases asthma in children, heart conditions in older folk, and warms up the planet. Again, do a Google search and you'll find study after study showing fuel economy reductions and pollution increases. Takoma Park wants to decrease greenhouse gases and other pollutants, but these propagating speed bumps only increase them.
And if you're a bicycle commuter, forget it. If Takoma Park were really interested in slowing speed and making things safer, it would encourage bicycling. But building more speed bumps makes it very dangerous for bike commuters, I can assure you. Don't see a speed bump? Crash. Don't slow down well below the speed limit? Bike damage. It would be ironic if, in a move to make streets safer for kids, we caused more kids riding bikes to crash and get injured.
But there are tons of effective alternatives to speed bumps. Narrowing streets, choke points, roundabouts, chicanes and other measures all slow cars and don't slow emergency vehicles. They also don't screw with bicycles.
Want to reduce speed on your street? Lower the speed limit to 15 miles per hour then enforce the hell out of it. Ticket people constantly. I'll bet you'll find a lot of residents who love their bumps, but also love to speed!
People get frustrated--we're all frustrated at asinine drivers. And speed bumps look like a quick, easy, and cheap solution. But when you investigate, study after study shows they don't work. Don't succumb to emotion. Instead take the time to advocate for effective solutions without the negative side effects.
Say 'no' to reactionary thinking and 'hello' to creative traffic-calming solutions!