I’ve been pressed gently but relentlessly by people in the neighborhood where I own rental property to sign a petition to install traffic-calming devices on the streets that frame my corner lot. I’ve gently but relentlessly refused. My observation has been that traffic-calming devices – speed bumps, humps, tables, cushions and traffic undulation devices – don’t work. We already have speed bumps on nearby streets. Many university students live in that neighborhood, and they roar up to a speed bump, slam on the brakes, then roar away. That’s if they stop at all. An SUV can take the bump at full speed, undeterred by being airborne for a second or two.
Several people who spoke at last Monday’s council meeting agree with me. An item on the consent agenda recommended that parking 50 feet on either side of a traffic calming device be prohibited. People from three different neighborhoods spoke, most of them against the parking restrictions. The total 100-foot No Parking span – 6 feet longer than a basketball court, to put it in context – would inordinately squeeze already tight parking availability in Northside and Southern Village and along Sedgefield Drive, where many houses don’t have garages. And although speed bumps don’t always work to slow traffic, lining the street with several parked cars usually does.
Some asked that the speed bumps be removed altogether.
Some people brought up that the latest iteration of traffic-calming device has a set of narrow tracks cut into it, spaced just wide enough for a car to roll its tires through, if it slows down enough. However, the car has to cross the yellow line to do so. Parked cars close to the speed bump might encourage cars to pull out to the middle to aim for the cut-throughs, so that contingent wanted to enact the parking prohibition.
One resident, arguing for the parking restrictions, pointed out that some pedestrians use speed tables as de facto crosswalks, and if cars are parked close by, motorists can’t see pedestrians emerging from between parked cars until it is too late.
Every time a neighbor contacts me about signing a petition in favor of speed bumps, I ask them to consider sidewalks instead. If we had sidewalks, the fast-moving cars in the street would pose less of a danger to pedestrians. But sidewalks take too long, my neighbors tell me, and are too expensive. But so is installing a speed bump at one group’s behest and removing it at another’s.
– Nancy Oates