One Bump for My Baby, The Rest for the Road

Useless, annoying things. Or are they?

Recently, I was walking in a near-by neighborhood and saw that a singular speed bump had been bolted to the asphalt in between a stretch of road connecting several adjacent streets. I wondered what sort of declamatory statement was being made here. Did it serve as a warning to those considering giving into the temptation to lay a patch on the road and drive flat out to satisfy an unquenchable desire for speed? And why only one? Why not a series of them, strategically placed, to defy any speed demon to take their best shot at a mph record? It seemed odd, and I actually felt myself feeling sorry for it. It looked lonely.

What's in a name

Did you know that speed bumps have many aliases like, "Vertical Deflection Devices", "Sleeping Policemen", "Traffic Calming Devices" or my favorite, "Bott's Dots". Don't ask me where that comes from. I have no idea.

Walk Like an Egyptian....

The concept of speed bumps harkens back to the days of ancient Egypt where Egyptian roads were the first to see raised cross walks. These walks did not serve the purpose to reduce speed, but rather protected pedestrians from muddy road surfaces. Very nice of them I think.

Do we have to talk about history? ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

This is interesting. The first prototype of a speed bump was implemented in Chatham, New Jersey in March of 1906. New-fangled "carriages", replacing horse drawn ones, were not abiding by the 10 – 15 mph limits set in the downtown sections of the city. “Speed reducers” were created made of broken bits of machinery, bed springs and cobblestones in hopes of slowing the pace of these speed demons. The people of Chatham came out to see the potential spectacle, creating a carnival like atmosphere including food and drink. They were not disappointed. The New York Times reported that several vehicles shot upwards in the air after going over these speed reducers causing all manner of things to fly in the air such as hairpins, hats and even monkey wrenches to the cheers of the residents!

The design for Speed humps as we know them today were first invented in the 1950’s by a physicist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Author Holly Compton. Also in the 1970’s, Great Britain began to experiment with several different shapes to test for effectiveness in speed reduction.

There are differences you know.

I didn't realize this, but there are speed bumps and speed humps and both serve different purposes. The speed bump is about 3 – 4 inches high and about 1 – 3 feet in length giving little distance between the bump and the road surface. Their structure causes vehicles to slow to a crawl or almost come to a complete stop. They are mostly seen in parking lots and on private roads. The characteristic of a bump is likened to running over a two by four causing traffic to abruptly stop. The speed hump, on the other hand, is similar in that they are about the same height of a bump but span the width of the road and are installed underneath the road surface. They are found on residential roads and the main purpose is to cause the driver to slow to speeds of 15 to 20 mph, thus reducing traffic speeds without interrupting traffic flow.

Oh, this is interesting. I found the following equation developed by a Subcommittee of the California Traffic Control to determine spacing between humps:

Hs = 0.5[2(V85)(V85)-700]

Now that we are all feeling nauseous, let’s move on.

There are pros to speed bumps? Really?

Sentiment over these traffic calming devices appears to be mixed. There are some that feel the reduction in traffic flow speeds makes roads safer and reduces accidents. . Most feel these ‘bee-esque” mounds of concrete and asphalt cause us to plead to the heavens above or curse the infernal regions below when subjecting our cars to its restrictive powers. It can damage under carriages, and ruin tires, even if cautiously run over. As a matter of fact, the lower the car you have, the worse off you are. Some of the research I read suggests super cars need to run over them at an angle. Avoidance is even better.

What do you think? If you ran the universe, would you ban them altogether or do you think they have some purpose. I’d be interested in your “Because I Said So” comments. Also, please feel free to post any pictures of speed bumps or humps that you are particularly fond of….or not.

Always a spirit of humility and inquiry, Karen


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Comments (15)

  • Just absolutely no. The whole idea of a road is that it is supposed to be a smooth and efficient pathway from one place to another. That's why we bother putting asphalt down.

    Speed bumps are uncomfortable, taxing on shock absorbers and engines, bad for emissions, and a lazy way of dealing with reckless driving.

    But I will speed bump this article.

      3 years ago
  • I think they are needed, but some of them are pretty harsh or put in areas where you cant see them with no warning they are coming.

      3 years ago
    • I agree Stephen. Every time I go over oneI cringe wondering what it is doing to my undercarriage. Thanks for reading my first offering and for letting me post to your tribe :)

        3 years ago
    • Absolutely! That is what the tribe is for 😀 Great job by the way.

        3 years ago
  • Maybe speed bumps should be put to a worldwide popular vote and removed from the face of the earth forever?

      3 years ago
    • Lol you know Ben, that would be tempting to do.... very tempting :)

        3 years ago
    • Except that's democracy. And people wouldn't accept the result. They'd have to protest against it.

        3 years ago
  • I am very fond of this speed bump right in front of my house. It speeds people down, but it isn’t too uncomfortable.

      3 years ago
    • Oh this is a speed hump :) The articles I read said that although humps are supposed to decrease the flow of traffic, the resulting lift to one’s undercarriage is more severe than going over a bump. Have you ever popped your car over one and hit...

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        3 years ago