Re: The speed bump dilemma, Tom Michalski’s column, Oct. 21 Editor: If any readers claim that Tom Michalski overlooked the “Oakland study” about children, safety and speed humps, be sure to point out that the study overlooked arithmetic accuracy, statistical significance and other basic scientific standards. (Table 2 is the source of some of the big errors that make the Oakland report little more than a headline grabber.) More details about the study can be found on the web at www.digitalthreads.com/rada/japhoak.html
My interest? I’m disabled and was injured riding over speed humps, as a passenger in a sedan, at very low speed. Before the ride, our local traffic engineer (now retired) assured me that the humps had been tested and found safe for everyone. He even recommended the “test ride.”
I learned immediately, the hard way, that speed humps are not safe for everybody. The aftermath of my ride included multiple medical treatments and long-lasting pain.
That was in 1994. Two years ago, there was a different, but much more serious, speed hump related accident here in Berkeley. A man died after being struck by a car. He was in the roadway using a power-chair. In the area he needed to get through as a pedestrian, the sidewalks were blocked and other street segments had speed humps that were too steep for him to navigate. (Excessive slope and cross-slope create access problems for pedestrians with a variety of disabilities.)
The problems aren’t limited to the United States. Last month, Hazel Kincey was featured in a newspaper article in the United Kingdom for collecting 9,000 signatures on a petition to remove speed humps. Mrs. Kincey is a “home help” provider for people who need assistance to continue living independently in their own homes. Her reasons for trying to have the humps removed include the problems they cause for people with painful medical conditions and for pedestrians who need to use scooters for mobility.
The anecdotal evidence reported by and about people with disabilities is backed up in the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory publication titled, “Impact of road humps on vehicles and their occupants” (TRL-614). From their limited model and study, the authors reported there were no problems EXCEPT for people with certain “medical conditions” and for folks riding in certain vehicles (such as the passengers in London taxicabs).
No matter what the computer models and professional drivers indicated to the researchers, the recent impact on a bus rider in the UK was very clear. The local newspaper reported that “ … a Cumbrian bus passenger broke his back when the bus went over a hump. Neil Price might be paralyzed permanently from the waist down, after the bus he was on hit a speed hump ... ” In one report, bus company management countered local government claims that the bus driver was speeding as being incredible since the driver was slowing because the bus was about to turn a corner.
Many people may not be familiar with the challenges that accompany disability and age. But, everyone should understand the seriousness of the problems described above. Instead of installing humps and similar devices that are designed to cause pain via vertical deflection, communities should be implementing other, more humane, solutions.