Oppose Traffic Calming Obstructions
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
timely, inasmuch as I'm currently in the Bay Area for Oracle OpenWorld.
The San Mateo Public Works Commission is going back to the drawing board to figure out what to do with the increasing popular traffic deterrent — speed humps.
Spurred by opposing arguments that speed humps delay fire trucks responding to emergencies and at the same time slow traffic enough to save children’s’ lives, the San Mateo Public Works Commission decided more study was needed before recommending to the City Council whether to keep or ditch the humps.
Without the speed humps, residents will be left with one less option for slowing fast moving cars in their neighborhoods. With the humps, the fire department will take longer to respond to emergencies and spend more money repairing its vehicles.
San Mateo instituted speed humps as part of its traffic calming policy in 2001 despite concerns expressed by then Fire Chief William McDonald....
The San Mateo Fire Department recently conducted its own field test to prove response times are slower with speed humps. Firefighters drove both the smaller fire engines and larger tiller trucks down 39th Avenue with humps and 38th Avenue without humps.
The estimated delay was about 10 seconds per hump. It may seem like a small fraction of time, but every second counts when someone’s life is at stake, fire officials said.
For resident Ralph Cole, seconds shaved from emergency response time could have saved him from becoming a paraplegic years ago. If paramedics arrived sooner, Cole said they would have been able to save him from paralysis.
However, residents near 26th Avenue said they decided speed humps were necessary after an 8-year-old boy was struck by a car a few years ago. They have been going through the lengthy process required to get speed humps installed and are angered by the city’s sudden consideration to get rid of the program....
The speed humps cost $5,000 to install. They are the cheapest of all traffic calming measures. However, the damage they cause on one truck is three to five times that much. To replace one spring worn out by traveling over speed humps will cost the city $15,000 to $20,000. It will also put a fire truck out of commission for weeks to months, said Fire Chief Brian Kelly.
In 2000, the city established guidelines to deliver emergency services within five minutes 90 percent of the time....
Under the existing conditions in the city, the fire department finds it difficult to respond in less than six minutes 90 percent of the time. Of the 8,000 calls the department responded to last year, 65 percent were medical calls where seconds can count....
In 1990, Berkeley placed 14 speed humps on residential blocks. By 1996, the city had 156 speed bumps on 99 blocks and the fire department began to adamantly oppose the humps. By 1997, the city agreed to no longer permit speed humps unless receiving approval from the police department....
“You think you’re going to slow traffic, you’re then going to direct traffic to surrounding streets,” said Ann-Margret Moyer, a Berkeley firefighter and paramedic who lives on 29th Avenue in San Mateo.
Moyer told the council of an incident in Berkeley when it took a tiller truck two minutes to travel four blocks with speed humps. The tiller truck — with a driver in the back — must slow down twice per speed hump, she said.
“Imagine you are at the other end of the street watching those headlights go over each hump,” she said. “If you have a fractured hip . . . the pain you’ll feel going over those bumps will be tremendous.”
However, the alternatives are not as effective and more expensive.
Portland, Ore. decided to install split speed humps that allow trucks to maneuver around the raised part. It’s even easier for smaller cars to move around the humps, said Director of Public Works Larry Patterson....
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