PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH TRAFFIC
Traffic calming devices, such as speed humps and traffic circles are spreading to communities across the United States, without regard to their risks. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has avoided the examination of the problems associated with intentionally imposing vertical and horizontal deflection on vehicles and vehicle passengers, in order to encourage the proliferation of devices on city streets.
Deflection devices built to slow passenger vehicles, create even greater delays to emergency response vehicles. The longer wheel-base, stiff suspension, high vehicle weight, as well as the sensitive equipment and injured victims transported by these vehicles, requires drivers to slow almost to a stop to negotiate the devices safely.
An unethical attempt has been made to silence the
objections of rescue personnel to delays to emergency response by
deflection devices. Fire
chiefs, as city appointees, fear professional retribution and often will
not voice concern until the level of risk becomes intolerable.
Emergency calls are not
the rare events some members of transportation and city staff would like
to believe. The City of Houston, Texas for example, responds to an average
of 150,000 emergency medical calls and 100,000 fire calls per year.
There is an average of 250,000 deaths from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)
alone each year in the United States.
American Heart Association (AHA) statistics indicate that 90% of
these incidents occur outside of the hospital environment. By comparison, there are approximately 5,000 pedestrian
deaths per year in the United States.
Few of these occur on local neighborhood streets.
A ten-year study of pedestrian deaths by the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, 1982 - 1992 found 35% of pedestrian victims
were intoxicated. National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics, Safety Facts
2000, found similar results with intoxication on the part of 31% of
pedestrian victims. AHA statistics for SCA, show survivability is directly
related to the response times of cities.
For example, an AHA study in 1996 showed that Seattle with a
response time of less than 7 minutes saved 30% of its SCA victims.
New York, with an average response time of 12 minutes saved only
While delay from individual devices is sometimes
measured, the cumulative effect of series
of devices is often ignored.
Series of devices turn seconds of delay into minutes, as
vehicles fail to regain cruising speed between the devices.
Calming devices impose permanent, 24-hour delays to emergency
response, unlike traffic congestion which occurs periodically.
A study conducted by the fire department of Austin, Texas, 1997,
showed an increase in the travel time of ambulances of up to 100%
Members of city councils and transportation divisions
often portray delay to emergency response by calming devices as simply a
tradeoff for increased safety from speeding cars. They avoid making the analysis which shows which risk is
greater. Ronald Bowman, a
scientist in Boulder, Colorado developed an analysis to compare these
risks. The results show that
even minor delay to emergency response by calming devices imposes far
greater risk on the community than vehicles, speeding or not.
The result of Bowman¬ís analysis, showed a risk factor of 85- 1
from an additional one minute of delay (predicted to result from the
installation of all the devices proposed for the City of Boulder at the
time) before one life might be saved by the devices -- if it can be shown
that the devices do save lives. Bowman¬ís
analysis, based on the curve of survivability for victims of cardiac
arrest and severe trauma (AHA) has been verified by a professional
mathematician and can be viewed online at: http://members.aol.com/raybowman/risk97/eval1.html.
The Bowman analysis was applied to the City of
Austin, Texas by Assistant Fire Chief, Les Bunte, with similar results.
The report can be viewed online at: http://home.cfl.rr.com/gidusko/texts/tfc_calm.pdf.
The results of these analyses show that deflection
devices are a tradeoff of the perception
of increased safety from speeding vehicles for the real risk to citizen survivability from delay to emergency response.
While the Institute of Transportation Engineers¬í (ITE) Guidelines
for the Design and Application of Speed Humps, 1997, states humps
should never be placed on emergency response routes, humps and physical
devices of all kinds have been installed on critical emergency response
routes in cities where these projects exist.
The proliferation of devices has resulted in temporary or permanent
moratoriums on devices in cities such as Berkeley California, Boulder
Colorado, Portland Maine and Portland Oregon.
People with disabilities complain of lasting pain and
injury caused by traveling over deflection devices in vehicles.
Significant testimony about the physical and psychological barrier
deflection devices make to access to public rights-of-way has been given
to the U.S. Access Board in Washington D.C.
A web site addressing the problems of the disabled with deflection
devices such as speed humps, speed tables and raised crosswalks can be
found at: http://www.digitalthreads.com/rada.
Calming devices have been installed on streets to
divide communities along racial and socioeconomic lines. The
U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD) identified gates
installed as part of a traffic calming project in Houston, Texas as
discriminatory, ordering them removed.
Gates were replaced with speed humps to create a similar, though
less obvious, barrier between neighborhoods.
While calming devices are built on the premise they
will reduce accidents, a comprehensive study commissioned by the ITE and
the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on
traffic calming projects in the United States concludes:
"Traffic calming in the U.S. is largely restricted to low volume
residential streets. Collisions
occur infrequently on such streets to begin with, and any systematic
change in collision rates tends to get lost in the random variation from
year to year. This limits our
confidence in drawing inferences about safety impacts of traffic calming.
(Traffic Calming: State of the Practice, Reid Ewing, 1999, P. 123)
The USDOT defines traffic calming devices as geometric
design features of the roadway, rather than traffic
control devices. The
USDOT recommends standards for the design and warrants for the use of
devices that are approved traffic control devices in the Manual on Uniform
Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The
definition of traffic calming devices as geometric design features of the
road has allowed devices to proliferate on city streets as a decision of
An increase in accidents has occurred after some
speed humps placed on a street at a school in Portland, Maine registered
an increase in accidents of 35%. Accidents increased 100%
after the installation of an experimental traffic circle in Boulder,
Colorado. However, the circle
in Boulder and the humps in Portland remain
on the street today.
People across the United States are opposing the installation of deflection devices on city streets that damage vehicles, injure vehicle passengers, increase pollution and gas consumption and delay emergency response. I have researched traffic calming projects since 1996, and have compiled my research into a 400-page report on the "Problems Associated with Traffic Calming Devices." I offer the report to all interested individuals at my cost. The following is a summary of some of the issues addressed in my report.
SUMMARY OF PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH TRAFFIC CALMING
IN THE UNITED STATES
RESPONSE CONCERNS -- Delay to emergency response vehicles by traffic calming
devices has resulted in moratoriums as well as removal of devices in
cities around the country. Fire
Departments warn of the increased risk caused by the proliferation of
devices once a calming project has begun.
A video taped discussion by the Fire Department of Portland, OR
states the department was denied participation in the implementation of
Portland's calming project, and in fact was prevented by its
Transportation Division from voicing concerns publicly.
An analysis by Ronald Bowman of Boulder, CO shows that communities
are at far greater risk from delayed emergency response by calming devices
than from vehicles. The
analysis, verified by a professional mathematician, can be viewed online
The Bowman analysis was applied to the City of
Austin, TX by Assistant Fire Chief, Les Bunte with similar results.
The Bunte report can be viewed online at:
Delay caused by humps on a street in Gaithersberg, MD
may have contributed to the death of a child in a burning home.
A firefighter descended into the basement of the home to rescue a
child when "flashover" occurred, forcing his exit from the
building. A resident of
Houston, TX is brain dead after paramedics, unable to open a gate
installed as part of calming project, were forced to take a longer route
to the victim¬ís home. Gates
on some Houston streets have been ordered open because of concerns for
emergency response. So many humps were installed in one direction on a street
leading from a Houston fire station that fire trucks only turn the
opposite direction out of the station, regardless of the location of the
There are documented injuries of firefighters who
have hit the roofs of their cabs, encountering speed humps unexpectedly.
Some injuries have placed firefighters on temporary or permanent
-- Residents in
Houston filed a complaint with HUD that gates installed as part of a
calming project were used to segregate communities along racial and
socioeconomic lines. HUD
found the City of Houston in violation of the civil rights of its
residents, ordering the gates removed.
The gates were replaced with humps to effectively, though less
overtly, discourage access to the neighborhoods.
THE FEDERAL CLEAN AIR ACT -- Funds allocated for a traffic calming experiment by the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ)
Program to the City of Portland, ME were rescinded when it was shown that
the project of humps increased emissions by 48%
without taking into consideration increased emissions from braking and
acceleration required to negotiate the devices. The State of Maine has been ordered under the federal Clean
Air Act to show evidence of compliance in reducing pollutants.
Section 113, "Federal Enforcement," states fines including
imprisonment will be levied against entities responsible for knowingly
increasing the release of pollutants into the air in cities on federal
notice to improve air quality. The
experiment has not been removed.
An Austrian study, in 1994, using a mobile exhaust
fume measuring-device registered an increase in vehicle emissions of ten
times on streets with speed humps.
Research Laboratory (TRL), a research agency of the Department
ofTransportation in the United Kingdom, conducted emissions tests in 1997
on streets with road humps and found the following results as reported in
TRL Report 307:
"Schemes with a 75 metre hump spacing . . . showed increases in CO and HC of around 70-80% and 70-100% respectively, and an increase in CO2 of around 50-60%. Nox emissions were predicted to be about 0-20% lower after calming."
the possible effect of smoother driving after the installation of humps
(without braking and acceleration) the TRL measured the change in
emissions associated with moving from a constant speed of 30 mph to a
constant speed of 20 mph and found the following results:
CO and HC increased by 40- 80%, CO2 by 30- 40% and NOx by 20- 30 %.
A more recent study by the TRL, Report 482 in 2001,
registered increases in all emission pollutants after traffic calming:
For petrol catalyst vehicles: CO 59%, HC 54%, NO2, 8%, CO2 26%
The study states that speed humps created the largest
increase in pollutants of all calming devices tested.
THE ADA --
A moratorium on speed humps is presently in effect in Berkeley, CA
because of emergency response concerns and because of complaints from the
disabled community. Persons
with some disabilities state the lasting pain and injury caused by
deflection devices makes them virtual barriers to accessibility.
The Department of Justice regulations for Title II of the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA) define "facility" to include "roads".
Title II states an alteration to a facility must make the facility
accessible and usable to the maximum extent feasible.
The report, Building a True Community, 2001,
by the Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee of the U.S. Access
Board in Washington D.C, acknowledges significant public testimony from
people with a variety of disabilities that vertical and horizontal
deflection devices are not only painful, but worsen existing conditions
while traveling by vehicle. The
U.S. Access Board publication, Accessible Rights of Way: sidewalks,
street crossings, other pedestrian facilities, 1999, states that
drivers with disabilities report the jarring from crossing speed humps
even at low speeds can be painful and dangerous, resulting in the devices
being "a barrier to roadway use."
Both publications suggest, in the absence of research, that
entities consider other traffic calming measures.
A lawsuit was filed against the City of Bethesda, MD by a disabled
resident for placing speed humps on streets providing access to his home.
Speed humps were removed from streets in San Diego, CA because of
problems experienced by disabled residents.
A website addressing the concerns of the disabled with deflection
devices can be found at: http://www.digitalthreads.com/rada.
-- In August 1998,
Florida Judge Robert Bennet ruled in favor of two residents of the City of
Sarasota who filed suit against the city for placing devices on city
streets that are not approved traffic control devices in the federal
Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
States have adopted the MUTCD as a guide for the recommended
placement and design of devices that are approved traffic control devices.
Compliance with warrants for the devices provides protection from
liability. The decision was overturned on appeal, on the basis that the
plaintiffs did not have standing to sue, not on the merits of the ruling.
The legal departments of some cities have reasoned
the absence of standards and warrants for the design and use of traffic
calming devices from the MUTCD indicates lack of authorization for cities
to build the devices on streets.
Calming devices are typically marked with the yellow
diamond shaped sign, recommended in the MUTCD to warn drivers of street
hazards. Cities are required
to keep streets free of hazards. Drivers can injure themselves and their
vehicles driving over the devices at posted speed limits. Devices
are typically designed to lower speeds below
posted speed limits. The
legal department of Sunnyvale CA expressed concern cities could be liable
not only for injury caused by a device, but for injury and property damage
resulting from actions taken by drivers because of a device, such as
swerving around them. Legal
departments express concern cities could be liable for personal injury and
property loss wherein response to an emergency situation was delayed by
CONFLICT -- It has been
said that "traffic calming" has become "people calming."
Even pro-calming data acknowledges the volatility of the debate.
Diversion of traffic to other streets always accompanies an
installation of devices. Residents
who must travel over the devices are often irate about the discomfort of
the devices, the increased vehicle noise from loads shifting over devices
and the visual pollution of the signs and pavement markings needed to warn
drivers of devices. Division
and angst often remain in the neighborhood, long after an installation is
Reuben Castenada and Steven Gray, "Maryland Boy, 13, Dies in Fire at Friend¬ís Sleepover," THE WASHINGTON POST, June 15, 1998 (Firefighter Stottlemeyer descends into basement to rescue child as flashover occurs forcing his exit from the home.)
Jen Chaney, "Fatal fire renews speed hump debate," GAITHERSBERG GAZETTE, July 8, 1998 (Impact of delay caused by humps on street on rescue of child.)
Dwight Daniels, "Encinitas protesters¬í parked vehicles hinder laying of speed bumps," THE SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE, Aug. 13, 1998
Editorial, "Meeting air standards Maine¬ís obligation too," PORTLAND PRESS HERALD, October 17, 1997 (Ruling of EPA)
Editorial, "Street Fights," THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE, July 12, 1994 (Closures foster exclusivity rather than community.)
Dan Feldstein, "Brown has 911 gate removed," THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE, August 18, 1998 ("Closure denies emergency access.")
Dan Feldstein, "Subdivision struggles with great barrier rift," THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE, February 22, 1999
Kristen Green,"It¬ís neighbor vs. neighbor over
Santee speed bumps," THE SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE, March 7, 2000
Kristen Green, "Disabled woman wins fight to remove
speed bumps on her street," THE SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE, May 12, 2000
Jean-Martin Kuntscher, "Speed bumps cause ten times
more air pollution," ALLIANCE INTERNATIONALE DE TOURISME, FEDERATION
INTERNATIONALE DE L¬íAUTOMOBILE, September 6, 1994
Marshall, "Circles called hazards," THE DAILY CAMERA, December 12,
Paul Marston, "Humps increase exhaust fumes," UK
NEWS, ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH,
Bruce Nichols, "Houston hits the brakes on speed-humps," THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE, ("Deterrent for drivers raises worries about police, fire response.") August 1, 1999
Amy Reinholds, "Whittier attempts mediation
¬ÖNeighbors square off on traffic issue" THE DAILY CAMERA, January 21,
Amy Reinholds, "Slip-sliding away at Pine St.
traffic circle", THE COLORADO DAILY,
Scherr, "Berkeley¬ís bumpy battle," BERKELEY DAILY PLANET, March 27,
2000 (Berkeley Commission on Disability takes stand against humps.)
Mark Shanahan, "Federal government pulls funds from
traffic-slowing experiment," PORTLAND PRESS HERALD, August 18, 1998
Matt Schwartz, "HUD labels Dian Street gate discriminatory, asks removal," THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE, October 15, 1998
Joanne B. Walker, "Speed bumps, tables meet legal obstacle," ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, August 1998 (Judge Bennett rules in favor of 2 citizens who have filed suit against city for placing devices on streets used for traffic control which are not approved traffic control devices in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.)
John Williams, "Street Warfare" (Intersection sealing brings racism calls.) THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE, July 10, 1994
John Williams, "Probe of bias and street closings looks at use of federal money," THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE, December 16, 1994
REPORTS / PAPERS
Accessible Rights-of-Way: Sidewalks, street crossings, other pedestrian facilities, U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, U.S. Access Board, November 1999.
"All Vehicle VOC and NOX Emission
Factors by Speed, Summer and Winter," graph provided by Ron Severence,
Maine Department of Environmental Protection, 1997
An Analysis of Leadership, Politics and Ethics in the Stevens Avenue Traffic Calming Project, Part III, Ethics in the Stevens Avenue Project" by Scott Landry, Scot Mattox, Sara & Celeste Vigor, May 14, 1998 (Graduate paper for Muskie Institute at University of Maine Law School)
Boulder Fire Department Master Plan, Kevin Klein for City of Boulder CO, 1996
Building a True Community Final Report, Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee, U.S. Access Board, January 10, 2001
Deaths Expected from Delayed Emergency Response Due to Neighborhood Traffic Mitigation, Ronald R. Bowman, April 3, 1997
An Evaluation of the Speed Hump Program in the City of Berkeley, October 1997 (Damage to vehicles, impact on ambulance and fire services and people with disabilities.)
Guidelines for the Design and Application of Speed
Institute of Transportation Engineers, 1997
The Impacts of Traffic Calming Measures on Vehicle Exhaust Emissions, United Kingdom,Transport Research Laboratory Report 482, PG Boulter, AJ Hickman
"Motor-Vehicle-Related Deaths Involving Intoxicated
Pedestrians"- United States, 1982¬ó1992," Morbidity and
Mortality Weekly Report, Vol. 43 / No. 14
911 Emergency Gate Review,
Fire Chief Les Tyra, City of Houston Fire Department, November 17, 1998
Possible Neighborhood Traffic Calming Methods,
Report to city council of Sunnyvale, CA,
Speed Hump/UC Plan Presentation Outline, draft report, Susan Sanderson, Transportation Planner, City of Berkeley, (Emergency response concerns from proliferation of speed humps. Humps not the tool felt they were.) 1995.
The American Heart Association, 1996
A Survey of Traffic Calming Practices in the United
Institute of Urban and Regional Development by Asha Weinstein and
Elizabeth Deakin, University of California at Berkeley, March 1998,
(Conflict in neighborhoods.)
Stevens Avenue Traffic Calming Project,
DeLuca-Hoffman Associates Inc., May 27, 1998, Portland, Maine
(Increased accidents and pollution from traffic calming project.)
Calming: State of the Practice,
Reid Ewing, ITE/FHWA, 1999
Traffic Calming and vehicle emissions:
A literature review,
Transport Research Laboratory Report 307, United Kingdom, P. G. Boulter
and D. C. Webster, 1997
Americans with Disabilities Act,
Title II, State and Local Government, Justice regulations, 28 CFR, 35.151,
"New construction and alterations."
Clean Air Act, EPA, Title 1, Part A, Air Quality and Emission Limits, Sec. 113 Federal Limits
Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices,
Millennium Edition, USDOT/FHWA, 2000
Traffic Safety Facts 2000,
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, USDOT
Analysis of Speed Hump Effects on Response Times," City of Austin, TX
"The Effects of Speed Humps and Traffic Circles on
Responding Fire-Rescue Apparatus in Montgomery County, Maryland,"
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Commission, August 1997
The Influence of Traffic Calming Devices on Fire
Vehicle Travel Times," Portland Bureau of Fire, Rescue and Emergency
Service, January 1996
Memorandum from Nels Tahti, Administrative Analyst,
City of Roseville, CA Fire Department
(Time trials on streets with series of speed humps), June 4, 1991
Letter from Earl Noe, "I have disabled your car ¬Ö
because you have so little regard for laws," THE BOULDER PLANET,
October 9- 15, 1996 (Opponent of devices has tires slashed.)
Letter from Karen Craig, Chair, Commission on
Disability, Berkeley CA to Berkeley Mayor and City Council, November 10,
1998 (Problems of the disabled with vertical deflection devices.)
Letter from Special Transit of Boulder, CO to Boulder
City Council, April 3, 1997 (Problems of disabled riders with vertical and
horizontal deflection devices.)
Letter from Steven Beningo, Division Transportation
Planner, USDOT, to Commissioner John Melrose, Maine DOT, August 13, 1998,
(Rescinds funds for Portland¬ís traffic calming project because of
Affidavit of Settlement for Permanent Disability for
fire fighter, George Gosbee, Montgomery County, MD, 1998 (Settlement of $
3,000 per month for life for injury sustained when hit speed hump
traveling to scene of emergency.)
Appellant¬ís Brief in, Slager v. Duncan and Montgomery County MD to U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit (Unpublished opinion, sets no precedent by rules of the court.)
Final Judgment, Twelfth Circuit Court of the State of Florida, June 29, 1998 (Judge Robert B. Bennet rules in favor of Windom and Hartenstine of Sarasota, FL)
Opinion of Attorney General, State of Maryland, No.
86-021, April 2, 1986 (Potential liability.)
Opinion of Thomas R. Powell, Senior Assistant City
Attorney, The City of Wichita, KS April 1, 1986 (Potential liability.)
Housing Discrimination Complaint, filed by Calvin Hummer, President, Meadow Walk Town Home Association, Houston TX, May 28, 1997
"The Other Pine Intersections," Ronald Bowman,
1996 (Graph showing increase in accidents at intersections with traffic
circles on Pine St., Boulder CO.)
Program Application for CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) funds from City of Portland, July 1994. (City agrees to remove temporary measures if CMAQ determines emissions are not lowered by project.)
"Traffic Calming Devices," 1996, Portland Bureau
of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services, 55 SW Ash St., Portland, OR