Speed Bumps or Narrower Streets?

The City of Suffolk, which has recently taken over responsibility for secondary roads from the state, is getting a taste of the kind of issues that the Virginia Department of Transportation once dealt with. Judging by today’s column by John Warren at the Virginian-Pilot, the issues require a detailed knowledge of local conditions.

Applewood Farms has speeders, and Heather Dulene has fingered Public Enemy No.

“There’s a red Mustang driver I’d love to see jolted out of his seat by a speed bump, that he, of course, wouldn’t see, considering he’s driving 75 mph,” Dulene said.

Her neighbor in the Suffolk subdivision, Mary Adkins, squinted her eyes.

“The kid with the ponytail,” Adkins said.

Are speed bumps the best solution? Or are there better options, such as creating “visual breaks in the streetscape, reducing the ‘raceway’ appearance of wide residential streets”? Such decisions are probably best made locally by the level of government closest to the people affected. In Suffolk, devolution seems to make good sense.

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4 responses to “Speed Bumps or Narrower Streets?”

  1. Waldo Avatar

    The city installed traffic calming devices here in Charlottesville, about five years ago, on Park St. It’s a residential road that happens to serve as a convenient shortcut from downtown to uptown. The traffic that it receives long ago became bumper-to-bumper, far beyond what it was ever meant to handle. Those who live on the street require enormous amounts of time just to have a chance to pull out of their driveway.

    So the bump-outs and artificial twists in the road were greeted enthusiastically by those who lived on the street. But they worked so well, though, that everybody else hated them. There are still people calling for the heads of city councilors, saying that they feel like it’s a slalom course, it’s dangerous, they can’t drive as fast, etc.

    The irony being that if traffic calming in this manner works properly, people can only complain. The goal is to make the road less drivable, to force people to slow down. It’s not clear to me that such measures can ever succeed, w/r/t popular opinion — the better they are, the less popular that they are.

  2. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    How about a gas tax that is actually high enough to discourage 300 HP automobiles? My street in Alexandria was popular with joyriders because it had sudden elevation changes which would allow you to take your car airborne. When the gas crisis hit in the 70’s the joyriding decreased. (That, and some residents had a habit of going out at night and removing the manhole covers.)

    The thing about this post that jars me is this: if the residents can idientify this jerk, why can’t the police?

    At various times in my commuting life I have observed some individuals pullin the same stupid stunt, over and over. One guy had a habit of propping open the sports page on his steering wheel, westbound on route 66. I must have seen him a dozen times. That was before cell phones. Now I would report him. Usually if someone is doing something really stupid, I just assume he is drunk and make a drunk driver report. If he does get pulled over, it is sure to be aggravating.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    this is actually an important land-use/transportation issue.

    Remember the GA … and the idea that folks who insist that their subdivision be a dead-end cul-de-sac verses others who say that each one of these subdivisions requires new curb cuts on major roads .. and in many case new traffic-congestion-inducing traffic signals?

    If VDOT and the planning community didn’t do another thing.. other than develop a coherent policy with regard to connectivity and traffic through-flow – it would be a major win’win.

    It might be something relatively simple of requiring that some roads WILL be connecting roads but that the traffic volumes and speed WILL be controlled via narrowing the streets and/or traffic calming.

    OR .. it might be that we all agree that NO subdivision roads will ever be connecting roads – and that always they will be “locked down” no matter what measures are required to accomplish that.

    The point being – that we have a coherent and stated policy – and we recognize and deal with the consequences of it

    Right now.. in every one of the cases – it basically boils down to a political contest between the residents and the cut through drivers.

    and ironically.. many folks who don’t want “cut-throughs” in their own subdivisions ..are the biggest complainers about the traffic calming installed in their own favorite “cut-through” for their daily commute!

    .. a coherent policy… have all the public hearings you want.. hear all sides… propose as simple or as comprehensive policy as is wished – and then implement it – and enforce it and stop all this nattering….

  4. Anonymous Avatar


    just another example of NIMBYIsim :-p


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