Guest Column by Eric Plow
In spite of a bad economy, dwindling tax revenues, and unmanageable fiscal debt, cities and towns all over the US have passed bonds (translation: borrowing money) to install thousands of speed bumps, along with 3-way and 4-way stop signs, in an effort to appease neighborhood activists who want to inconvenience anyone driving on streets in front of their homes (that all citizens pay for by the way). These neighborhood activists are always willing to spend someone else’s money, but let’s examine the impact:
Every day, on a national level, hundreds of thousands of cars, busses, and trucks are forced to slow down and then re-accelerate to accommodate speed bumps that rattle your teeth at 15 mph. This results in unnecessary consumption of gas or diesel fuel (stop and go traffic decreases fuel efficiency immensely), increased pollution, emissions and noise, not to mention wear and tear on brakes and suspensions! These devices should be outlawed on a national level, except for their original intended use in parking lots and certain congested areas, such as airports. If they must be installed for legitimate reasons, they should at the very least be engineered so as to allow traffic to traverse smoothly at the posted speed limit. In Chapel Hill, one often has to slow down to 10 mph in a 25 mph neighborhood just to negotiate these impediments to the smooth flow of traffic. I’ve seen speed bumps within a hundred yards of a stop sign. Why? What purpose does this serve? I have to drive over at least ten speed bumps every day, and not once have I seen a child playing in the street whose safety has been increased by the presence of speed bumps. And incidentally, streets are for cars, not for children to play in. Do parents supervise their kids anymore?
Regarding 3-way and 4-way stop signs, most intersections have a road that is more heavily travelled and therefore should have the right of way over side streets, which should logically have to stop before entering the main road. Lakeshore Drive is a good example — there should be no stop signs for traffic travelling on Lakeshore Drive. On the other hand, if the side streets have enough traffic to regularly cause backups, it’s time to install a traffic sensitive actuated traffic signal, such as the one at the intersection of Hillsborough and Rosemary Streets. 3-way and 4-way stop signs only increase the backlog and confuse drivers who haven’t learned who has the right of way when more than one car reaches the intersection at the same time. It’s a regular occurrence at 4-way intersections to see cars backed up on all sides, everyone trying to guess who has the right of way, several cars trying to negotiate the intersection at once, only to stop and try again after everyone looks at the other drivers to see who can survive what turns into a frustrating game of “chicken”. (Traffic circles are a great solution to this problem, but unfortunately are expensive and often require more land than is available.)
Chapel Hill took out a bond several years ago to pay for these monstrosities, and we’ll be paying for them in years to come, both in terms of increased taxes, road maintenance, wasted fuel, and annoyance. So please don’t tout Chapel Hill as being “green” if you support these generators of increased emissions and wasted fossil fuels. Anyone who has an open mind should look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speed_bump#Disadvantages
Chapel Hill, NC