Maryland Neighborhoods Embracing ‘Traffic Calming’ Bumps and Circles

April 24, 2007

Baltimore area residents, worried about speeding and other dangerous driving in their neighborhoods, have started to demand so-called “traffic calming” programs such as speed bumps and traffic circles.

Steve McKew, president of the Catonsville Recreation and Parks Council, is one such resident. Although he knows not all of his Hilton Avenue neighbors like sharp turns, flashing lights, jutting curbs and speed bumps, he is pleased with the changes.

“It’s worth any inconvenience,” McKew said. “It’s a small price to pay for saving the life of a child riding a bike or someone walking down the street.”

Baltimore County has a waiting list for its speed-reducing programs. Requests for speed bumps, concrete funnels and traffic circles have more than doubled in the past three years.

But local governments won’t deal with every traffic issue problem with a hump or traffic circle.

The city of Baltimore and the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard need a majority of homeowners in a neighborhood to agree to allow new bumps or other speed-reducing measures. Many, including Baltimore County, have established specific guidelines on the volume of cars and average speeds to calculate if a change is required.

Anne Arundel neighborhoods sometimes must pay for speed bumps, which cost $1,300 to $1,950 each, according to James Schroll, chief of the traffic engineering division.

Routinely, developers are told to incorporate and pay for traffic-calming measures, such as signals, speed bumps, and roundabouts in new communities.

“We have the most problems with long, straight, wide streets,” said J. Michael Evans, director of Carroll County’s Department of Public Works. “The newer developments have narrower roads that squiggle around,” which can reduce the need for speed bumps.

Engineers say the curves and width of a road are among the “psychological” features that cause motorists to slow down.

But the most common request is for the speed bump or hump — a sudden rise in the pavement that causes motorists to be jolted at fast speeds.

In Baltimore County, studies indicate that speed bumps usually reduce average speeds 5 miles per hour to 10 miles per hour, according to Keith Link, head of the county’s traffic-calming program.

But they aren’t a universal solution to speeding problems, Link and other officials said. They aren’t built on heavily traveled roads or on streets with a speed limit of more than 25 mph, nor are they recommended for winding or short streets.

Traffic planners also point out that they can slow the response of emergency vehicles by several seconds.

In Anne Arundel County, officials are using computerized traffic-calming devices, including speed-activated flashers. When a motorist exceeds the speed limit in a given area, a sign turns on and flashes the appropriate speed and a warning to slow down, said Schroll, of the traffic engineering division.


Information from: The (Baltimore) Sun,

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