Bumpity-Bump, Bumpity-Bump!

Dear Readers,

You like those speed bumps on your street, don’t you? And if you don’t have one, you are itching to get one, aren’t you? All those other neighborhoods have them, why doesn’t yours rate? You are fed up with those reckless drivers zooming past, yakking on their cellphones, not watching out for your kids or pets, and one of these days some speedy dufus is going to miss the curve and wind up in your nasturtiums!

We hate to break this to you, Dear Readers, but the city council does not share your love of speed bumps. Speed bumps are so 80s! They are not environmentally correct (cars slowing down and then speeding up put more fumes into the air), they are hard on suspensions, noisy, are not kind to bicyclists, and generate complaints to the city when people knock their transmissions on them.

The current state of the art “traffic calming” method is streetscaping: wide sidewalks, narrow traffic lanes, “bump-outs” for pedestrians at crosswalks, strategic placement of parking spaces, traffic “tables” at intersections, and suchlike. That’s the stuff the city council likes! They’ve used these in Old Town and other parts of the city.

Neighborhoods keep asking for speed bumps, however. They want to punish speeders, not calm them down. Two such requests were on the city council agenda Feb. 17th, one for Ritchie Avenue, another for the Pinecrest section. Residents from those areas all turned out to show support.

The city council and the public works director went along with the requests – there were voters in the room after all. But Councilmember Terry Seamens, whose ward included Ritche Avenue, seemed to speak for the majority when he said that as a rule he did not like speed bumps, but would support his constants in this effort.

Both areas will probably get their bumps – and the Pinecrest neighborhood will likely get a speed table, too.

Non Conformity
Meanwhile at The Junction, that confusing, often congested intersection of avenues by the fire station, one of the car repair businesses wants to build a structure on their lot so they don’t have to work on cars outdoors. The city and county codes get all sniffy when it comes to auto mechanic shops, calling them “non-conforming use,” when they are within sight of residential property. The shop in question is also within the historic district.

The codes are also a bit unclear about how to proceed in this situation, so the staff asked the council to weigh in on whether they thought the law required the shop to present a “site plan review,” a prohibitively expensive step for a small business. Not requiring a site plan review, however, would set a precedent that the other other auto repair businesses at the Junction could take advantage of.

The council pondered the laws and decided a site plan review was not required.

Your Gilbert is relieved. We were knitting our brows in consternation as they discussed the issue. Such hostility toward auto repair shops! So what if they can be seen from residences? They have existed side by side for decades.

We thought Takoma Park liked to think of itself as being like a small town. Every small town we’ve lived in or visited had a centrally located auto repair shop and/or gas station.

Your Gilbert is dumbfounded that other people see no value in having a mechanic’s shop located where one can drop off a car, then walk home, then walk back to the shop to pick it up.
Having a city with no conveniently located repair shop because repair shops are ugly is like building a house with no bathroom, because bathrooms are icky. The obvious question in both instances is, “so where do you go?”

We’re glad the council came down on the side of sense in this matter, though to our perplexion some of the councilmembers seemed to favor eventually getting the auto-repair businesses out of the Junction. If they get their way and Takoma Park ends up with a shopping district full of yuppie boutiques, Your Gilbert hopes they all get flat tires at the Junction during rush hour.

Water Bunch of Bozos

Representatives from the Washington Sanitary Suburban Commission (WSSC), the folks who supply you with water, dig up your street, and leave big holes to break your car on will be publicly pilloried at a special meeting in the city council chambers, Thursday, March 26th. Montgomery County elected representatives will be on hand to join in the fun. Bring your own rocks to throw – plenty of them can be found in and around all the ongoing and ongoing and ongoing projects throughout the city.

Taking Liberties?
There will also be a public forum on license plate scanners. It will be held in the Community Center’s Azalea Room, Wednesday, Feb. 25, from 7 to 9 pm. The forum is hosted by Thomas Nephew a Takoma Park resident who has expressed concern to the council and on local e-mail discussion lists. There will be speakers and a question-and-answer discussion period. The emphasis will be on civil liberties.

This is not a city-sponsored event. The city will have a public discussion about license scanners when the police have submitted a “draft directive” setting out their proposal for how they plan to use, and restrict, their usage of a scanner, if purchased.

– Gilbert

About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

4 Comments on "Bumpity-Bump, Bumpity-Bump!"

  1. Make sure that the license plates of all that attend the scanning meeting are scanned for their own protection and to preserve public order.
    All of the records on the peace activists were destroyed, each and every copy. Each and every conversation. Each and every email. I know this because they told us so on T.V. And they are not doing it now or ever will again. They said so.
    I am sure all the restrictions on scanning will be followed.
    Each and every one, because we can trust them.
    Has someone seen my soma?

  2. Keith Berner | February 20, 2009 at 5:02 pm |

    Ahhh, speed bumps. I want ’em on Flower Avenue, ’cause that’s where I live. But I just don’t see why they have to built with the steep brutality of those on the Maple Ave. hill. Why wouldn’t something a bit shallower do? Every time in on a 25 bus that has to come to a complete halt to navigate those mini cliffs (or am following a 25 bus that comes to a halt at each one), I curse Joy Austin-Lane for inflicting them on all of us. I call them “joys” in her honor. (Was it her fault? I’ve always assumed so, but am open to correction, if I’m wrong.)
    By the way, isn’t it amusing that regardless of the steepness of the bump in question, in TkPk they are called “humps” and are posted as 5 mph, while in SS, they are called “bumps” and posted at 15? That’s one of the sure ways of telling if you are within city limits or not. It makes me proud that TkPk likes humping.

  3. Daryl Braithwaite, the public works director, gives an interesting lecture on the various styles and origins of city speed b/humps. She has delivered it at least twice to the city council since Your Gilbert has been reporting on council meetings.
    If we remember correctly, the Maple Ave. bumps are vintage. They are among the first built by the city public works dept. and from them the public works dept. learned not to make later bumps so brutally steep.
    Currently the city makes bumps to county specifications, which make for more gentle encounters.
    – Gilbert

  4. Actually. I recall that that the gigantic speed bumps on Maple were built in the past 5-6 years. I saw a woman, who presumable lived on the block, indicating to the workmen installing them that the original sized bumps (like the most in the city) were not high enough, so they added more asphalt to create the 0-mile per hour humps they have today.
    It was shortly after this contruction that the suspension on our sedan needed hundreds of dollars worth of work. Coincidence?
    I truly hope that when Maple Avenue needs refurfacing in the coming years they will return to the smaller “traffic calmers.”

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