Bumpy Ride


Dear Readers,

Despite the city council’s growing dislike of speed bumps in favor of “traffic calming measures”, the city engineer and director of public works have proposed allowing twice as many speed bumps.

Instead of requiring 300 feet between bumps, they suggest allowing a 150 foot distance. Instead of keeping them 200 feet from a stop sign, they suggest only 100 feet.

Drivers could experience a free amusement park ride on every street! Or maybe it would be like riding on a log road in days of yore.

Surprise!It is a surprising proposal, since a growing pile of evidence and anecdotes suggest speed bumps are bad for: the environment, cars, emergency vehicles, the disabled, bicyclists, and motorcyclists, and coffee-drinking car passengers in mid-sip. AND they are SO 80s!  State of the art traffic calming makes speed bumps look like museum pieces. The council is well aware of this. Some of them have personal experience. Councilmember Clay says speed bumps are to blame for her car’s worn-out shocks. Councilmember Josh Wright complains about rough bicycling/speed-bump encounters.Unfortunately, most of the public is unaware of this. They just want to stop speeders on their streets. They see speed bumps on other city streets, so they want some too.

The council has NEVER turned down a speed bump petition – even though they know better, even when they state in the public discussion that they would much prefer other traffic calming gimmicks. Why? Because, there is no way in hell they are going to disappoint their constituents – you know, the people who VOTE FOR THEM. This is why Takoma Park has more speed bumps than any other place in the county.


Ironically, these proposed revisions were drafted because the council had second thoughts about a speed hump they approved last year. The speed hump was requested for Sherman Avenue, which they knew is extremely steep. So, they asked Public Works in words to this effect – “Um, don’t the rules say we can’t install speed  humps on a slope?” And Public Works replied, paraphrasing again, “Hahahahah! Dudes, do have have ANY IDEA how many times you have waived that rule?” And the council said, basically “Oh, man, if we deny this, Sherman Avenuers are gonna scream ‘Discrimination!!!”

So, they approved it, but some of the councilmembers took drives down Sherman just to check it out and came back saying, “Hey Council-pals, that speed bump’s gonna make a dandy ski-jump! And if you’re going up the hill, it’l make a cool launch pad! Until gravity takes over.”

As conversations do when people discuss potential danger and destruction, it turned to questions about lawsuits and liability. The speed bump was put on hold, the city attorney gave an opinion, and the city engineer and public works department took that opinion and crafted the proposed revisions.

Other jurisdictions, they told the council, don’t put speed bumps on grades greater than 5 to 8%.

No Chicanery

The suggested revisions, which the council discussed on May 23, refer to traffic calming measures in general, but the only ones named are speed bumps (and humps) and traffic tables. Tables are a more up-to-date version of bumps. They have a flat top at least 10 feet wide. As long as the slope is gradual, tables are easier on cars and drivers, bicycles, etc.

Other measures, the 21st century ones that some on the council say they would greatly prefer, such as curb bumps, chicanes, and traffic circles, are not specifically mentioned.

The hospital can’t wait to get out of this dumpy city and move into its suburban dream house. Only one potential obstacle – the Maryland Health Care Commission.

The city would LIKE to be an obstacle, but so far it has just been a speed bump.

So, the city is sending a letter to the Maryland Health Care Commission, giving them its pithy opinion of the whole thing and suggesting what the commission should require of the hospital.

What the city most wants is for the Washington Adventist Hospital (WAH) to stay. If not that, then it wants 24 hour urgent care (provided by the hospital) – a sort of alimony arrangement.

The city is in a hurry to finish it’s letter because the commission is about to “close the record” That means it will no longer take any public comments on the matter before they sit down to decide whether they will allow the hospital to move. The state has that power – so that all state residents have nearby hospital care. Otherwise all the hospitals would cluster around the wealthy Washington, DC suburbs . . . oh.


To be FAIR about it, modern hospitals need a big, integrated campus, and Takoma Park’s WAH campus is just not big enough. Councilmember Colleen Clay conceded that point to the WAH representatives who showed up at the council meeting May 31. Also, frankly, the streets leading to the hospital are all narrow, and the neighborhoods around it regularly complain about the traffic and they grump whenever the facility is expanded.

Still, they would be leaving a lot of people in the lurch – especially people who live nearby, many of them uninsured, many without cars. The letter makes the point that the current WAH site is well served by public transport, a lot better than the suburban site is.

The letter, which after the meeting went back for revisions, first says that the city is peeved that it wasn’t granted official “Interested Party” status so it could have more clout in the matter. But as an official “Participating Entity,” it has a few things to say.

What It Says

Ahem. The hospital is moving far away and the people it now serves will be hard-pressed to get to. Public transport to the new location is lousy. The hospital’s assumption that Takoma Parkians will be able to or will want to follow it out beyond the Beltway – ye gods — is obviously a bunch of baloney.

And what about the poor and old people who live in the city? Where are they gonna go? To this “Village of Heath, Education, and Well Being” booby-prize thing the hospital says they are going to replace themselves with. “It doesn’t hit the mark!” the council told the WAH representatives.

The letter lists pages of reasons why the Whole Thing Is A Bad Idea, and finally presents five, now four, considerations the city would like to see forced on WAH if the application is approved. They boil down to: keep some kind of urgent and diagnostic care in the city, track the health needs of city residents, provide public transport to the new site, and make sure the Village provides charity care.

– 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.