Speed humps, as any driver who's bounced over one knows, can be an annoyance. But they also happen to be an effective, relatively inexpensive way of slowing down drivers. As such, we believe the county should spend more on them than is currently planned.
As an article elsewhere in this newspaper explains, the county government, after four years of spending no money on new speed humps (which are shorter, more graded versions of speed bumps), has set aside $50,000 for them in next fiscal year's capital budget. That's enough to cover about 10 humps.
Problem is, a dozen communities already have expressed interest in speed humps — a total of 57 speed humps, in fact. And that means a lot of communities, sick and tired of speeders flying down their residential streets, many of which have no sidewalks and some of which are near schools, are going to be disappointed.
Of course, being disappointed with government services is not unusual these days, what with year after year of tight budgets. Still, there's good spending and there's bad spending, even in tough economic times, and we happen to think spending on speed humps, on the right streets, is good spending.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, speed humps "are effective in reducing traffic speeds and are a low-cost tool." The FHA notes that the humps, while less jarring than the higher, more traditional speed bumps, "may be controversial in some localities due to their appearance and jarring effects," but adds: "In general, speed humps effectively slow traffic and benefit all pedestrians including people with disabilities."
At the county level, there are plenty of criteria that must be met in Howard — for the amount of traffic and the number of speeders on the road, and for the approval of those living on the road — to ensure that speed bumps will not be placed willy-nilly.
The $50,000 was requested in County Executive Ken Ulman's capital budget for next fiscal year. Some members of the County Council, which must approve the budget but cannot add to it on their own, have expressed an interest in working with Ulman to boost that spending. They note, as council member Courtney Watson put it, referring to the absence of speed humps in the past four years, "We have some catching up to do."
Yes, they do. In the interest of safety, the county should spend more on speed humps.