“Well, the reason we can’t build in speed bumps is because speeding cars might hit them, go airborne, and kill children,” said the traffic engineer on the other end of the phone. I stared at my phone, in absolute disbelief.
I was calling on behalf of my neighborhood after a high speed car chase erupted this past May, with some accompanying gunfire, and it all happened right down Seminole Avenue, from Charlevoix in the north to Lafayette in the south. And so we in the neighborhood got all riled up, as we’re prone to, and we began looking at ways to reduce vehicular speeds in Indian Village.
“You can’t be serious, right?” I asked, still in shock that was the official reason that someone with a college degree was giving me this as an actual reason for why we would be precluded from actually installing speed bumps.
“Well, it’s also against the City Code as well, so they’re not legal,” the reply came. Dejected, I thought it wasn’t worth looking into further, and so I just let it go. Until it actually occurred to me to check the City Code to see the section that banned them. And lo and behold, there was nothing. Calling a friend in the City’s Law Department, I was getting excited. We may actually be able to do something about it and maybe get the speed bumps installed!
In asking that contact, they weren’t able to find anything that banned them. And neither were folks from the Legislative Policy Division. And as I keep drilling into it, I continue to be unable to anything against them for the state of Michigan, either. The Michigan Uniform Traffic Code is silent on the issue.
These do not kill people. Not having them kills people.
We live in a city that doesn’t have enough police officers. It’s simply not feasible to expect the DPD to singlehandedly be able to get everyone to stop speeding. It’s just not realistic, particularly in our neighborhoods and on residential streets. On Seminole in Detroit, we have no red lights. There’s usually very little cars parked on the street, and we have a private plowing service, so in the winter, our street gets cleared before many of the other streets nearby.
Because it runs parallel to Van Dyke Avenue, a very busy, very narrow commercial corridor that has lots of cars parked on it at any given time, we get a ton of traffic that not just cuts through our neighborhood, but does so at speeds that should terrify anyone, particularly parents. When we polled Indian Village about the possibility of putting in speed tables or humps, it was precisely the parents of young children that were most in favor of them.
Here’s my theory: we in Michigan have a cultural bias against anything that slows down cars, and various Departments of Public Works and county road commissions got so sick of fielding questions about this, they just said “They’re illegal,” and we, the pleasant, non-confrontational Midwesterners that we are, left it at that. Except, and here’s the thing: I can’t find anything either in the City Code or state legislation that says they’re illegal.
If City officials want to raise legitimate questions about speed humps, which is the variety we should be looking at installing, as they’re less damaging to cars, here’s the questions we should be asking:
- How does the installation of speed humps affect snow removal?
- How does the installation of speed humps affect the deployment of first responders?
Those are the legitimate concerns. Not the other drivel that’s been quoted back to Detroiters for decades when we ask for this, and we routinely get shut down.
Case in point: Chicago. They seem to have figured out how to install speed bumps without interfering with either of the above. Because the last time that I was driving through residential and side streets in Chicago, what struck me was how I couldn’t really get above 25 miles an hour, due to their speed humps. I was also unable to find any smoldering, demolished cars in the sides of buildings, and I couldn’t find any dead pedestrians littering the thoroughfares of the Windy City.
This tired, old excuse that emanates from the Traffic Engineering Division of the Detroit Department of Public Works is no longer sufficient. If there actually is a tendency for either speed bumps or speed humps to send dozens of cars airborne, demolishing houses and crushing people willy nilly, show me. Show Detroiters where speed humps are killing people, show us where it’s written that they’re illegal.
The outcome will be that they can’t. And so they’re going to have to deliver a method to residents that slows down traffic on our residential streets. And that method is going to be speed humps.