Speed Bumps like Street Sweeping
L A Wood, September 14, 1995
Problem needs solving
I read Fire Chief Gary Cates' recent remarks in the Berkeley Voice about the "proliferation of speed humps and their impact on public safety." No one should be surprised at the subsequent City Council revelations which forced a moratorium on the future construction of speed humps.
His call to "thoroughly evaluate" alternative traffic solutions would appear to be a step forward in solving the speed hump issue. Unfortunately, the staff investigation into this problem and the proposed public education campaign will not reveal the real conflict. This moratorium could have easily been foreseen. Our speed-hump program has operated in much the same manner as our residential street-sweeping program. A moratorium was placed on the opt-out program nearly two years ago.
An exemption to participating in enforced residential street sweeping was first offered to North Berkeley residents. Like street-sweeping exemptions, the criteria for speed humps has been broad. The majority of those applications have been approved. This push for neighborhood speed humps has finally raised enough questions about their impact on public safety to force a moratorium.
In his City Council appearance this past July, the chief chronicled the history of the Fire Department's concern over emergency access and speed humps. I believe he stated that as early as 1988 the department had raised this issue. What happened? The City Council's deafness to department concerns may well be attributed to the constant ringing of telephone calls from irate constituents.
Speed humps, like street sweeping, began in North Berkeley, Mayor Dean's old District 5. You see, until recently, most of the city's speed humps were in her hill district. Once again, politics have collided with public health and safety. All told, these moratoriums will result in District 5 having both the highest speed-bump density and the fewest street-sweeping tickets.
One can also predict the outcome of the moratorium on speed humps. Just like the opt-out exemption for street sweeping, Berkeley will generate staff report after staff report until the speed hump issue is lost from our municipal memory. If you don't believe me, look at the next street-sweeping staff report (No. 7), due to appear before the City Council in September. No doubt, the report will be referred back to staff once again.
There are some problems which our City Council chooses not to solve. Speed humps, I believe, fall into this category. We know that our city certainly won't be removing any speed humps in North Berkeley in the future, so what's there to study? How about a staff report on all the program blunders, like these, which benefit such a small part of Berkeley, and which discriminate against the rest of us?