Sunday, March 04, 2007

Is it a Bump or a Hump, Chump?

Being the road geek that I am, it is high time that I start a series of entries about roads. Specifically, this series of posts will be about road signs. I have always loved travel by automobile, and even as a small child, could navigate the highways by map. I also used to pass time by drawing street maps of non-existent cities (yeah, I was a weird kid I guess). Now I enjoy a somewhat similar passtime in the form of the computer city simulation, SimCity 4.

Anyway, here is the first picture we will talk about:

Now this looks like a typical suburban neighborhood, and it is definitely that. This is a street in my parents' subdivision. A quick glance will tell you that this is not a new street, as the sidewalk at the corner ends at the curb, rather than a ramp compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA. Also, the mature trees are an indicator that this neighborhood has been around for a few years. In fact, this subdivision was built in the mid-1970s.

Along this street, the city has installed a type of what traffic engineers call a traffic calming device. The one used here is usually known in the United States as a Speed Bump. Traffic calming is a way to divert or slow traffic in an area. Other traffic calming devices include the Traffic Circle (known in some places as a Roundabout), rumble strips, and curb extensions. Speed bumps are effective, but have a number of drawbacks, especially in that they can slow emergency response vehicles. Before one gets to a speed bump, there is typically a sign to warn about it, giving the driver the opportunity to slow down before hitting the bump.

Why is the sign above a bit of an anomaly? Let's take a closer look:

Notice, the sign says nothing about a "Speed Bump", but rather warns of "Road Humps". Now my readers from places like the United Kingdom and others may think, "So what"? That is the term that is used in many parts of the world. However, here in the United States, it usually isn't used.

It has always been a source of humor to me, as I think of "hump" as what a dog will do to your leg! I don't associate it with a road, so it just comes off as an odd way of wording it. Still, if one doesn't have the mental snap to figure it out, it will probably only take them one time hitting the "Road Hump" at full speed to get the idea!

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