Efficiency of 'humps' questioned Cars still speed, residents say NORTH LAUREL/SAVAGE

February 26, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Wrier

Three years after state-of-the-art speed humps were installed on Baltimore Avenue in North Laurel, residents say the county needn't have bothered.

"God forbid, one of my children should chase a ball," said Pat Flynn, a Baltimore Avenue resident. "We don't let them play out ** there unless we're there with them.

"It's a lack of respect for other people," she said. "There's no reason to speed through a residential neighborhood."

Unlike speed bumps, which make contact with front and rear wheels separately, the speed humps are 3-inch-high, 12-foot-wide slabs on which all four wheels of a car rest at one time.

In England, where the humps were developed, they're called "sleeping policemen." The humps began to be widely used in this country about 10 years ago, said C. Edward Walter, the county's chief traffic engineer.

As an experiment, the county installed the county's first humps on Baltimore Avenue and Dogwood Road in Ellicott City.

"They're much more gentle to go over than a bump," Mr. Walter said. "It doesn't destroy the alignment of the car if you go over them fast."

County traffic officials say the humps have been extremely effective and that average speeds on Baltimore Avenue have dropped considerably. The road has a 25 mph speed limit.

"We certainly don't need to slow traffic any further," Mr. Walter said.

But residents such as Debbie O'Neil don't accept the county traffic studies. In fact, they say some speeders have realized that going over a hump faster reduces the impact.

"The faster you go over these humps the less bounce you have, and people are learning this and going faster and faster," said Ms. O'Neil.

Traffic officials acknowledge that some small cars can easily go over the humps at 25 to 30 mph, slightly higher speeds than the humps were designed for. But standard size cars cannot cross the humps in excess of the intended speed without significant bouncing, said George Frangos, a county traffic engineer.

Since installing the seven humps, the county has periodically monitored Baltimore Avenue to gauge their effectiveness. Traffic officials insist the humps have been overwhelmingly successful.

Before the devices were installed, 85 percent of cars on Baltimore Avenue traveled at 38 mph or slower, Mr. Walter said. But a study completed last April showed 85 percent of traffic was traveling at 23.7 mph. And cars traveling between the second and third humps were clocked at 26.8 mph.

The most recent study, which measured traffic speeds from Feb. 3 to Feb. 5, showed traffic speed up to 24.8 mph. Between the second and third humps, 85 percent of the cars were traveling at 29 mph.

"It's gone up a little, but studies consistently show that speeds are down considerably from what it was before," Mr. Walter said. "Of course people speed, but they're not speeding very fast."

But the studies don't show how big a problem speeding is on Baltimore Avenue, said Mrs. O'Neil. She said many drivers drive up on the curbs to avoid the humps.

"This is stuff that the county can't see in surveys," Ms. O'Neil said.

Sgt. Gary Gardner, county police spokesman, said that since the speed humps were installed, the department has received few complaints about speeding.

"Obviously, there may be some people going over the posted 25 mph speed limit, but it's not considered a major problem road in the county," Sergeant Gardner said. "At one time it was a problem, but the speed humps have, in our opinion, curtailed much of that."

County Police Chief James Robey and George Frangos, a county traffic engineer, are scheduled to attend the North Laurel Civic Association meeting on March 2 to discuss the traffic concerns.

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