Can we break out of speed-breakers?

He is so unlucky that he runs into accidents which started out to happen to someone else – Don Marquis.

Many people, specially two-wheeler riders, are unlucky many times over with accidents at unscientifically designed and executed speed-breakers, specially in cities. But first the facts. A speed bump, also known as a sleeping policeman or a kipping cop, is a speed-reducing feature of road design to slow traffic via vertical deflection.

A speed bump is a bump in a roadway with heights typically ranging between 3 and 4 inches. The depth of speed bumps is typically less than or near to 1 foot. Speed bumps can be made of recycled plastic, metal, asphalt or rubber. Speed bumps of various sizes can be placed on a road, from using two four foot or six foot devices on it with a space on either side for avoiding the bump on one side of the car, or connected across the entire road surface.

The use of speed bumps is widespread around the world, and they are most commonly found where vehicle speeds are statutorily mandated to be low, usually 40 km/h.

Although speed bumps are very effective in keeping vehicle speed down, their use is sometimes controversial as they can cause noise and possibly vehicle damage if taken at too great a speed. Poorly designed speed bumps can be hard to negotiate in vehicles with low ground clearance. Speed bumps can also pose serious hazards to motorcyclists and bicyclists if not easily noticed, though in some cases a small cut in the bump allows those vehicles to pass through without impedance.

Coming to Karnataka, speed-breakers first seem to have made their appearance on the newly constructed Bangalore-Hosur Road about 25 years ago. Before its recent re-architecturing, it was a four-lane show piece constructed by L&T, a pioneering work in the road sector, which gave motorists a deam ride over the 40-km stretch. But the service roads and ancillary works were neglected. This resulted in frequent accidents, followed by agitations by locals for speed breakers at the accident sites. So, a road constructed for high speed connectivity had the drivers negotiating humps. In most cases such ad hoc speed-breakers are born in emotional blackmail following deaths.

Apart from accidents for riders and pedestrians, most of the cars which have slightly lower ground clearence cannot avoid but scratch their underbellies while negotiating these bumps and almost 90% of these speed breakers do not have any kind of marking or sign. So, on a dark night, one may be taken by complete surprise to find one right in front of him and he has no option but to hope that his vehicle doesn’t get completely damaged. These unplanned bumps also result in additional breaking, additional acceleration which results in increased consumption of fuel and emissions.

It took the death of police inspector (who died due to a speed breaker) to finally get the authorities in Bangalore to remove some unscientific road humps four years ago. 

Most of the humps in Bangalore, Mangalore and other cities are not scietifically designed to conform to the official standars. The Indian Road Congress has made certain rules and regulations specifically to be followed in the construction of road humps. The rules of the Indian Road Congress are as follows:

Central Height: 10-12 cm; Shape: Parabola; Width: 3.5 metres; Length: same as road width.

*Road humps should be painted in a ‘V’ shape and illuminated by solar cat’s eyes (solar cells embedded on pavements/road that reflect sun rays and glow in the dark) to make them visible.

*The humps should not be more than five metres away from the junction or the intersection.

* Two signboards, one at 20 to 30 metres and another 10 metres away from the hump should be placed for the commuters to know about the road humps ahead. Intrusion of tree branches should be prevented.* Road humps should be put up only on the main roads and not on the cross roads.*In ‘rumble strips’, (humps that have around 5 to 10 strips together), the width of each strip is to be one foot and the gap between each strip, one foot.

Not surprisingly, these rules of the IRC were said to be not availabe (against a  RTI querry) with the BBMP, and thus, not many of the road humps are built according to these standards and most were unauthorised with no records with BBMP. If Bangalore is so lax, can Mangalore be far behind? We have all sort of humps without any standardisation and have claimed many accident victims – some tragically.

Apart from accidents, they have been dubbed “Spine-breakers”. It is in this context that when President Kalam visited Mangalore in 2005 for a function at St. Aloysius College, the humps at Bendore Cross junction were removed and, mercifully, not restored since. What is good for the President should also be good for the rest of the citizens!But the presidents and other VVIPs do not travel on lesser roads, like the Kottara Chauki-Urwa Road, which is now plasterd with ill-designed speed-breakers. What is alarming is that these humps now seem to have been spread to interior roads. 

Tavelling on Neermarga-Kalpane Road recently, I came across two humps, in the Permai-Padu sector, which are so high that I could not avoid scraping the underbelly of my car, even with near-total speed control. It could be a great nightmare for night drivers on such unlighted stretches. It is hoped that the Corporation in Mangalore and PWD in the district avoid construction of new speed-breakers and review the existing ones to eliminate or to make them safe for humans. It appears that rumbler strips are a good option because while serving the purpose of slowing down vehicles, they don’t violently kiss the underbellies. Having driven over such rumblers, at Kottara Cross for instance, it just gives the vehicle a sense of orgasm! 

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