Speed kills. But do you arrest that with a mind-boggling mix of poorly designed, unscientifically laid road humps, totally out of sync with Indian Road Congress (IRC) standards? Crisscrossing every street in multiple shapes and sizes, the city’s speed-breakers have turned deadlier than before, and they are not going away in a hurry.
Unmarked and unpainted, the speed-breakers were rarely designed to meet stringent road safety standards in the past. Today, their numbers have grown exponentially, seriously endangering lives, especially on unlit roads. Last week, Kannada actor Sunetra Pandit was lucky to escape but with serious injuries after she lost control and fell off a scooter, crossing one such road hump.
The problem is hardly novel, nor is it confined to the city alone. In fact, the State Public Works Department Minister C C Patil had famously declared last year that 99% of speed-breakers on the highways and roads were clearly ‘unscientific.’ The statement, made in the State Assembly, had sparked an outrage which inevitably died down soon.
Two years ago, the city traffic police had claimed that almost 60% of such humps were removed or rectified. Fresh ones had emerged, and the police had no clue who laid them. The alteration, removal of illegal speed-breakers and laying of new ones where necessary, is a task that mandates active coordination between the traffic police and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).
The illegality of speed breakers is evident in the design, location and visibility of these structures. The IRC guidelines stipulate that a speed breaker should have a radius of 17m with a height of 0.1m and a width of 3.7m. These measurements are fixed to reduce the speed of an approaching vehicle to not more than 25kmph.
The guidelines are also clear about the location: T-intersections on minor roads are characterised by low traffic but very high average operating speed and poor sight distances. The road humps are also required where minor roads intersect with major roads, select local streets in residential areas, schools, college campuses, and hospitals.
But a reality check shows that in most residential areas, local roads are replete with speed breakers, a vast majority of which do not follow any safety standards. Road humps are laid on the whims and fancies of local political bigwigs, influential residents and commercial establishments. The distance between two humps is so small on many streets that there is one outside every other house.
Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic, Ravikanthe Gowda says only scientific speed breakers and the High Rise Pedestrian Crossings (HRPCs) are authorised. “The unscientific road humps are put up on public demand after an accident, sometimes the public themselves erect the humps. “Normally, even if vehicles go at high speed over HRPC and scientific humps, accidents will not happen since they would have given proper elevation and landing.”
The traffic police, he informs, have identified 260 unscientific humps across the city. “We have told the BBMP to get them removed. Yesterday too, we had a meeting and now they are removing them. Unfortunately, the public keeps putting up these humps again and again.”
Mobility experts agree there is a problem here. “Residents often take matters into their own hands and install speed humps and speed calming measures in front of their residences because getting it done through city agencies is an arduous and time-consuming process,” notes Nikita Luke from the World Resources Institute (WRI).
But while residents think they are solving a problem, “anything implemented on a roadway without adequate design guidelines or protocols does more harm than good for other road users, especially bicyclists and motorists and can be fatal. Illegal speed humps can also cause rapid wear and tear to vehicles,” she points out.
It is important, Nikita adds, to follow a formal consultation process with the traffic police and city officials, adhere to the design guidelines set specifically for speed humps, determine the street/neighborhood context on implementation of the speed hump, followed by adequate maintenance and monitoring to check its effectiveness.
Roadways should be checked by authorities from time to time for illegal speed humps, and if they are found, they should be eliminated immediately. “Likewise, if road-users spot illegal speed humps they should be encouraged to report it as well.”