Speed-breakers: slowing down but at what cost?

Different types of speed breakers.   | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain

In June, a city consumer court held the Karnataka Urban Development Department, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the Bengaluru City Police responsible for the death of a 22-year-old. He lost his life in 2008 after his bike hit a speed bump.

Bengalureans know very well the pain of a poorly designed speed breaker, which not only slows down traffic but can claim lives.

According to the Road Accident Report (2014) published by the road transport and highways ministry, 6,672 people died in accidents caused due to potholes and speed breakers across the country. In 2017, according to the Traffic (Planning) Department, the police recorded 2,537 accidents up to June 30, of which 305 were fatal and resulted in the death of 325 persons. These deaths were caused due to speeding, drunk driving, and avoiding potholes and speed breakers, said an official.

Last year, the State government had sanctioned ₹2 crore to the BBMP Traffic Engineering Cell (TEC) for building new speed breakers and high-rise pedestrian crossings. Part of the funds were to be used to repair unscientifically designed speed bumps.

However, the TEC could not provide records of unscientifically designed speed humps that have been repaired or removed, and officials claim it is the ward engineer’s responsibility to look into this.

“Residents who spot unscientifically designed bumps in their localities should bring the matter to the notice of the ward engineer and the traffic police,” said Nandeesh J.R., Executive Engineer, TEC. He added that around 80 speed breakers had been designed based on the recommendations of the traffic police.

“Older ones, which were built more than two years ago, would have been demolished when the roads were asphalted,” said a junior engineer with the department.

However a quick perusal of the city’s roads shows that poorly designed speed breakers haven’t gone away.

Traffic police are quick to point that speed breakers alone cannot be blamed for accidents, and that the driver’s role too comes into play. "If one vehicle has an accident out of the many that have passed there, this means the road is not at fault," said ACP (Traffic) R. Hitendra.

‘Smarter’ solutions are the way forward

Motorists and experts note that speed breakers can be replaced by ‘smart’ solutions to help reduce driving speeds.

One commuter found that the 62-km Outer Ring Road (ORR) had 53 speed breakers, which works out to one for every 1.16 km. Another culprit is IT parks where speed breakers are placed at the entrance, which end up slowing down traffic on the road outside.

“One stretch of road in Electronics City outside an IT park has four speed breakers. Instead, if smart signals were installed to detect when a car is turning into the gate, it could prevent vehicles having to slow down throughout the day,” said Renjith Thomas, a software engineer who has studied the design of speed breakers in the city.

Residential areas like Koramangala are another sore point, with many speed breakers being put without permission from the traffic police. “Residential areas, on an average, have 10+ humps per km. This means that you drive at 10 kmph even without any traffic,” he pointed out.

Mr. Thomas suggested that the use of synchronised pedestrian signals and skywalks are a better way to manage road safety. Instead of putting speed breakers to slow down traffic at junctions, sensors could be used to automatically detect vehicles on the road and traffic signals could be changed based on this information. For example, as long as there is no vehicle coming from a cross road, a signal can stay green.

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Printable version | Sep 11, 2021 9:24:35 AM |

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