‘Kinder, Gentler’ Bumps : ‘Speed Humps’ Aimed at Slowing Drivers Without Causing Risks


To the naked eye, they were three mounds of freshly laid blacktop on a side street near Los Angeles International Airport. In a city where cars are king, however, they represented a small moment of municipal history--the first “speed humps” on a Los Angeles street.

And if a pilot program succeeds, the “humps"--as officials insist on calling them, as opposed to bumps--will proliferate in Los Angeles like, well, cars. The humps are intended to slow down drivers who, frustrated by freeway congestion, attempt to turn residential surface streets into high-speed shortcuts.

With fitting ceremony, these small steps for sensible driving were dedicated by Mayor Tom Bradley as part of his 20-point plan announced in November to improve traffic flow in the city.


“We thought the time had come,” Bradley said, “when Los Angeles ought to be bold enough to try it here.”

City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, whose district encompasses the speed hump experiment, joined the mayor at the test site, calling the gently sloping speed humps a “kinder, gentler” alternative to traditional speed bumps, which can damage cars or cause accidents.

Galanter said the city has declined to install the steeper bumps because they are hazards, exposing the city to financial liability if accidents occur.

The new-improved speed humps are 12 feet wide, about 3 inches high and are placed 250 feet apart. Each set of three costs about $4,000.

The humps are needed because “everybody in Los Angeles is looking for a good shortcut,” usually a residential street, Galanter said.

Indeed, the shortcut problem is so widespread in Southern California that traffic engineers have officially named the phenomenon “commuter infiltration.”

Other local municipalities, such as Pasadena and Agoura Hills already use the speed humps to slow down surface street traffic.

The first Los Angeles test site is on Yorktown Avenue between Wiley Post Avenue and Airport Boulevard, across the street from a park where hundreds of youngsters and teen-agers play soccer, softball and baseball. On the other side of the park is Los Angeles International Airport Lot D.

Since the installation of the speed humps on June 10, the average speed has dropped 9 m.p.h., a promising start, officials said.

In the next several months, each council district will get a test site, with the $72,000 pilot program paid for by voter-approved gasoline taxes, officials said.

Locations have not been announced, but not just any residential street will do.

City Department of Transportation General Manager S.E. Rowe said the target streets are those with a relatively low volume of traffic (between 500 and 2,000 cars daily) and a speeding problem. Also, the posted speed limit must be no more than 25 m.p.h.