Road Access for Disabled Americans
= less new,
= least new
Letters from disabled people and their advocates
Letter, from disabled residents, hand-delivered to
the Secretary of United States Department of Transportation, June 24, 2000
The US-DOT "has published numbers, which point to a problem that should be
taken seriously. Burton Stephens' 1986 article, in Public Roads, based device
design on a vertical deflection impact of .69 g to "induce the typical driver to
reduce speed." Publications by Urban Mass Transit, in the 1980's, indicate that
.3 g is a "high" maximum for wheelchair users. Additionally, the study that Stephens
bases his recommendation on, shows that the g-forces exerted upon the passengers of
a bus going over the same hump far exceed the .69 g which cause "discomfort" for the
average able-bodied passenger. " medical literature documents
injury to able-bodied bus passengers - see item below
- Letter from the Commission on Disability
"For some people with disabilities, the pain and
injury which can result from driving or riding over speed humps
makes these "traffic calming devices" into virtual barricades. For
others, the unpredictable outcome of going over humps results in a
deterrent to travel."
- November 10, 1998
- An overview of the problem, including the lack of ADA guidelines and enforcement
"With speed hump programs, local governments are taking existing
facilities, altering them, and making them inaccessible."
- Emily Wilcox, March 16, 1998
- Rolling over speed humps as a pedestrian
"That means going over a speed hump that jars my back and
neck. It hurts."
- Karen Craig, October 1, 1998
- Statement regarding access presented to City
Council by disabled woman regarding access
"...humps have made me a virtual prisoner in my own home."
- Susan Linn, May 10, 2000
& opinion on speed hump policy
"There must be a moratorium on all speed humps until and at
which time the cities can fully evaluate how
their decisions are affecting the disabled community."
- Susan Linn, May 17, 2000
- Letter from retired/disabled firefighter/paramedic
"Constant pain follows me 24 hrs. a day and these speed bumps
aggravate it greatly."
- Thomas Kistler, March 2000
- Letter from disabled woman regarding public
process and negative impacts
"...they don't realize I'm not just
slowing down for the humps but stopping and then rolling over them.
Being rear-ended could put me back in a wheel chair for good. "
- Lisa Carroll, Santee, California, March 2000
- COLORADO - Boulder
- The impact on paratransit users, equipment and providers
"Physical traffic barriers are impeding access for our clients and
compromising safety to our drivers, passengers and other motorists, in
addition to the vehicle maintenance issues."
- Special Transit, April 3, 1997
- FLORIDA - Fort Myers
- What it means to not be able to access one's home
- Austin - An account of dealing with speed humps and the public process
- Houstin - Testimony to pain suffered when riding in a car that is jostled by speed humps
- GREAT BRITAIN
- Your Letter
- GREAT BRITAIN
- "I am told by the ambulance service that they cause great
difficulties when one is trying to get a patient with a spinal
injury to hospital safely. One of my constituents has cancer of
the bladder and it is no joke to drive down one's local road if
one has to go over bumps all the time."
- Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam), House of Commons,
Daily Debates, May 15, 1992
- Sutton Surrey
- "I am in the wheelchair when I go out by Dial-a-Ride.
I am at the back of vehicle which is long wheel base and
when you go over humps, I find it hurts my back. Also, I
go by taxi and when you come to diamond ramps, also hurts
my back." - R.
- "I HOPE the people responsible for laying down the speed humps
on many of Cambridge's roads never suffer from cancer.
"I am a volunteer driver for the Arthur Rank Hospice and
I feel so sorry for my passengers when they cry out with pain as I negotiate these monstrosities
-- even at two miles an hour.
"When the people who know decide these things they never
think about the suffering they might cause to others." - Mr G J Barton
- UNITED STATES
- (location withheld)
- "... had 2 level 360 fusion. I am driving a little
now and speed bumps are debilitating. The pain I receive
from hitting them is great". - J.
- California, Long Beach
- "not to make light of the speed humps... since I know
what they feel like thanx to my kidneys.... but I think you
should get a 'hover craft' and just sh*t on them all!!!"
- "Oh my god, it hurt so bad.
"I really resent someone causing me pain
unnecessarily." - M.
- "When the fire truck hit the speed hump, I was thrown
up and down, my body became twisted and my right knee was
twisted under the seat which I had to dislodge.
"This caused substantial injuries to my neck and back.
"... was informed that I had been put on full disability...
"... would prefer my health back than any amount of
money the County could pay me." - G.
- Texas, Houston
- "I have a bad back and so do others. Speed humps at
any speed are pure torture to me.
"Each time I drive across one of these 'torture devices'
I wish that anyone and everyone involved with such devices
soon suffer a bad back just one degree worse than mine.
"There is no easy way to enter many neighborhoods without
encountering these inhumane torture devices." - C.
Washington, Federal Way
- "Mary LeProwe spoke about the speed humps being installed
near the area she resides (near 332nd.). She is opposed the
currently-adopted process and criteria for their installation.
For medical reasons in her family, traffic humps are particularly
inconvenient and cause considerable pain. There are other
alternatives to slow the traffic. She suggested the City start with
increased enforcement, traffic circles and increased enforcement."
- Federal Way City Council minutes, April 7, 1998
- "Mary LeProwse spoke in opposition to speed humps due
to medical conditions. She stated people should have a vote if they
will be affected by change. Further, she stated the City
should change the criteria to speed hump installation."
- Federal Way City Council minutes, April 21, 1998
- Send a quick note to
Government agencies responsible for Road Access under the ADA
Every person who has experienced speed humps as barriers
to access or deterrents to travel should contact the
following agencies and explain how speed humps have resulted in
the denial of meaningful access. The links
below will take you to RADA pages which describe the relationship of
the agency to roadway access, provide contact information, and
link to the agency's webpages.
- The US Access Board (responsible for defining access guidelines)
- The Department of Justice (responsible for ADA enforcement)
- The Department of Transportation (responsible for "traffic management" compliance)
Contact your federal, state and local officials, too.
"Disabled woman wins fight to remove speed bumps on her street",
May 12, 2000, Kristen Green, San Diego Union Tribune
- "SANTEE -- The bumps are history.
After months of battling City Hall, resident
got her way. The five speed bumps that make it painful for Carroll
to drive in and out of her Len Way home will be removed.
'I am relieved,' said Carroll, who has undergone several back surgeries and is
legally disabled. 'I think it's wonderful.' "
- "Gridlock: Race to find cure for motorway madness",
Monday, 27 March, 2000, BBC E-cyclopedia, UK
- "Dozens of local authorities are currently paying a heavy price for
an earlier form of traffic management - road humps. Towns and
cities are spending millions of pounds flattening out humps which
have proved a hazard to new low-level buses built to help
disabled passengers. "
- "Councils to spend millions lowering road humps",
The Electronic Telegraph, England, February 27, 2000
- "TOWNS and cities throughout Britain are to spend millions of
pounds replacing up to 500,000 road humps, because they are a potential
hazard for new buses built with lower floors to allow wheelchair access."
"...roads with humps have been declared bus-less zones and routes now go
along hump-free streets. ... Although low-floor buses can just about
get over them, road humps can damage the undercarriage and provide an
uncomfortable ride for passengers."
"Ambulances already have to go on special routes to avoid (the humps)
when transferring critically ill people to hospital if there is a danger
a sudden jolt could make their injuries worse."
- Journal / Montgomery County, Maryland
- Take these links to the
ironic, the frightening and the bizarre.
People and organizations opposing dangerous
traffic management experiments are located around
the world. The organizations listed below
are concerned about access for fragile, elderly
and disabled individuals
and will welcome your participation.
- Great Britain
- United States
For even more information about traffic issues, visit the following
- Great Britain
- Norway and beyond
- United States
The impact is cumulative
- For a healthy back -
"Speed humps draw harrumphs", Monique Fields, St. Petersburg Times, August 19, 2000
"A healthy back should be able to absorb a little jostling, but greater
exposure to the humps could cause problems, said Scott Bautch, president of the
American Chiropractic Association's Council on Occupational Health."
- For other backs -
"My chiropractor told me any activity with a "pounding" effect (speed bump)
will cause a curve to increase over time. He asked, if you take an already bent
nail and try to pound it into a board with a hammer, what happens to it? The pounding
makes it bend more!" - S.
Humps don't bother you? What do your films look like?
Some people don't seem to comprehend what we mean by deformity
and disability. In order to educate people who have never been
exposed to such problems, here's the first of our volunteers who
have agreed to reveal their innermost secrets.
The x-ray film, illustrated here, shows a spine from
pelvis to skull. The bright lines and blobs are the steel rods,
connectors and screws used for stabilization after fusion
surgery. (This is not your average back and not your average
operation!) On a daily basis, the "owner" of this spine utilizes
pain management protocols not available over-the-counter, and,
detours great distances to avoid "low profile" speed humps.
(Able-bodied engineers call them "kinder, gentler humps". We think
that is an oxymoron and continue to call them "torture devices".)
Interestingly, you don't have to be disabled before going
over road humps. Go over the wrong hump, in the wrong vehicle, and
you, too, can "join the club" - as documented in the article from
a British medical journal
described in the following section.
Two cases of injury to passengers seated on public transport buses
"Road humps: accident prevention or hazard?", Journal of Accident & Emergency Medicine,
July 1996, David Bowrey, Rhys Thomas, Rubert Evans, Peter Richmond
"A 49 year old female travelling on a double decker public transport bus was
jolted upwards as the vehicle traversed a road hump and on landing back
in her seat she experienced acute low back pain. Radiographs confirmed a
crush fracture of her third lumbar vertebra (L3). Treatment comprised bed
rest, analgesia, and a plaster jacket. One year after the injury she
presented with further low back pain and paraesthesiae in both lower
limbs. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed a posterior and right sided
disc herniation at the level L2/3 causing root compression. She underwent
laminectomy and discectomy without undue complication.
Two years after the injury she continues to suffer from low back pain,
and has been unable to return to her former employment."
"A 34 year old female sitting on the back seat of the lower
tier of a double decker public transport bus sustained a
flexion/extension injury to her neck, and a soft tissue injury to her
right shoulder after the vehicle traversed a road hump. She was thrown
forwards striking the back of the seat in front of her. She had no
prior history of either shoulder or neck problems. Treatment comprised
a soft cervical collar and analgesia. Fifteen months after the injury
she continues to suffer from intermittent neck pain."
Look what tomorrow might bring to your street
If you are disabled and have a sense of complacency because you
don't have to go over humps to get around, consider adding the
word "yet" to that thought. And, if you think going over a few
humps every day wont be too bad, consider what has happened in
elsewhere. After all, if two are good, twenty must be better, right?
"Voting" and "buying" tools of discrimination
"committee believes the city should never have allowed neighborhoods to
buy perceived local benefits at the expense of citizens elsewhere who suffer
degraded emergency service and increased traffic. Nor should property owners
have been assessed involuntarily for demonstrably hazardous street obstacles."
Other means of "traffic calming" can also be illegal
HUD has been investigating Houston's use of traffic calming insofar
as it segregates neighborhoods by ethnic origin. Houston officials
have proposed using speed humps, claiming that they are non-discriminatory,
ignoring the negative impact on disabled access.
"Street access plan reconsidered", Houston Chronicle, Eric Hanson,
January 27, 1998
"The plan initially called for the installation of gates across some of the streets of the Northbrook subdivision, but that proposal came under fire by federal inspectors as being
"Yet while that proposal now is moving forward, officials for the Department of Housing and Urban Development say a neighborhood in southeast Houston will have to
remove its barrier for the same reason."
"HUD began scrutinizing the city's gated street plans on the grounds that the barriers discriminate against minorities since they could divide neighborhoods along lines of class
- "Brown has '911 gate' removed", Houston Chronicle,
Dan Feldstein, August 18, 1998
"HUD's regional office in Forth Worth has never commented to the news media.
But after years of suggesting that the city find compromises, it sent an Aug. 13
letter saying the city needed to declare what it was going to do on Dian Street
by Aug. 21 or face a formal 'finding' by HUD."
- "HUD labels Dian Street gate discriminatory, asks removal", Houston Chronicle,
Matt Schwartz, October 15, 1998
"The city must take down the gate that closes off Dian Street in the
Heights area because it appears to be ethnically discriminatory, according to the
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development."
- Permanent physical obstruction
LETHU. V. CITY OF HOUSTON, NO. 01-98-00630-CV,
Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas
"This baracade can in no way be characterized as a public improvement,
as it is nothing more than a permanent physical obstruction."
Here's a ready-to-print
flyer with a summary of the problems caused by
speed humps. Thanks to yet another American willing to advocate for
the rights of persons with disability.
An ad hoc RADA review committee found
sense of humor a welcome antidote to the misery of speed humps. Tony
tells us the photo was taken "probably somewhere somewhere near Tampa
in Feb. 1999". He wishes us good luck.
Fire & EMS
July 4, 1998 / last update: September 15, 2000 (Version 1.v)