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Speedbumps finally arrive at SE 21st

Neighbors along SE 21st between Division and Powell have been wanting speedbumps for the last several years. After a drawn-out process with City Hall (and some contentious folks up on 25th), the speedbumps finally arrived today. These improvements are part of a pilot project on the part of the City, which previously had been unwilling to put speedbumps on a street of this designation, with this much traffic. Though City permission was required to build the speedbumps, the people and businesses of the neighborhood had to pay for them, at the cost of about $2000 each.
View down a closed SE 21st, while the work is happening
View down a closed SE 21st, while the work is happening
Big heavy machinery, doing something good for once
Big heavy machinery, doing something good for once
The speedbump in front of People's Co-op taking shape
The speedbump in front of People's Co-op taking shape
Finished speedbump, up near Woodward
Finished speedbump, up near Woodward
i biked along 21st this morning as the speedbumps were being built. i stopped at each one and smiled happily. i thanked the workers at each site. They were a little taken aback; i guess people aren't usually so grateful for their work. Other neighbors told me they had similar interactions. At a local coffee shop i talked with a couple guys not from the neighborhood who -- though happy to hear we got we wanted on 21st -- had complaints about the speedbumps the City put in on 76th, out past Mt. Tabor, which he said the neighbors there did *not* want. "The City has selective hearing," he said. i guess so, since it took them 5 years to listen to the residents around here, who have wanted these speedbumps on 21st for so long.

i biked up and down the street several other times during the course of my day and was gleeful to see cars slow down dramatically before crossing each of the bumps. SE 21st has a lot of pedestrian, pet and bicycle traffic and the cars and trucks and SUVs go way to f'n fast. i've had innumerable negative experiences there, and i'm hoping they'll be fewer now.

i'd like to give out a big PROPS to Chris Eykamp, a local resident (now living in Germany) who is the person most responsible for making these speedbumps happen. He worked hard, with the city and the neighborhood association, to build consensus among neighbors and convice city bureaucrats that doing this is the right thing. He was right, and i'm thankful for all the hard work he did. This article is posted for him, so he can see the fruits of his labor come into being.
bumpin' 16.Sep.2005 03:18


All they do is cause drivers to go even fster in between the bumps...

I also would like to offer props to The Eye.
Note the reddening leaves.
Note the reddening leaves.

Thankyou SE 21st community 16.Sep.2005 04:39


Wanted to send out props to both Chris and to Sparkle and all the SE 21st community :)

bumpin ? 16.Sep.2005 06:56

karl roenfanz ( rosey ) k_rosey48@hotmail.com

phi, thanks for warning us of your poor drivin' regimen.

happy day! 16.Sep.2005 07:00


I thought I wouldn't see it in my lifetime! Car people are always going too fast in that section because it looks like a straight shot between Clinton and the stop at Powell , that is, if you don't count those pesky pedestrians and bikers. The bumps certainly made a safety difference on SE Gladstone.

Yes 16.Sep.2005 08:38


Every single time I go down to the SE to visit you guys, I get near death experiences, especially on Division. Finally I can rest assure that cars will slow the hell down. Now all they have to do is put speed bumps near belmont.

dont rest assuredly just yet 16.Sep.2005 09:07


speed bumbs are a solution to a symptom of car culture. while i agree that this is a good thing, it is not the answer. speed bumps will not solve the problem of cars speeding through the neighbourhoods, the end of car culture will.

i applaud the folks that have been working on this and dont want to detract too much. but, when i read bEn's statement about resting assuredly and how the only thing left that needs to be done is speedbumps on belmont, i cringe if that is how folks think.

there is so much more to be done.

Disadvantages of speed bumps 16.Sep.2005 11:26


Someone already pointed out that many drivers will probably speed up to make up for the time lost by the speedbumps, thus making conditions even more dangerous away from the speedbumps. I have some other arguments against the speedbumps.

I wonder if the leaves lost their green prematurely from all the pollution caused by the construction of the speedbumps? That's my first point: environmental damage. Not just to create the speedbumps (the molten asphalt steam looks quite toxic). Large amounts of additional gasoline are burned to slow down and speed up again because of the bumps. The least gas is expended at a steady speed.

The worst drivers are in vehicles with "good shocks" that allow them to go over the bumps without slowing down. Poor people in less-fancy cars are punished by having to slow down and waste gas, while rich "rednecks" can just ride over the bump at high speed, shouting "Yee-haw!"

In addition to the problem of drivers speeding to make up for time lost at speed bumps, they're known to cause road rage. Many drivers brag about revving their engine at high RPMs when they restart after stopping for bumps. Some lean on their horns whenever there's a bump, or they blast their car stereo. Others use the slowdown as an opportunity to throw cigarettes and trash out their windows.

Also bad for residents whose tax dollars paid for the bumps, who were opposed to the bumps. Was there a democratic vote who made a majority decision for the neighborhood, or was it passed by a loud vocal minority of control freaks?

Perhaps there are other arguments against speedbumps.

in favor of speedbumps 16.Sep.2005 11:47


I attended a couple of the neighborhood meetings about the speedbumps, this last spring. At one of them was a traffic engineer from the City. He said that according to their studies, speedbumps do slow down traffic on a given road, and do it better than curb extensions or mini-roundabouts (such as you see on Clinton or Ladd's Addition). The City has spent time and money with these issues, and the engineer's answers were frank about what works and what doesn't.

My experience watching yesterday was that people were indeed driving more slowly by and large. Of course there's always going to be some assholes that speed up for them, but that's not an argument against putting them in period. As a cyclist I've also noticed that speedbumps on a street change the feeling of that street in general, and that drivers are slower, and that I am therefore safer. For example, with speedbumps, drivers are less likely to speed up to pass me when there's really not enough room. As a cyclist, the speedbumps don't affect me personally, so i am able to ride at the prevailing speed of traffic more easily (since the cars are a little slower) and that definitely makes me safer.

I agree with the commenter who said speedbumps are not enough. Obviously not. What's really needed is a reverse of car culture, in which cars are allowed only on some streets but not on most. In the meantime, getting these selfish fuckers to slow down a little on a street much used by pedestrians, pets and cyclists is a great thing.

effectiveness of speed bumps should not be in dispute 16.Sep.2005 13:07


The city does careful, controlled studies when a new traffic device (like speed bumps or a stop sign) is installed. They've found that speed bumps slow traffic overall, if the bumps did not work the city would not continue installing them.

I'm not sure how this type of installation is new, there are already speed bumps on NE 15th and SE Gladstone, both are arterials with high traffic volume.

Traffic calming is just part of the big picture. Also are motorist education, getting more people on bikes, etc. Which reminds me, for all the furious commenting people like to do here on Indymedia, not many will actually get out and do anything. My pleas (on multiple Indy threads) for people to pitch in and help with a number of projects (bike safety, motorist education, killed cyclist memorials) already underway has garnered exactly (checking the mail address and threads) zero responses.

More Tar is Icky 16.Sep.2005 14:47


I'm not sure what traffic control studies the city does on each "device" they put in, but if it is anything like other traffic studies that are done on highways or other roads, it's probably bunk. Common sense can tell you alot. But, not much about traffic flow it would appear. So much of issues around traffic are really counter-intuitive and/or subtle with respect to the status quo. Speedbumps do IN FACT make drivers drive faster between the bumps. Perhaps from a macro perspective there is a slow down over all. You would have to do the math. When drivers have to drive through certain areas like 21st between division and powell which is a major through street between the two. They have the expectation of driving fast, for right or wrong. The same way bicyclists have the expectation on a bike route. Putting speedbumps there just pisses drivers off. Nothing wrong with that from the perspective of sending an anti-driving message.

However, speedbumps make driving cars and bikes more dangerous. Wet leaves and speedbumps can be a nightmare for bikers. Speedbumps cause car drivers to brake and accelerate. Sure that slows them down (at the speed bump), but it makes the driving more nervous. The problem is bigger than the narrow focus of 21st needing speed bumps or not. The truth is that 21st between division and powell was planned as a throughfare and it makes sense geographically. However, the reality is that businesses like People's sprung up on that thorougfare. Lots of people on bikes need to use that road now. The city planning never accounted for that and People's might not have really considered it when choosing a location either. They probably also didn't consider the counter-intuitivity of the fact that having a business on a driving thorougfare is good thing, from an economic and logistical perspective. So, blocking up 21st WILL discourage drivers (that's the point really) and thus discourage the business of people who drive. When the way was clear, it would seem that going through on 21st on the way to powell or from, you might just stop by People's. Now drivers have reason to take a different route.

Lastly, speedbumps are as sure a sign of gentrification as any I've ever seen. Most people don't like gentrification. Nervous white people come into your neighborhood and VOILA! within a year you have the cornerstone of white neighborhood organization, speedbumps. Perhaps though the neighboorhood cooperation that is built fighting the city about speedbumps will be better for the neighborhood than the speedbumps themselves.

The solution to the problems of poor driving is a different driving system altogether. Educating drivers in the framework of a screwed system of driving and traffic management will no more change poor driving than educating people about capitalism will create positive economic change. The same is true with educating city planners or food coop planners. Speedbumps won't address the overconsumption of fossil fuels either.

The current system of driving is based on victimless crime law, regression to the lowest common dominator of driving ability, and restrictions on traffic flow. A better way to say this might be the current system is based on restrictions and not what's best. That's the 'mercan way. Speedbumps are also just another restrictive device in the context of traffic. Definitely not thinking outside the box.

One real solution might be to make 21st between division and powell a pedestrian only or bike/pedestrian only street. This makes the committment away from any sort of major grocery shopping and loss of business in that fashion, but doesn't bring the problems that pissed off, impatient, and nervous drivers will (perhaps neighbors should/will call the cops to come monitor the speed of cars between speed bumps or how dangerously they drive now...it goes on and on) or maintenance of the speedbumps or the danger and hassle to bikers.

Dare I say move the businesses that serve mostly bikers to a more bike friendly road than a main thouroughfare? It's a solution. Not, my first choice. But, if the pressure didn't lie on both sides of the street the problem would have been solved already. It's unintuitive and subtle perhaps.

To sum up. speedbumps: there's got to be better way.

What I've learned about our new speedbumps... 16.Sep.2005 15:42

Tibbetts Neighbor

Apparently, speed bumbs cause cancer, add to global warming, increase road rage, punish poor people, injure bicyclists and may lead to outright genocide againts non-whites in the neighborhood.

In spite of all this, I like 'em. They remind me to drive slowly, as I wave my pistol out the window (okay, I don't really have a pistol). I drive along at a steady twenty or so, and the kids enjoy the up and down over the bumps. Because I often walk across 21st on the way to Peoples with these same kids, I have already noticed that people are driving slower, and are more inclined to stop and let us cross, as the law requires. Even the obnoxious tow truck drivers from down 21st are slowing down. I can't wait for the cross walk.

The speedbumps are perhaps a poor substitute for the Revolution, but they have had an immediate positive effect on the livability of our neighborhood. And there was a LONG and painfully democratic process to approve them.

Kudos to Chris and everyone who worked so hard for this.

A fundamental way to address the issue 16.Sep.2005 20:55


I have to say I agree with a lot of what Salaud said. Readers might be interested to know that residents on one street where they had installed speed bumps actually ended up petitioning the city to remove them. The city dragged its feet, so it took a great deal longer to have them removed than to have them installed. The big reason why was because of the noise and vibrations that cars driving over the bumps caused. Residents also said that these vibrations caused their house foundations to crack.

If anyone wants to learn about how to really calm traffic, consider going to the website of traffic calming guru David Engwicht at  http://www.lesstraffic.com

The biggest point Engwicht made in his important 1993 book, Reclaiming Our Cities and Towns: Better Living With Less Traffic, is that the reason why cars dominate cities is that with the advent of the automobile, distances were markedly widened between where people lived and the places they wanted to get to in order to shop, work, go to school and recreate. Close those distances, and the need to drive everywhere will decline as will crazy, speeding traffic.

Those following this issue might also want to check out Engwicht's new book, Mental Speed Bumps. Some points he raises in it are:

The smarter way to tame traffic is a practical, down-to-earth approach that turns conventional wisdom on its head.

Using "mental speed bumps" will instantly slow drivers without them being aware that they have slowed.

Removing all traffic signs, white lines, speed humps and traffic lights dramatically slow traffic and makes streets safer.

Building the social life of the street is the most effective way to tame traffic.

Everyone has the power to tame traffic.

Interestingly, on his website is a plug for the book from Ellen Vanderslice of Portland's Transportation Office, who says, "This book's great contribution may be the discovery, based on Engwicht's work in Australia and the USA and Hans Monderman's work in the Netherlands and Europe, that traffic is a social problem, not a design problem." Perhaps instead of installing speed bumps, Vanderslice and others at the Transportation Office might try to act on this wisdom in the very near future.

Been There 16.Sep.2005 23:09


I have a speed bump right in front of my house in North Portland. It has slowed traffic which is good since their are lots of bikes, pedestrians, pets, etc on the street. I think some of the traffic has been diverted to the next street over, neither street is a thoroughfare but have a lot of traffic due to businesses nearby. Some people don't slow down though and the resulting noise (KERTHUNK, scrape, kerthunk)is quite jarring, especially at night when its otherwise quiet.

NoPoPoNo 17.Sep.2005 00:06


I thought they were po' o'er there..

Anyhow, it does seem like a pretty limited band-aid at the very best, to me.

Why not just do what they do in Europe and other places? Make it a strict 20mph speed limit, enforced by TICKETS, at all hours. Believe me, if these residential streets get a reputation as good places to get $300 tickets, the car traffic will slow down in REAL hurry, or choose bigger meaner thoroughfares like McLoughlin, etc.

Hell, you can even use camera enforcement. The camera can just be triggered to snap a picture anytime a vehicle shoots by faster than 20mph. I'm generally against surveillance cameras. But if it can save lives and slow these motorized f*cks down, then hey, it's ok by me.

The Politics of Speed Bumps :) 17.Sep.2005 11:24


I never thought of these tarmac bumps in the road would start this kind of poiltical dialogue ? Welcome to Portland.
Thanks Tibbets Neighbor....that shit is funny and this thread is oh so Portland.
Apparently, speed bumbs cause cancer, add to global warming, increase road rage, punish poor people, injure bicyclists and may lead to outright genocide againts non-whites in the neighborhood.

Anyway after having a good'ol laugh,I wanted to give some European input. In London,every single side street from any main artery not only has some of the highest bumbs you could imagine (so high that they have Tibetan sherpas work on them),they also put round abouts in the back streets.The plan was & is to keep London traffic problem on main artieries and away from residential neighborhoods.truck traffic especially does not and pretty much cannot drive off main roads.I know they were also looking,and I think New York city was also looking at only allowing truck traffic to come in the cities and unload,load at night.I'm sure I'm interested to see what political and social motives are taken out of this piece...Thanx Portland...

some thoughts about speed bumps 17.Sep.2005 11:56


Firstly I have to take issue with this comment:

"Removing all traffic signs, white lines, speed humps and traffic lights dramatically slow traffic and makes streets safer."

I completely disagree, having lived on 46th and clay, I know that most people if they dont see a stop sign, will assume the other person has one, and rush through the intersection. The reason that modern traffic laws exist is because cities became impassable in the 1860's, with fights breaking out at every intersection all day long. Stop signs, along with plumbing are one of the things that makes urban density possible at all.

Secondly, living on 62nd (a much less-hip neighborhood, so our speed bumps are not worthy of an article on Indymediea, even though we have face similar obsitcles and fund-raising challenges) and I am excstatic about their arrival! Im sick of people using my street as a backdoor expressway. Speed bumps in particular an effective means of slowing down the most common offenders on my street; the lowered Honda crowd. The first time they take out a muffler on one they slow down.

My favotite way of slowing down traffic on my street though is just by driving 20 MPH, coming to a full stop at every stop sign. Kind of a be the change you want to see in the world way of changing things.

Some people will of course be assholes and speed between speed bumps, but they would be the ones speeding anyway. speeding as in 45 in a 25 speeding.

Good for pedestrians... 17.Sep.2005 17:51

Scotty B.

I live a block away on 20th, and I cross 21st a lot on my way to the Clinton St. area, and I have noticed that some cars tend to go pretty fast on 21st. I'm not sure what this does to car traffic, but as a pedestrian that doesn't want to be ran over by some driver that's going 40 and not paying attention, I'm glad that they're putting these in. Right in my neighborhood! It's pretty exciting.

Un-Common Sense 17.Sep.2005 22:10


I wasn't aware of the book that another commentor suggested, but I think that removing the signs, lines, and other restrictions is absolutely the best way to handle traffic. This is much the same as removing other types of laws creates more peace and tranquility. It seems counter intuitive, but it is none the less closer to the truth. I guess I'm talking about anarchy on the streets. Yep, that sounds about right.

With the signs, lines, et cetera removed people will slow down and have to think for themselves and negotiate. It does make things safer. Unfortantely, in the context of our current system of control, uncontrolled intersections are actually more dangerous. That's subtle, but true. The expectation that the other side of the intersection has a stop sign and that they will stop allows someone to barrel through an intersection. If this expectation is not met you have a serious accident. If you are forced to really think about what might be coming with no expectations of someone stopping, you will inevitably slow down. For this to work it must be prevalent expectation, not a few uncontrolled intersections in a culture of control.

The way that drivers (and bikers) think about traffic would need to be totally revolutionized and relearnt. The world can be a dangerous place. Those no need to pad the room until things get as bizarre as they now are.

Sure, before traffic signs and control people got into quarrels at intersections....at least they interacted and had to negotiate and deal with each other. It's all stuck in the context of the way in which 'mercans approach solving problems, power and control. If there is no expectation set that some other outside force will make things right, people have to move gingerly and with thought.

The fact that other commentors have mentioned tickets and police intervention should lend credence to my argument that the speedbumps...or using power and control as a way to deal with things leads to the wrong ends. Also, you had better watch out for those low riding hondas...alot of those people can be "ethnic". We certainly don't want those types in our neighborhoods.

counterexamples 18.Sep.2005 17:34


I can think of lots of counterexamples to Salaud's scenario. It relies on lots of other preconditions he has neglected. He has correctly pointed out that it would require a general expectation and thus would have to be the rule rather than the exception. That much is obvious. But it would also require the following things: a sense of community and social solidarity; approximate social equality among road users; a sense of accountability. If you want a concrete counterexample that proves it clearly, look at Third World monstrosity cities like Lagos, Nigeria. No traffic rules (at least that ever get enforced) Which leads to total mayhem and murder in the streets -- worst of all for those who don't have cars.

The sense of community is required for people to be able to feel a sense of responsibility and to resolve disputes without violence. Rough social equality is required, because where there is social stratification, elites will be able to get away with almost anything with impunity, while the dispossessed (mostly poor minorities) will get the law on their asses every time for the slightest infraction (yes, it already happens with traffic controls. But it'll be worse the more subjective and discretionary the rules are). Finally, accountability is required. The sense of anonymity prevalent in modern cities (not to mention easy access to interstate superhighways that allow a quick getaway) militate strongly against this.

hey, Duncan, post a fucking story 18.Sep.2005 17:54

regular reader

Duncan wrote: "living on 62nd (a much less-hip neighborhood, so our speed bumps are not worthy of an article on Indymediea, even though we have face similar obsitcles and fund-raising challenges)"

oh fuck off. the reason there's no feature on indymedia about the speedbumps in your neighborhood is simple: NO ONE HAS POSTED ONE. if one had been posted, it would've been featured. don't sow your fucking petty seeds of division. the portland indymedia model is simple: post local reporting and it gets featured. it's easy. stop whining and start reporting.

im so glad this worked for your community 21.Mar.2006 16:32

lindsay shropshire ljshrop123@yahoo.com

my neighbors and i just started a fight with our city to add speed bumps to our street. im researching other cities that have gone through the same fight. the dept. of public safety and GA DOT are claiming right now that speedbumps are not allowed in a residential area. (I have at least 10 photos of different cities where it has worked positivly, and NO negative feedback). i feel that most things ive read, the community was all for it and the city was not. the fights have lasted years and has been very costly to the home owners and the city. i would rather my city save their time and MONEY, and go ahead and give us what ALL of us want. after all, it is for the children, walkers, bikers and everyone else that makes our neighborhood and good one to live in.

i would love some suggestions and feedback from people with the same situation.

lindsay shropshire
Macon, GA