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Speed bumps have a major impact on people suffering from some medical conditions, such as back problems. Any complaints are often ignored or belittled. The following are extracts from letters received from local residents in the London Borough of Bromley: 

"My mother lives next door here in Raggleswood. She has osteoporosis and finds it very painful when she is driven in a taxi along Watts Lane over the speed humps.” A.S.

“I am a sufferer from Motor Neurone Disease, now needing the use of a wheelchair. The introduction of calming measures, and in particular the proposed road humps, would add unnecessary obstructions to my (and other wheelchair users) safe and comfortable progress around Chislehurst. I feel no approach has been made to obtain the views of car passengers travelling in wheelchairs when making these decisions. Speed humps add considerably to the discomfort of such passengers.” M.J.B

speed humps

“The bumps in the road (Watts Lane and Manor Park Road). Whilst my wife was negotiating these, having had an operation on her back, she had considerable leg spasms. These bumps can cause personal physical damage……”   J.C.S.

"As a kidney transplant recipient, and formerly on peritoneal dialysis, I can assure you that any major abdominal operation results in discomfort for some time afterwards when riding over a speed hump at any speed at all. Peritoneal dialysis also results in discomfort when travelling over speed bumps." R.W.L.

"My elderly mother was returning from hospital in an ambulance after dislocating her jaw, and when the ambulance went slowly over a speed bump it dislocated again."  G.P.Y.

"Personally, I have a brain cyst and going over humps hurts." B.B.

If you complain about such problems to road safety experts they simply say you should take another route, or slow down more. The former is often not possible, and is effectively discrimination against disabled people, and the latter does not work in most cases. In any case, if you are using public transport such as buses, ambulances or taxis, it is not always possible to tell them to slow down, or even if you do they may not take heed, or may simply not notice a hump in time.

Emily Wilcox, who lives in Berkeley, California, suffers from a spine deformity. She finds driving over speed bumps painful at any speed above zero. She has campaigned against their use for many years and managed to get a moratorium against more installations in Berkeley.

Another US example she has identified is that of Courtney Wickard who suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic bone defect. Her arm and bones in her spine were broken when a school bus she was in hit a speed bump. 

She points out that vertical deflection devices are typically designed to generate loadings of 0.69 g on road users, whereas US government publications recommend 0.3 g as a “high” maximum for wheelchair users, so there is clearly a contradiction.  

Emily, and others, petitioned the Secretary of the US Department of Transportation to stop this restriction on road access to disabled Americans. To quote “Unfortunately, no matter who we approach and no matter how we protest, the serious negative impact that vertical deflection devices are having on our ability to access our own homes and communities, let alone our right to travel freely, are largely being ignored.”

Isobel Hare who is chairperson of the Edinburgh and Lothian branch of the National Osteoporosis Society, has also been kicking up a fuss about the speed “cushions” in her area. As a long time sufferer from the disease she said: “They are difficult to negotiate and I often get a nasty jolt on the spine. Ultimately this could really damage the vertebrae.” Her comments were supported by the clinical director of a local osteopath who said that “if you have back pain this will exacerbate the problem” and “I have had a lot of patients who come in swearing about speed humps”.

In May 2005, Judith McCrorie, a disabled person who lives in Scotland and who is severely affected by speed humps and other traffic calming measures submitted the following petition to the Scottish Parliament: McCorrie-Scottish-Petition. It covers the particular problems of the disabled, the impact of the new Disability Discrimination Act in the UK, and the latest comments from the London Ambulance Service.

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