A few weeks ago Linda Walthall, a Fairfax County school bus driver, was driving her bus along Vienna’s Kingsley Road when she came upon a pair of obstacles. There were two new speed humps on Kingsley, in between Cottage Street and Desale Street.
"They’re more bumps than humps," Walthall said. "You should be able to go over a hump at the speed limit. I have to get down to seven miles per hour with the bus."
The speed limit on Kingsley is 25 miles per hour. Walthall once tried to take one of the speed humps at near 20 miles per hour. She said she was nearly bounced out of her seat. Even in her family car Walthall, who lives in Vienna, must stay under 20 miles per hour when going over the speed humps.
"I stopped and told one of the guys building the humps that they should be humps, not bumps," Walthall said. "He just looked at me kind of funny. The people building them may never have to drive over them."
There is another speed hump, further down Kingsley, which is not as dramatic as either of the two humps between Cottage and Desale, said Walthall. She said the two speed humps on Church Street are also steep, but not quite so steep as the new pair on Kingsley.
"Some might seem a little higher," said Vienna Mayor Jane Seeman. "But the town crew tries to make them a standard height."
Seeman had not heard any complaints about the new speed humps, beside the complaint from Walthall. She agreed, though, that the humps force drivers below the speed limit. She said the town’s Transportation Safety Committee is considering the installation of speed pillows, which would be wider, and not quite as high as speed humps.
"[Speed pillows are] designed so people driving the speed limit don’t have to slow down," Seeman said. "Speed humps make everyone slow down. But with speed pillows, if you are doing 25 you’re O.K., you just go right over. It’s more of a gradual up and down."
COMPARED TO OTHER areas in Northern Virginia, Vienna seems to have a high concentration of speed bumps, Walthall said. She said Annandale has a few of the traffic calming devices, and the City of Fairfax has installed them in moderation, but that Vienna, considering its size, has a disproportionate number of speed humps.
"Because they’re a town, they can do [traffic calming] however they want to do it," Walthall said.
SEEMAN ADMITTED that the town probably has more speed humps than most places, and more stop signs as well. She said the town has the authority to act quickly when residents ask for traffic calming devices.
"People know that if they have 75 percent of their neighbors sign a petition, they can get a speed hump," Seeman said. "We also have the police go out and do an evaluation of traffic in the neighborhood. It’s not that we say, ‘Oh, we have all this extra asphalt, let’s put in another speed hump.’"
Steve Brown lives on Kinsley Road, in between the two new speed humps. When they were evaluating the road, police clocked one car at 75 miles per hour, Brown said. He was very happy to see the humps built, and has seen a big difference in the speed of traffic going past his house. Even so, he said many cars speed over the humps, and he sometimes finds bolts and small car parts laying on the side of the road.
"I’m nervous about kids crossing the street," Brown said. "Some of these guys don’t even look out. Fortunately my kids are a bit older, but there some very young kids further down the street."
Seeman said the Vienna Town Council tries to be responsive to citizen needs when making traffic improvements. Recently, for the first time, the town removed some speed humps, also along Kingsley Road, at the request of nearby citizens.
"The citizens said they didn’t like them as much as they thought they would," Seeman said.