Michael Stipe's neighbors
April 24, 2001 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Michael Stipe's neighbors Who said that rockstars aren't like us?
posted by matteo (43 comments total)
They are abnormally large speed bumps also. (I live in the same neighborhood)
posted by spynotebook at 12:24 PM on April 24, 2001

Mr. Stipe: "If speed bumps are the only available fast-track solution offered by the city to an obvious community problem, it will not be long before driving or bicycling in Athens is impossible."

He then convened a host of like-minded rock stars (Sting, Bob Geldof, and Right Said Fred) to record Everybody('s Ass) Hurts.
posted by Skot at 12:24 PM on April 24, 2001

Speaking as someone else who lives in the concerned neighborhood, my solution was for the city to rip out the roads and put in grass.

> "If speed bumps are the only available fast-track solu-
> tion offered by the city to an obvious community problem,
> it will not be long before driving or bicycling in
> Athens is impossible."

Exactly, Mike, exactly.
posted by jfuller at 12:50 PM on April 24, 2001

Pardon my rant:

When Colin Powell talked about an "excessive" and "disproportionate" response, I thought immediately of speed bumps. I hate them more than I hate peeps.

I think the theory is that they keep excessive commuter traffic off of residential roads. In my area (Maryland suburbs of DC), however, they put speed bumps in places where non-resident commuters already don't drive. It's not even possible to drive the speed limit in these places, and they're hell on suspensions. I know they're also meant to make neighborhoods safer for children, but children shouldn't be playing in the streets to begin with.

A public road is there for the public to drive on. If I want a gut-churning bumpy ride, I'll get on a roller coaster.
posted by anapestic at 1:08 PM on April 24, 2001

My gripe with living on a residential road with speed bumps (as I do in Oakland, CA), is that it causes more braking and accelerating, which adds to the ambient noise.

But since homes on my street have many small children, I like the increased safety factor. I personally enjoy the slow drive down my street as I look at what neighbors have done with their gardens and homes, as well as waving to the kids.
posted by msacheson at 1:23 PM on April 24, 2001

as if my love for mr. stipe could swell more!

they put speed bumps on a street right next to me and every single person i know, adults included, GOES FASTER over the speedbumps. i slow down once i'm over the bumpy section, but only down to about the speed i would have driven had there not been large inopportune mounds in my way. ugh. go mikey.
posted by pikachulolita at 1:24 PM on April 24, 2001

> I think the theory is that they keep excessive commuter
> traffic off of residential roads.

They're there because some people won't obey the laws of the community (against speeding and against drunk driving), so we have to provide a law of physics and let 'em try breaking that.

> children shouldn't be playing in the streets to begin
> with.

Legal vehicular traffic includes bikes, skateboards, blades, scooters, and other kid-type transportation, and these types of vehicle are not outranked by cars. There's no legal age limit on operating such vehicles and kids' use of the roads in residential neighborhoods is one of the reasons the residents pay taxes.
posted by jfuller at 1:26 PM on April 24, 2001

"They're there because some people won't obey the laws of the community (against speeding and against drunk driving), so we have to provide a law of physics and let 'em try breaking that."

like it's physically impossible to go 90 over a speed bump in a residential zone? i've done it numerous times. speed bumps speed everyone up, in my experience. it's more fun to go over 'em faster. yeah, it's not right, but especially when they're new, that's what everyone i know does. first of all, yes, kids are allowed to ride in residential streets, but their parents should be watching them. i would never let a child play in the road unsupervised. this doesn't keep them from getting hit when i'm going 90, but it is also a lot safer than letting speed bumps play babysitter. false sense of security, all that.

also, i find that i'm much more responsive to seeing "children at play"-type signs than to speed bumps. signs remind me of why i should slow down; speed bumps piss me off and make me go faster.
posted by pikachulolita at 1:37 PM on April 24, 2001

I don't know how the Athens neighborhood streets are set up, but would intersection donuts have worked instead of speed humps? Do people here prefer donuts over bumps?
posted by gluechunk at 1:38 PM on April 24, 2001

"mmm...donuts" - Homer Simpson
posted by msacheson at 1:43 PM on April 24, 2001

My neighborhood has those roundabouts, gluechunk. I despise them, and I don't even have a car. See, the city (or neighbors, whoever) follows a laudable impulse to make them look like anything but what they are--big concrete impediments--so they plant trees and bushes and crap in them. Beautiful! Now you can't see past the intersection! I can't tell you how many times I've nearly been crushed under someone's Urban Terror Shitbox Minivan as they burned rubber around the damn things . . . often ignoring the "roundabout" aspect altogether and simply taking the shortcut turn the wrong way.

They are malign, and clearly spawned by sadists.
posted by Skot at 1:46 PM on April 24, 2001

and kids' use of the roads in residential neighborhoods is one of the reasons the residents pay taxes

There may be reasonable arguments behind the use of speed bumps. That is not one of them. People pay taxes for roads so they can drive on them. If you took away all the motorized vehicles, people would stop paving roads. Bikes can get by on dirt roads, and scooters, skateboards, etc., arose after there were already paved roads for them to be used on.

The tax money for roads comes from everyone, not just the people who live on those roads. Suburban and small town neighborhoods have fewer people per mile of road, so they are, in fact, subsidized by people who live in more crowded areas. The residents then want to turn around and deny those people the use of the road.

I haven't seen polling data, but most of the people where I live hate the speed bumps in our own neighborhoods. And we weren't asked whether they should go in. This is a tyranny of the minority.
posted by anapestic at 1:54 PM on April 24, 2001

They have those intersection-islands, or donuts, etc. here in Seattle, and I too hate them with a passion - but one thing that I always found interesting is that there is no wrong way! Yes, according to an article I read a few years back, the islands are placed there to introduce an impediment to speed, and an air of caution by introducing uncertainty and confusion. There is no "right way" to go around, except the way that will not hit another car or pedestrian - so everyone has to slow down, since you have no idea what someone else is going to do.

On the other hand, I have a young daughter about to hit toddler-hood and I sometimes cringe at how stupidly fast people drive by our house (residential area). Amazing how much having kids changes your outlook.
posted by kokogiak at 1:55 PM on April 24, 2001

> like it's physically impossible to go 90 over a speed bump
> in a residential zone?

Noted. I see we haven't been excessive and disproportionate enough.
posted by jfuller at 1:56 PM on April 24, 2001

One of the main goals of traffic calming is to slow people down in residential neighborhoods, by introducing unusual elements into the street pattern. Speed humps (note the difference from speed bumps; speed humps are much wider and lower) and roundabouts are a cpuple methods of accomplishing this.
posted by Aaaugh! at 1:56 PM on April 24, 2001

Fast Company once asked several leading lights of industrial design to provide their favorite examples of good design. One nutball mentioned the speed bump as the epitome of design because it does exactly what it's intended to do in the most efficient way possible. Never mind that people frickin' hate them...
posted by kindall at 1:58 PM on April 24, 2001

"but children shouldn't be playing in the streets to begin with."

"Car!" was the constant cry heard throughout my childhood in Ottawa. All the neighbourhod kids participated in what seemed to be the ever present game of road hockey. A car would approach, the call would be made and the goalies would shuffle the nets to the side. I can't imagine a neighbourhood street without a game of road hockey.

People are just in too much of a hurry to get somewhere.
posted by heather at 2:01 PM on April 24, 2001

Personally, I think we should develop a more pro-active approach to slowing neighborhood traffic down, such as radar guns tripping a series of speeder-eliminator devices, like small land mines.

On a more serious note, I always found the "Your Speed Is..." signs are about the most effective way of keeping speed down in neighborhoods. Also, having a cop car parked on your street for 3-4 hours every 2-3 weeks or so seems to do the trick as well. It doesn't take seeing more than one or two people getting pulled over every once in a while in a particular spot to get you thinking if the minute you're going to save by going 10 mph over the limit is worth the hundred bucks and a few points on your license.
posted by fusinski at 2:11 PM on April 24, 2001

A few years back, a guy here tried to blow up a speed bump. Funny thing was that he tried to do it with a bunch of big fireworks. It was interesting, if nothing else.

I remember when I was in elementary school we once had a substitute bus driver who thought it would be neat to speed up when going over train tracks and speed bumps. "Hang on, kids. We are going for a ride!" So yes, speed bumps make people go faster. Even insane bus drivers. I never saw that guy again, something tells me that one too many kids bounced off the ceiling when he hit a track or speed bump at warp speed. It was fun though.
posted by bargle at 2:12 PM on April 24, 2001

I agree with heather, and I think it's horribly typical of our Canadian youth.

I can't imagine not having the street outside my house, and all around my neighborhood as my playground, and I hope to live somewhere where I feel secure with my kids doing the same.

Actually, not too long ago there was a huge huffuffle in my hometown when kids started being hustled off the streets by cops. There was a massive outcry both for the laws banning road hockey, and against them. In the end I think there was some kind of designation made to dead end roads and cul-de-sacs and other very low traffic areas that allowed them to be used for road hockey.

Less than a year ago, a very popular residential street that ran from one end of my hometown to another with like, 8 stop lights along the whole ~10 km route had stop signs placed every other block or so along it. Again, huffuffle because people were complaining that the streets that were built to handle higher-speed traffic were too busy.

They're extremely effective though. The road, which used to be reasonably busy pretty much all the time is now just as quiet as the rest of the residential area, and no one's underbody gets ripped up. It was a good solution to this same problem.
posted by cCranium at 2:15 PM on April 24, 2001

Any Germans out there? I remember a visit to Hamburg and several other cities where every non major road was chock full of neckdowns and chicanes or some weird combination of both... they prettied the streets and slowed things down enormously.

posted by darkpony at 2:20 PM on April 24, 2001



(LOL! I crack myself up! I'll be here all week, folks. Be sure to tip your waitress...)
posted by jpoulos at 2:23 PM on April 24, 2001

After rebuilding my jeep's suspension last year I discovered something interesting - at any speed between roughly 10 and 35 mph, speed bumps simply don't exist. Wheeee!

Seriously, speed bumps have to be the most irritating traffic-calming devices ever invented. It's as though they were designed to make you feel oppressed. Why don't we just dig potholes in the road? It'd be just as effective, and less annoying. Even traffic circles, annoying as they may be, are a good excuse for a flowerbed.

The good systems are the ones that make you want to slow down - kinks in the road, those neck-restrictor things at intersections, roundabouts. Instead of making the driving-experience even more stressful and less pleasant than it already is, they encourage you to relax and slow down and enjoy the pretty road.

posted by Mars Saxman at 3:01 PM on April 24, 2001

I don't think the street-gaming was unique to Canada, we had a (looking back in retrospect) particularly un-busy little street in my neighborhood, and we tended to play every game or sport that allowed it right smack in the middle of it.

I shudder to think that my neighbors and I used to sit in the middle of the road with chalk, drawing on the asphalt. Talk about ineffective speed-bumps....
posted by anildash at 3:14 PM on April 24, 2001

when i was in jamaica i was told that speed bumps were called "sleeping policemen." perhaps a sugar crash from the donuts?
posted by heather at 3:40 PM on April 24, 2001

Traffic calming is a real love-it-hate-it issue, it seems. One study found that 50% of traffic calming devices were removed within three years due to neighborhood opposition. My hometown neighborhood in Wisconsin is in an old, grid-pattern section of town; we had a ridiculous problem with speeders and shortcutters. After three years of quiet work with the city, including field trips to other cities and a focus group, there was supposed to be a neighborhood meeting to introduce it; instead the city chose to quietly erect over the weekend a variety of "temporary" calming devices using butt-ugly buckhorses, portable construction fences, orange flags, and cones. The neighborhood went apopleptic and my mother was given much of the blame (for the city's lousy implementation). After six weeks the city totted up some figures (they had wheel counters all over, as well as staffers actually writing down license plates at both ends of the neighborhood to get an estimate of through traffic), decided the reductions weren't worth the opposition, and took it all down. (Fortunately, just a couple of years later, road route and business changes elsewhere in the city led to a reduction in traffic anyway.) In Chicago, there was a highly-touted plan by the city to block off side streets in the middle, turning some blocks into a pair of cul-de-sacs; after a highly celebrated incident involving a delayed ambulance, this program was severely curtailed. In Evanston, however, a number of temporary calming devices, from the mid-intersection bollard to turning a 4-way intersection into two non-intersecting corners, have been successful and eventually made permanent.

There is a theory that I tend to agree with that the typical suburban road pattern of massive arterials with tree-like neighborhoods full of cul-de-sacs, while obviously popular, leads to unanticipated side-effects, such as Saturday morning (!) gridlock. A grid-pattern in older city neighborhoods, however, permits traffic to spread out and find its own routes. The residents don't like it, but it may be safer in the long run.
posted by dhartung at 4:04 PM on April 24, 2001

That's what they're called in Kenya too. Y'all want to be in hell, drive in Kenya--the whole country is full of speed bumps (giant, unmarked speed bumps), and roundabouts, and potholes, and guys who stand all day in the middle of the road, slowly fixing the potholes--for a fee--at like one shovelfull a day, and corrupt cops, and crazed matatu drivers, and people who don't turn on their lights at night ("it would blind other drivers!"), and people who stop their cars and sleep in them, on major roads (*on* the road), at night, and braindead American tourists who always look the wrong way as they step out into oncoming traffic, and stray goats, and many other amazing types of traffic hazards.

Once on one of the major roundabouts in Nairobi (5 lanes) I saw a matatu (capacity: 30; passengers: 80, plus goats) just drive in a straight line across the roundabout. Picture this: 50 cars driving around the circle, one big bus going straight across. Four cars run into the side of the matatu at the same time; several other cars and goats crunch into their back ends. Every other driver in Nairobi decides to stop by so he can spend a few hours chatting with the guys who stand in the middle of the road selling magazines while they wait for the mayhem to clear. A soccer game gets started. Even some cops come by on their break to see what the excitement is about (they don't stay though).

And you guys get all excited over a couple measly little speed bumps.
posted by rodii at 4:17 PM on April 24, 2001

Huh, I forgot all about kids yelling, "car!" We did that too, and it cleared out the kickball games pretty quickly.

Don't people notice big groups of kids in the streets these days? Or is there too much blurring between residential and commercial neighborhoods? Or are people just in too much of a hurry? Too self-involved?

Mars, I had a boyfriend in college who said the same thing about speedbumps and shocks. He said they were "supposed" to handle bumps at high(er) speeds so he'd fly right over them without slowing down. I don't remember that actually being the case though, they were quite bumpy.
posted by megnut at 4:20 PM on April 24, 2001

rodii, they also have awesome safaris. :)
posted by swank6 at 5:48 PM on April 24, 2001

I actually knew a guy who, on his way home at night from his job at the Carnivore (tourist restaurant on the south side of Nairobi), crashed his bike into a lion and knocked himself silly. Came to to see the lion pondering whether it was too much effort to kill and eat him (it was). Take that, Michael Stipe.
posted by rodii at 6:28 PM on April 24, 2001

*laughs* i'm sorry - i never would have thought that after clicking on a story about someone famous having the same problems as we all do re neighbourhood traffic, i'd learn about the unorthodox route decisions by bus drivers in kenya and the hazards of running into lions and discover a whole website dedicated to calming traffic.
btw: what a great mental image that phrase produces... perhaps we should introduce aromatherapy at major intersections? meditation before entering the stream of traffic at a roundabout? ;-)
posted by cakefork at 7:21 PM on April 24, 2001

I lost 1/4" of my left kneecap to a speed bump. Cycling downhill in an area I thought I knew well, and which had just planted them in the road. Cheers.

The centre of my town -- and many of the council estates -- are now speedbumped to hell. The reason? Not to protect the kids, so much as to slow down the car thieves. Nice.

jfuller: which part of Athens is Stipe talking about?

[checks: ah, Hill Street. Makes sense.]

And it's good to see the context of Stipe's letter, which the NY Post neatly trimmed:

"I think we can all agree that traffic and speeding are a problem, and that some action needs to occur. But, if speed bumps are the only available fast-track solution offered by the county to an obvious community problem, it will not be long before driving or bicycling in Athens is impossible. What about stop signs? Yield signs? Blinking lights? Police radar? Back to cobblestones? If all this has served to provoke debate on a better process for real solutions to this problem, then perhaps it will have served its purpose."

Which comes across far more reasonably.

Because while I could happily see the centre of Athens declared car-free, the city has always been a utter nightmare for cyclists.
posted by holgate at 1:41 AM on April 25, 2001

Gah. Early morning. Forgive grammar.
posted by holgate at 3:10 AM on April 25, 2001

There's also a follow-up letter which makes a very valid point about the NIMBYism of block-by-block traffic calming measures:

"The real problem is that many of us Georgians are idiotic and selfish because the only time we care about reckless driving is when we are out of our cars and witness it in our neighborhood, so we declare driving problems to be 'neighborhood' problems even though we drive like that through other neighborhoods."

Oh, how true is that.
posted by holgate at 4:51 AM on April 25, 2001

I'm always amazed by the comments on MetaFilter. Just when I think I've got the users of this site pegged as young, earnest, knee-jerk liberals (a group to which I proudly belong), tolerant to a fault, along comes a thread like this with expressed outrage at traffic calming.

Kokogiak: You're right, having kids does change everything. Personally, I think anyone that drives recklessly through a neighborhood full of playing children ought to be dragged out of their car, beaten, have their license revoked for a year and have "reckless driver" tattooed on their forehead.

There's nothing that brings out my violent inner-fascist like a threat to my kids.

Let the chiding begin.
posted by mecran01 at 5:44 AM on April 25, 2001

Personally, I think anyone that drives recklessly through a neighborhood full of playing children ought to be dragged out of their car...

And what if the reckless drivers are, in fact, children playing?
posted by holgate at 7:07 AM on April 25, 2001

<16=tattoo, no beating, followed by deep soul searching into the pervasive social sickness that leads to 13-year old car thieves.

In addition, further respondents to this thread, in the interest of full disclosure, should declare whether they have young children or not.
posted by mecran01 at 7:22 AM on April 25, 2001

I have two daughters, 12 and 5, and at no time during their lives did I agree with speed bumps. I am aware of the phenomenon whereby new parents become obsessed with safety entirely out of proportion to the existing threats. My ex-wife is the master of this sort of excess. At one point, she told me that it was unacceptable to leave the children (then 11 and 4) unattended for the 90 seconds that it takes me to put a bag of trash in the dumpster.

In much the same way that I don't think non-parents should tell parents how to raise our children, I don't think parents should impose their irrational fears on everyone else. It is not uncommon, for example, for parents to press pre-schools not to allow any sort of junk food in any kids' lunches because they don't want their own children exposed to the horror of Ding Dongs, or whatever.

You want to keep your kids safe? Do what I did: teach them not to play in the road.
posted by anapestic at 7:52 AM on April 25, 2001

I drive down the street in question several times a week, and I was constantly amazed at what I saw before the humps went in.

The street is perfectly flat (despite this street being named "Hill Street", the neighboring streets are hilly), without stoplights (the lights in this town are bizarrely set so they'll be red when you get to them if you drive the speed limit -- go fast, and you're OK), and short-cutting a particularly bad T intersection of two of Athens' major in-town roads. On this street are residential houses, the back of businesses, and a private elementary school. Nearly half the length is included in a school zone (speed limit: 25 MPH).

More than once I was passed by people in too big of a hurry while going through the school zone. Once, a truck roared by me at 60MPH or so, giving me the bird for holding him up. Inattentive drivers plow into parked cars there on a regular basis.

Traffic there dearly needed calming. Michael Stipe's letter does a great job of expressing the truth that we need to really look at why traffic in Athens needs calming before we speed hump the whole town.
posted by ewagoner at 8:26 AM on April 25, 2001

There's probably something to your point about irrational fears. I still tend to think, however, that the burden of caution needs to reside with the person driving the thousand pound chunk of metal, rather than the four-year-old who momentarily forgets and chases a butterfly into the street.

There are probably better long-term solutions to traffic calming than speed bumps, including transit, increased bicycle use, and the ever popular home emp gun., except that they may be an urban legend.
posted by mecran01 at 8:26 AM on April 25, 2001

a possible solution:

not far from my apartment in D.C., there's a residential road that gets quite a bit of through traffic, as it leads into Rock Creek Park which is home of all sorts of wonderful shortcuts around miserable surface-street traffic. Not long ago, driving down this street to get to the park, I noticed a yellow diamond-shaped sign in the grassy median saying "Speed Bump Ahead". I didn't remember any speed bumps there but slowed down anyway to be sure. I never found one. On subsequent trips past the sign, I've noted that while its color and typeface are more or less accurate, the letters are placed a little straggle-ish-ly, and the sign's 2 or 3 feet shorter than any other street sign I've ever seen.

I think an enterprising resident must have made it in his garage and put it up. anapestic's ex, maybe.

tangentially: i admire anyone who's tough enough to regularly bike around Athens. it about kicked my ass on a daily basis just to walk up the big hill on Baxter Street to get to my dorm room at Russell Hall.
posted by Sapphireblue at 9:06 AM on April 25, 2001

Or you could try living in a place without cars all over the damn place all the time. I'm a parent, and that's my answer.
posted by rodii at 9:16 AM on April 25, 2001

Not wanting Stipe to hog the media spotlight, R.E.M guitarist Peter Buck makes headlines this week by roughing up an airline crew.
posted by ewagoner at 2:11 PM on April 26, 2001

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