The’ big four o’ has long been a milestone in our lives. However, we may not be in particular celebratory mood for this particular birthday.

This year the speed bump/sleeping policeman turns forty.

Up, up and away

They are actually an American idea that they began using much earlier in the 1900s. But for Britain, we waited until 1983 before they were deemed necessary to help calm down the fast growing levels of mobile autonomy.

With the upward mobility of Thatcher’s consumer society, owning your own car or two was an important status symbol. What’s more, it also brought about the rise of the hot hatch for the lesser financially endowed persons who couldn’t quite climb in to the Porsches, XJS’s or Bentleys of the stockbroker belt. Whatever the make or model, from boy racers to Mondeo man were racing to meeting, either business of personal. And when the main roads or the brand new M25 were jammed up, smaller local urban roads were seen as nifty short cuts and cut throughs. The dangers for the urban communities, especially vulnerable road users such as children and the elderly, were all too plain to see.

Today, there are believed to be over 42,000 of them across the UK’s road network. 

Chatham, New Jersey seems to claim the first speed bump in April 1906. Yes, even then, urban populations felt threatened by unbelievable new speeds of 30mph and over.