City Paper is not for tourists
Speed humps are for traffic control, but they’re so much more than that. With throwing people into the stocks out of fashion, humps are the only form of social shaming we have left.
But some drivers on Cleveland Park’s Newark Street refuse to accept the concept of “reasonable speeds.” Since speed humps (or bumps, if you like—though there actually is a difference irrelevant to this story) were installed on the street last year, they’ve been honking while going up and down. To show how mad they are.
The Post interviewed one honker last September. But angry drivers are still at it, according to a recent plea on the Cleveland Park listserv to let Newark Street families sleep in peace.
How does the honking sound?
“It’s not a brief honk,” says Bettina Stern, a neighborhood resident. “It’s a honnkkkkk.” Stern says she wouldn’t associate with any honkers.
That means Cleveland Park resident Mike Rosella is probably off Stern’s Christmas card list. Rosella became the face of speed hump honking after he posted a notice on the listserv calling for more honking.
“It’s not meant to be personal,” he says. Rosella got the idea from a Georgetown professor, who told him honking has been an effective protest against speed humps in other cities.
Rosella says he’ll keep honking until the speed humps are removed, altered, or at least studied by the District’s government.
Like other Cleveland Park issues, speed humps are really just another way of talking about the Giant supermarket on Wisconsin and Newark. The renovation and expansion of the Giant has been planned for more than 10 years, but it’s continually tripped up by Cleveland Park opponents.
“Just about any complaint in this neighborhood is connected to the Giant,” Rosella says. Some residents have speculated that the speed humps were a sop to opponents of the grocery renovation, who worry that a bigger store will mean bigger traffic problems.
City Desk recently conducted a field test to see if the humps were worth all the trouble. Ten cars passed over with no honks or bottom-outs, although some did jerk around awkwardly.
Still, Rosella hasn’t given up the fight. In fact, he’s starting to enjoy it. “I take pleasure out of honking,” he says.
Photo by Will Sommer