12 September, 2013

Potholes and Speed Bumps

Potholes and Speed Bumps - That's just about the Yin and Yang of it right there for Belize roads.

Since I think that I might just get tired writing about the rain - I mean, rain is rain is rain, and we've certainly been getting our share of the stuff. It seems like we have been anyway. We lived in the Northwest part of the U.S. for a bit better than twenty years, so we know all about rain with nine months of it at time.

We moved to Corozal, because this was one of the 'driest' spots in Belize (we tried to find the Great Mayan Desert, but that apparently got misplaced somewhere). Now, this stuff, happening every day, seemingly forever for at least the last three or four weeks anyway, just kind of puts a capper on it.

So, how about I write about speed bumps and potholes instead? What brought these two things to mind was a posting on a blog I saw the other day: Speed Bump (http://what-if.xkcd.com/61/). Now, I know it might seem like there's no connection between rain and speed bumps... well, there isn't. That's why I mentioned the blog posting above. But what about potholes, you ask? Now, there is a connection between potholes and rain. Potholes may not necessarily be caused by rain, but, in many cases, they're exacerbated by rain.

Sure rain softens the marl, and that leads to creation of potholes, even patched potholes on pavement, since they use marl as the fill of the hole and then cover it with a thin layer of asphalt. I'm sure there's other causes, but those are the only ones that come to mind right now.

Speed bumps, somewhat unsurprisingly, if you take them  at speed, can and do cause a variety of back injuries and vehicle damage. For example, some articles have said that the vertabrae 'L1' was the most frequently fractured vertebrae in accidents, and accounted for about forty-four percent of injuries.

It was reported that 'people are occasionally injured by speed bumps.' Here in Belize, with the number of speed bumps we have, that would seem to be a 'no-sh**' kind of statement. But, the literature suggests that nearly all of those injuries happened to  people sitting on hard seats in the backs of buses, and/or 'riding on poorly-maintained roads.' I think this is another of the above kind of statement. Ahh, poorly-maintained roads... something we're completely unfamiliar with here.

So, it seems that, here in Belize, we're faced with a three-edged sword, if it were possible, consisting of speed bumps, pot holes, and poorly maintained roads.

Lincoln Eiley, author of the Corozal Daily... (Sometimes) newsletter, just did a piece on poor roads in the Corozal area. He focused mostly on the tourism potential, mentioning the border inspection area,which has always been an eyesore, as the thing that greets new arrivals to the Belize northern border.
Arrival Area Belize Border. Courtesy Corozal Daily
He also gave mention of 7th Avenue, and that it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Works and Transport, but they're obviously short of money, so the Corozal Town Council has made several repairs to that stretch of road. Gosh, it'd be nice if the Town Council, the Ranchito Village Board, or the Transport Department (same thing as the Ministry of Works and Transport, just easier and faster to write. So, it's understood that Works Dept. or Transport Dept. pretty much means the same thing - at least in this context.) could see their way to fix the stretch of road in our area, but that's probably way too much to hope for in the next day or two.

I'm guessing that potholes can cause just as many injuries and damage as speed bumps. They're, more or less, 'negative speed bumps'. Even at low speed, potholes have the potential to cause injury and damage. Several times, I've actually had the steering wheel of my Isuzu jerked out of my hands when hitting a pothole. How is that possible, you ask? Well, with rainfall comes the hiding of potholes when the roadway is covered with water. All too easy to really whack a pothole when you can't see them.

Speed bumps are designed to make drivers slow down. Potholes are not so much 'designed', but they are just as effective at making drivers slow down. The two main things protecting you from either hazard are your vehicle tires and suspension. The tires absorb the shock of striking the speed bump or pothole by compressing. This is called the tire's 'cushion.' It's the separation between the bottom of the rim and the ground and is about three to four inches, unless you're running those ridiculous low profile tires which might be OK up north on manicured road surfaces, but here, with our roads? Naturally, we still see them on some sporty vehicles.

Of course, if you hit a speed bump or pothole hard enough, the tire might compress such that it exceeds it's design limits for compressibility and explodes, or if the speed bump or pothole is large enough, permanent damage to your vehicle can be the result, not to mention, what potentially can happen to the people riding in and on the vehicle. I'm thinking here of people riding in the backs of pickup trucks and in the beds of other types of trucks.

If you hit one of the really large speed bumps (the official name for these monsters is a 'speed-table', well, all bets are off. You'll probably be launched into orbit.

Here in Belize, these huge speed bumps do double duty. They mark pedestrian rights-of-way, one of the few places where pedestrians have the right of way.

Just a final note here. I've talked to at least a couple of people who have talked to representatives of the Ministry of Works and Transport here in Ranchito, who have assured them that help (or salvation?) was on the way. In looking out my window, so far, all I see is more rain. Several folks have gotten stuck, some able to extricate themselves, some having to wait for friends to tow them out. It'll get better as soon as the dry season arrives... I'm sure.

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