This anecdote may or not be true: A Kuwaiti visiting Japan once asked his Japanese colleague about the absence of speed bumps in their streets. To his surprise, his colleague explained that in Japan, there’s essentially only one speed bump – right in front of the Kuwait Embassy! This humorous observation got me thinking about the prevalence of speed bumps in Kuwait.
Despite extensive efforts, historians have been unable to trace the origin of speed bumps in Kuwait, and the reasons behind our nation’s affinity for them remain a mystery. With six governorates, around 130 areas, and numerous blocks, Kuwait boasts an impressive number of speed bumps. An estimate suggests an average of 10 bumps per block, making for over 10,000 bumps across the country’s 18,000 sq km. Notably, residential areas only cover 447 sq km, around 2.5 percent of the total area of Kuwait.
Scholars attempting to unravel this phenomenon have proposed various theories. Some suggest it’s an attempt to align with global norms, ensuring Kuwait doesn’t stand out. Others, leaning toward conspiracy theories, claim a clandestine collaboration between orthopedic specialists and vehicle workshops. This alleged alliance, they argue, exerts pressure on the government to proliferate these non-ergonomic bumps, benefiting doctors and repair shops, as well as workshop and building owners renting space to them.
Interestingly, speed bumps have transcended practicality, becoming a residential norm and sometimes a status symbol. They adorn the front of influential individuals’ houses, serving as a marker of the resident’s importance. The remnants of bumps even stand as evidence of a power that once held sway but has since waned.
Today, it’s imperative to scrutinize the issue of speed bumps in Kuwait. A scientific study emphasizes that artificial speed bumps are effective only under specific conditions: Adherence to scientific specifications and clear visibility. Unfortunately, these conditions rarely coincide in Kuwait.
Renowned Arab businessman Naguib Sawiris has warned that improperly designed artificial speed bumps may increase traffic accidents, causing damage to vehicles. Conversely, other studies highlight the positive impact of correctly designed bumps in reducing speeds. For instance, a study from PLA Science and Technology University in Nanjing, China, indicates a reduction in speed by approximately 30 meters before the bump and 15 meters after it, given the bumps adhere to safety conditions.
However, the reality in Kuwait often deviates from these ideal conditions, making us question the necessity of these bumps for the sake of our well-being.