Our local neighborhood association recently lobbied our City Council to construct speed bumps along the main road leading into our subdivision. As a parent, I was excited to see them installed along that road because I’ve seen far too many near-misses between speeding drivers and young children making their way to or from the neighborhood school. As much as we may dislike them and the wear and tear they cause to our vehicles, they do accomplish their goal of slowing people down.
Having said that, I’m not always a fan of speed bumps, especially when they don’t accomplish their intended purpose. Let me give you an example. There are five major roads leading from Kampala, the capital of Uganda, to major cities across the country. A decade ago, geologists discovered a major oil reserve in Western Uganda near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Plans are well underway to recover and refine that crude oil for national use and export to neighboring countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Transporting the refined fuel meant major upgrades to the roads that would serve that industry. The unintended consequence of those improvements is that tankers, busses, and other large transport vehicles are able to move at a speed that can only be described as frightening. The Ugandan government responded by constructing strategically placed groups of speed bumps at short intervals at the entrance to towns along the route. Sounds good, right? Except for one thing. They didn’t actually slow the intended vehicles down at all. In fact, just the opposite happened. Smaller vehicles had to slow to a crawl to traverse these large groups of speed bumps causing massive traffic jams entering and exiting these towns. The large transport vehicles barely tapped the brakes as they continue to race through the towns. The purpose of these speedbumps was to slow these large transport vehicles, but all they did was cause massive traffic jams and numerous wrecks.
Speed bumps can have either a positive or negative impact depending on their intended purpose. I think some speed bumps are placed in our path by people who are risk-averse or otherwise oppose your charitable endeavors. They cause undue disruption and are specifically intended to thwart the progress of our NGO. Let’s call those the unwanted/uninvited speed bumps. They are the ones I’m inclined to blow right through without much regret. Other speed bumps are constructed to provide us with the opportunity to slow down and better assess what’s happening around us. They serve as a reminder to slow down and consider how the decisions you are making today will impact you and your context in the future.