A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 10, 2013
Sleeping Policeman (speed bump)

A speed bump has been called a “sleeping policeman” (often in the plural “sleeping policemen") since at least 1968, when it was used in Jamaica. A “sleeping policeman” forces motorists to reduce speed.

The term “sleeping policeman” is now used throughout the world (especially in the Caribbean, Mexico and the United Kingdom), but is used in the United States mostly by immigrants.


Wiktionary: sleeping policeman
Noun
sleeping policeman
(plural sleeping policemen)
1. (UK and Caribbean English, idiomatic) A speed bump.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
sleeping policeman n. a ramp in the road intended to jolt a moving motor vehicle, thereby encouraging motorists to reduce their speed.
1972 Daily Tel. 27 Oct. (Colour Suppl.) 23/3 (caption) ‘Sleeping policeman is a bump under the road surface designed to slow vehicles.
1974 Times 24 July 4/7 The government would proceed with experiments in the use of ‘sleeping policemen’—road humps to slow motorists.

Google Books
Harper’s Bazaar
Volume 99
1966
Pg. 189:
“CAUTION . . . SLEEPING POLICEMAN” IS THE JAMAICAN WAY OF WARNING A MOTORIST TO BEWARE OF A RISE IN THE ROAD. “

Google Books
Fourteen Islands in the Sun
By Charles Graves
New York, NY: Hart Pub. Co.
1968, ©1965
Pg. 161:
Unfortunately here and on other roads there are what the French call caniveaus, known locally as ‘sleeping policemen’, in other words, dry water troughs across the road which damage the springs of any motor car travelling at more than five miles an hour.

30 January 1968, The Daily Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica), “Letters to the Editor: Sleeping policemen,” pg. 10, col. 4:
Many private roads in Kingston have installed “Sleeping Policemen”. It is more than problematic that, in an ever more complex world where the simple answer to a problem is no longer acceptable, these devices are being overlooked.
(...)
H. P. GARDINER (Col.)
(Highways and Bridges Committee, Worcestershire City Council.)
Linguanea Club,
Kingston

Google Books
The Making of Cities
By Walter G. Bor
London, L. Hill
1972
Pg. 163:
Above ‘Sleeping Policeman’ — corrugated strip across carriageway to slow down traffic in London Street, Norwich.

Google Books
Traffic Planning and Engineering
By F. D. Hobbs
Oxford: Pergamon Press
1974
Pg. 481:
The propriety of some control devices has been questioned and this includes the speed bump or so-called “sleeping policeman”.

Google Books
Without Wheels:
Alternatives to the Private Car

By Terence Bendixson
Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press
1975, ©1974
Pg. 67:
One way to warn drivers approaching semi-precincts would be to lay in the roads what one of my neighbour’s children calls ‘camel humps’ and what others have dubbed ‘sleeping policemen’.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityTransportation • Thursday, October 10, 2013 • Permalink