Bulbous Bottlenecks

It is obvious from the online discussion on several of your stories that many people have no idea what a “bulb-out” is. (One typical posting: “WTF is a bulb-out?”) I even asked a friend about this latest controversy in our community, and she said it was a good idea to replace those old-style light bulbs with fluorescent ones.

The confusion arises from the phrase “bulb-out.” It derives from what they look like on a design map, but says nothing about what they are or what they do. Since Mayor Schneider says that there is a community discussion to be had on the subject, it seems that a more accurate and descriptive moniker is needed.

I pondered the question, and offer the following: The intent of these curb extensions is to constrict the width of a roadway through intersections so that pedestrians have a narrower exposure to traffic when crossing the street. It’s like the way a wide flow of liquid in a bottle is constricted to flow through the narrower spout. The area where pedestrians cross is like the bottle’s neck.

It suddenly struck me (as it no doubt has you) that a perfectly descriptive word already exists for these installations. I checked the dictionary, and found: “bottleneck n a: a narrow route b: a constriction of traffic lanes … ”

What could be more perfect? Therefore, in the interest of clarity, I humbly suggest that henceforward the vague and confusing phrase “bulb-out” be replaced in your various broadcasts and publications with the more accurate and descriptive term “bottleneck.” — Gerry DeWitt

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

event calendar sponsored by:

County Accountant Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $2 Million

Forensic audit discovers almost 300 false invoices filed over nine years.

Los Padres ForestWatch Opposes Logging in Condor Country

Timber companies target 2,800 acres of trees near Mt. Pinos along the Tecuya Ridge.

Lawmakers Move to Impede Offshore Oil Leases

A pair of bills aim to counter the federal government's new push for production.

More Money Available for Santa Barbara County’s Disaster Victims

The United Way is giving to Santa Barbara nonprofits and offering direct cash grants.

Santa Barbara’s Commuter Train Brings Solid Ridership and Timely Service

The first two weeks of service have seen a daily average topping 180 riders.