Traffic Calming Coming to a Neighborhood Near You

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“Traffic calming” is the phrase city planners use to describe the various alterations made to streets in an attempt to slow down drivers who are perceived as driving too fast.  Generally these are installed in neighborhoods where the residents have complained about excessive speed.  Usually vehicles are seen as dangerous to children. While this is undoubtedly true — driving is the single most dangerous activity most of us undertake — there is also parental responsibility to teach kids how to walk and bike carefully.  Too often I have seen bicycles swerving all over the road or a group of teens walking in the street three or four abreast.  These folks are fodder for distracted drivers.  And distracted drivers will not be changed by traffic calming devices.

Watch out for traffic calming coming to a neighborhood bear you.

Let’s review some of these alterations.

The most common devices (probably because they’re the cheapest) are the infamous speed bumps and speed humps:

Speed Hump

Speed Hump

Other tactics include bulb-outs, apparently designed to turn residential streets into slalom courses:

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Curb bulb-out

Curb bulb-out

Then there are the flashing speed signs:

Radar speed sign

Radar speed sign

I know of one case where the speed is always flashed, even for cars traveling below the speed limit.  In other cases, younger drivers sometimes use these signs to achieve a top speed.  After all, how often do they get a chance to have their speed measured with any degree of accuracy?

Another favorite trick is a traffic light that turns red when there is no cross-traffic.  I know of two such lights within a mile of my front door.

“Traffic calming” is the wrong phrase.  These devices generally inspire feelings of anger, sometimes even rage.  Parents would be better served by teaching  their kids to stay out of the street.

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