Bedford Scallion: Zen and the Art of Traffic Calming

January 18, 2023

Submitted by the Bedford Scallion:

The Bedford Citizen recently posted an article on the Select Board’s new traffic calming policy. Bedford Select Board Adopts ‘Traffic Calming’ Policy The Bedford Citizen- Dec. 28, 2022.

The article explains how the town will determine where traffic calming strategies might be implemented.  What is traffic calming?  Here’s what the DOT says it is: 

“The Institute of Transportation Engineers defines traffic calming as the combination of measures that reduce the negative effects of motor vehicle use, alter driver behavior, and improve conditions for non-motorized street users. Traffic calming consists of physical design and other measures put in place on existing roads to reduce vehicle speeds and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. For example, vertical deflections (speed humps, speed tables, and raised intersections), horizontal shifts, and roadway narrowing are intended to reduce speed and enhance the street environment for non-motorists. Closures that obstruct traffic movements in one or more directions, such as median barriers, are intended to reduce cut-through traffic.”  

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To put a cynical spin on it, traffic calming techniques basically come down to putting obstacles in the way of drivers. The idea is that without a clear path, people slow down to navigate the obstacles. I’ll take their word for it that it actually works as intended, but you have to believe that for the hard-core speeders this just presents a new challenge. I can imagine in the not-too-distant future that a new form of race will be shown on ESPN, the traffic calming 500.  Complete with shrubs, Priuses, speed bumps, potholes, unexpected curves, and whatever else you can think of.

Another idea may be a more homeopathic approach. Lavender-scented road signs might be an option in the summer. Instead of lemonade stands, would a chamomile tea stand be such a bad idea? How about Mr. Rogers on a PA system asking you to drive slow in the neighborhood? Just an idea.

The Select Board also suggests that it will leave the decisions on what calming approaches to take to each of the neighborhoods. This is an interesting idea; different neighborhoods could come up with their own themes. April Fool’s Day could be a lot of fun.  

Other ideas could be taken from the Holiday House tours. Nothing slows traffic like a beautiful holiday display. Other themes can be implemented on a rotating basis. Sasquatch inflatables? T-Rex on Fletcher Road? The Page Road Streaking Team lives again. Those 3-D drawings of the Grand Canyon might get people to slow down a bit, too. 

That does raise the question, which is better – a speeding driver or a distracted driver?   

People really drive too fast in the neighborhoods. Please slow down!

Editor’s Note: The Scallion is a lighthearted attempt to poke gentle fun at ourselves.  It’s satire and not to be taken too seriously.

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