Single-trackin' Blues on Getaway Day
"Traffic calming?" HA HA HA HA!!!
Everytime I see that term I just crack right up. I get this image of whole fleets of Hummers and Tahoes and Tercels and Crown Vics in some vast spa space, flickering candlelight everywhere, New age music playing, lavender oil steam-cleaning every pore of their manifolds. Oh, wait. Right. It's the people behind the wheels who need calming, not the cars. Because cars don't kill people, people driving cars kill people. Not bicyclists. Not pedestrians. Remember that.
And so, in a week when the police blotter dutifully records a ninth pedestrian death in Fairfax, we find a "law enforcement wave" underway to ticket motorists for "aggressive driving," which is not to be confused with "road rage" or "traffic calming."
Aggressive driving is a more common, pernicious phenomenon, resulting in two-thirds of all highway deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In a transportation poll by AAA Mid-Atlantic in 2003, eight out of 10 motorists said aggressive drivers were "a greater danger than terrorists
How do you know if you are one? Well, if you have to ask....
But here's the quiz offered by on the "Smooth Operator Program" website, and you can hum Sade while you consider: Do you ever drive too fast, over the posted speed limit? Roll through red lights or stop signs? Weave in and out of traffic, or make unsafe lane changes? Tailgate other vehicles?
Now, "traffic calming" sounds like just the soothing balm for all those redfaced drivers. Instead, it often only inflames the situation. A term of engineering art, "traffic calming" seeks to slow down motorists rather than move them along at their preferred breakneck speed. One of the cheapest, more effective and ugliest tools in the traffic calming kit is that dreaded suburban dromedary, the speed hump. Annie Gowen has a great read today on how one Arlington neighborhood is riven by the darn things.
Community meetings have turned into shouting matches worthy of Britain's House of Commons. "Keep Kids Alive -- Drive 25" signs have been stolen from yards. Fliers and counterfliers are flying. A signature drive was launched.
Many proponents have young children, live in modest -- but, this being Arlington, still pricey -- brick ramblers and were drawn to the area by the schools.
"I have three kids under the age of 7 . . . and I don't want them to be roadkill!" said Suzy Wagner, an advertising saleswoman who lives with her husband, Eric, on 35th Street. Everybody knows her gray colonial, she said, because it's "the one with the stop sign nobody stops at."
She was standing outside recently, holding her 8-month-old son, Matthew, on her hip and a teddy bear blanket in her hand. She waved the blanket at a station wagon that whizzed up to the stop sign and through the intersection, barely pausing.
"Look at that Volvo!" she said. "Sometimes we sit outside and count how many cars go by without stopping."
"The people up there --" she said, gesturing to the west to Country Club Hills, where the lawns are bigger and the houses taller -- "are always in such a hurry. They all drive really nice cars. They don't have little kids anymore. They don't think about it."
It's enough to make you take Metro, which I have been doing in the decade since I moved here, having nearly bankrupted the family to pay that upfront home premium to get a house near the station. Except, sigh, single-tracking again, which leads to those utterly laughable lies, "Folks, please don't crowd the car; there is another train right behind this one." Right. If your definition of "right behind" is 12 minutes.
Marc will be back Monday. Ask him how much money he spent on gas in the last week.
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