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Friday, June 16, 2017

traffic calming ahead

I first saw the sign, “Traffic Calming Ahead,” several years ago, a few miles from home. I was a little confused by it. And yet, intrigued by it, as well. It was, after all, a rather traffic-y day so the thought that traffic would be calmer ahead seemed a pleasant notion. Somehow a fixed metal sign couldn’t possibly be giving realtime updates, could it? Maybe it was more psychological than that. The age old Jedi Mind Trick… Tell people that traffic will be calming ahead and they’ll relax and traffic will actually calm! (Sorry, one should never put an exclamation point after calm—that just doesn’t look right.) 

I’ve seen this sign now a few other places, although I forget where. And somewhere along the way I figured out that it was warning of various techniques and/or devices such as “road furniture” intended to create a safer, smoother, calmer road experience for all users. 

Despite these signs, and their psychologically coercive powers, traffic has not calmed. At least not the outliers of traffic. Certainly I’d like to recognize those among us that are calming influences in our road community—the “non-anxious presence in traffic,” as One Speed Go put it (I can’t stop thinking about that, by the way.) So there’s, like, this 65/35 ratio, I’d guess. 65% are cool. 35% are freaking out. 

And more to my point, they’re freaking me out! I mean, hey, man, I’m just trying to bliss-out here. I’m just peacefully following the rules of traffic like the majority of us are, moving calmly along, navigating the roadways. I’ve got the sails all set just right with the perfect breeze, a loose grasp on the mainsheet, leaning back to starboard… when all of a sudden a speedboat comes roaring through across my line, leaving a wake of turbulence that really salts my game, ruffles my feathers, takes the wind out of my sails, bums me out, man… 

Sometimes these speedboats are cars, sometimes dogs, sometimes comments… And it makes me reluctant to ride. Because riding isn’t fun in those situations and it feels unsafe in those situations. And it makes me feel like I’m alone out there. The lone bicyclist. 

But I know we are many. And maybe that’s how I proceed. Thinking of the other un-anxious road users out there. Breathe in. Breathe out. Let it go. Lean back, find that breeze. Be cool, be cool, be cool… 

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