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Summer Stories -
Traffic Calming Techniques


Dirt road in RMNP

One of my least favorite memories about being in the mountains is the multi-use dirt roads. Motor vehicle operators tend to drive at seemingly unsafe speeds and show little regard to hikers. Through the years I have developed traffic calming techniques to help control the aggressive drivers speed.

This summer, while hiking a circuit or loop in Rocky Mountain National Park we practiced the techniques. On the return to our camp we had to walk a long stretch of dirt road. The road was fairly wide and flat; but the speed limit was low (I believe it was only 10 mph). As soon as we began our walk along the road, the vehicles began to pass or meet us, coming or going. Most of the vehicles were going much faster than the speed limit and as they sped down the road, a dirt cloud followed them.

As we choked in a dirt bath, we began implementing traffic calming techniques. One of us would walk near the middle of the dirt road pretending to be completely unaware of traffic. He was the dodger. The other person would be watching for traffic, ready to warn the dodger if need be. He was the lookout.

When a car approached the dodger, the vehicle would slow to a crawl - greatly reducing the dust cloud - the dodger would then move to the opposite side of the road from the lookout. With the dodger on one side and the lookout on the other, the car had to slowly thread the road between the two. Both the dodger and the lookout would smile and wave to the passing car and then the dodger returned to the middle of the road.

The calming initiative worked. We effectively slowed every car on the road and prevented our deaths by dirt in the lungs.

A few traffic calming tips ...

Stepping out in front of traffic is dangerous.

Never step out in front of a vehicle at the last second.

Make sure the driver sees you and can notice that you are not paying attention to him. A good technique is to stop near the middle of the road and be pointing at something off the road to one side or the other. I always keep an eye on the approaching vehicle, even with an appointed lookout.

A fake limp or injury also has proven to be very effective.

The lookout plays a key role. If the dodger is not looking directly at the oncoming traffic, then the lookout must keep a sharp eye. When the lookout warns the dodger, then the dodger must move.

The trick is to provide an obstacle without putting anyone in danger.

Don't let children practice traffic calming. Hmm, I actually think they practice their own form of traffic calming.

Winding roads are not suitable for traffic calming. High speed roads are not good either.

This is not a game of 'chicken'. Just allow the driver to see the dodger in the road. Then the dodger moves moves from the middle of the road to the opposite side (from the lookout) giving the vehicle ample room to pass. Most drivers will slow and cautiously pass. This is traffic calming.

Be careful out there. Don't allow any vehicle to come close to you - move further out of the way, if necessary.

If the lookout notices that the driver is talking on the phone or texting, both the lookout and the dodger should jump in the ditch. The driver is not paying attention to their driving or your antics.

Happy dust free trails



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