There’s a calm at the centers of many towns these days. Downtowns across the United States and Europe are changing their atmospheres as urban planners implement design their business centers to appeal to eco-friendly artsy types. People walk more. People bike more. People in these environments enjoy a slower pace of life. Traffic calming techniques like narrow roads, roundabouts, and These urban regions are designed with pedestrians in mind for safe driving, and motorists are an afterthought.
So what’s a driver to do when he or she ends up cruising through one of these low-tech, laid back city centers? Should you drive like you normally do, or are there specific strategies for navigating the new paths these features present?
Stay Calm for Safe Driving
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. City centers (and neighborhoods, etc.) that employ traffic calming designs are built this way for a specific reason: to slow life down. When you’re driving through a narrow-laned area, surrounded by laidback hipsters and artists and joggers, your best best is to join the club. Slow down. Don’t make sudden movements. Remember that pedestrians are not nearly as regulated as drivers, and that they’re more likely to dart out into traffic. And of course, those pedestrians are much more vulnerable than you are; running over a pedestrian could leave you facing a high-priced lawsuit, even if it’s not really your fault.
Expect Some Different Features
In addition to narrow roads, speed bumps, and lower speed limits, areas built around the idea of pedestrianism will have a few different features. One of the most common traffic features in these spots is the roundabout. The roundabout, long cast in popular culture as a strange European device that leads American drivers in endless circles, is actually a fairly simple traffic aspect. If you know how to use a yield sign, you’ll probably be alright. Just be careful and keep your eyes peeled.
Follow the Posted Laws
Traffic laws are traffic laws. The usual rules will of course apply in pedestrian focused areas. Stop at stop signs, let pedestrians have the right of way, etc. Nothing too fancy. Nothing too difficult. Do your thing, do it more slowly than usual, and you’ll be okay.
One thing to keep in mind is that speed limits will probably be lower than they are in many other places. (This goal is, after all, to slow traffic down.) Keep your eyes on any signage and sudden changes.
Stop and Walk
There is a third option for motorists who get stuck driving slowly in an area designed for pedestrian traffic: become a pedestrian! Clearly, this option isn’t for everyone. If you’re in a hurry to get to work, stepping out to walk won’t help you much. But if you’re just there for the scenery and shopping, get out and walk. The area will be designed for you. You’ll get a better feel for the area, you’ll find some new shops, and you’ll even get some exercise. There’s a reason walking-spots and bicycle lanes are so popular these days. Why not participate?