Slowing Down in Boulder

It seems like you can’t take five minutes nowadays to lay in the grass and stare up at the cloud formations floating across the sky without something coming along trying to speed up the pace of life. Pagers and cell phones make sure we are constantly in touch with the rest of the world-whether we want to be or not. If it isn’t time to check e-mail over the phone then you better whip out the Palm Pilot for some fast paced day trading.

I remember a time when the world wasn’t in such a rush to get where it’s going. We would sit around that beat up old portable radio and learn about what animals the communists sent up into space and what dirty lyrics the FBI discovered in that “Mony Mony” song. Most of our spare time involved trying to figure out a way to get to Woodstock that summer. Wait a minute, I was born in 1974. I think it’s quite possible that I’m writing about false memories. But the pace of the world is getting faster-I’m sure about that. The city of Boulder, Colorado, however, is doing what it can to slow things down.

No, they aren’t chaining themselves to cell phone towers and requiring that all citizens wear sandals. Instead the city is focusing on ways to slow down the speed of traffic. Recently they have installed bright orange construction barrels in the middle of certain intersections with signs that say something like, “Stop for pedestrians in crosswalk.” I’m not taking the position of being against pedestrians. In fact there are times when I had to park my car a block or two away from where I was going and actually became a pedestrian myself.

I believe that people in cars have their own definition of what it means to yield to pedestrians. Some drivers come to a complete stop when they see someone that wants to cross at a cross walk. Other drivers purchased the front grill and headlight protection on their sport utility vehicles for the sole purpose of not having to slow down when encountering any indigenous mammal life forms. The other ninety-nine percent of the driving population seems to fall between these two terribly contrived extremes. My point here is that people’s driving habits aren’t going to change based on construction barrels placed in the middle of cross walks.

While I personally don’t like this new traffic control device, I have to admit that traffic does seem to slow down on that stretch of the road. Especially when the car in front of me slammed on its brakes when a cute little kitten jumped out from behind one of those barrels at just the wrong moment. OK, that was a cheap emotional ploy to win your sympathy. While I did just make up the part about the kitten, it brings up an important point about our automotive transportation network. When constructing intersections, the people who build roads generally try to keep the pavement clear of shrubbery, billboards, those little drive-through taco stands, and in general, anything that people can’t see through very well.

I thought about going to the intersection and chaining myself to one of the barrels, but I quickly realized that I would be stuck in the intersection until I was hit by a car or arrested by the police. If anyone in town drives half as bad as I do, I would probably get hit first. Also, the logistics of chaining myself to a large rubber barrel seemed more complex than, say, a tree or a cell phone tower. Moving the barrel out of the intersection and then chaining myself to it would be safer, but not quite as effective as a protest.

In the end I decided to use my unique mix of witty banter and irrelevant emotional appeals to prove my case. Speaking of which, the kitten narrowly escaped injury. The car in front of me stopped just in time to avoid contact. The driver was so relieved seeing that the kitten was OK that she didn’t see the golden retriever puppy that was hiding behind the barrel on the other side of the street. Skipping over some of the gory details, the puppy survived the ordeal. The only way of knowing he was ever in an accident is the little doggie wheelchair he has to use for the rest of his life.

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