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Traffic calming strategies we picked up in Italy

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While driving in Italy is a stressful and unnerving experience, we have unexpectedly returned with some insight to several possible traffic calming strategies. (Please note that we are referring to traffic calming- not driver calming.) Traffic calming is a pertinent subject in Hernando County and has been discussed by The City of Brooksville for their downtown area and in planning for the Kass Circle redevelopment.  One particular strategy (the roundabout) will be implemented by FDOT within the next couple years. Basically, traffic calming is used in urban areas to purposefully slow down vehicles driving through the city. One strategy that is being considered locally is narrowing the street width- which would cause vehicles to slow down.

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Erasing all traffic striping will also cause the drivers to slow down as they try to figure out how many lanes there are and if there is oncoming traffic.  Visiting a friend in Palermo, we discovered that there is no striping on the road in many high traffic areas. Why limit what would normally be a three lane road?   By not striping the road, Palermo has actually gained at least two lanes of traffic, sometimes three. This significantly slows traffic as cars navigate the mad scrum of forward progression.   Yes, the Palermo drivers are highly adept at driving in this manner and can do it without breaking a sweat and will drive fast- however they can only drive fast when they aren’t stopped by tourists who have utterly no idea what is going on.  And there are plenty of those. So instead of spending money to narrow lanes in Brooksville, perhaps they should just remove any indication of lanes altogether.

If the city does decide to keep their lanes, they could consider closing one lane at random and giving very little notice that the lane is closed ahead.  About 4 cones and one pointy blue and white arrow will do. Merging always reduces speed especially when it is unexpected.

In the next couple years, Hernando County will have a traffic circle at the intersection of 98 and Citrus Way, whereby heralding in the progressive European manner of causing drivers to slow down by complete confusion. (In actuality, FDOT has chosen a traffic circle over a stoplight because it’s cheaper and there is not enough traffic by their metrics to warrant a light. So traffic calming will be an added benefit.)  Back to the driver stuck in the roundabout- their GPS navigation may also go into a state of perplexity causing the driver even more distress. Our traffic circle at Citrus Way and 98 will involve large trucks heavily laden with limestone rock having to slow down from 55-60 mph and go around in a circle, just to proceed in the direction from whence they came. Large trucks in a roundabout will surely cause drivers to slow down.

One day we may be lucky enough to have traffic circles that directly lead into the next traffic circle as they have in many Italian towns and cities.  By the end of the roundabout marathon, drivers will have no clue which cardinal direction they are heading.

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Another idea is paid pedestrians continuously crossing the street – from one side to the other ideally not in crosswalks.  While on our way to Mt. Etna, an older woman crossed the street in front of our car- causing us to stop (she did not cross in a crosswalk). On our return fifteen minutes later, the same woman crossed in front of us again (and again not in a crosswalk)- thus the idea for paid pedestrians continuously crossing the street arose.  This would also employ people in need of work!

With the insight from our trip to Italy we are sure that Hernando County will be able to calm its traffic. Imagine if they used the no lanes strategy on Cortez near Mariner. The eight cars abreast would cause drivers to slow down as they attempted to avoid crashing into each other. If there is a wreck- drivers always slow down to rubberneck! These strategies are certainly at work in Italy.

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