The green, green grass of home?

December 31st, 2005
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Before we forget — a very Happy New Year to all. Please also check out Stupidism of the Week and Latest Article, both with new material posted.

It’s always easy to think the grass is greener somewhere else, and when you’re travelling you can test your assumptions immediately. Inhabitants of the Great White North may not think they have much to learn from those south of the Mason-Dixon line, but here are a couple of things to consider.

How Canadian cities handle traffic has long been a bugbear to Mr. K. and me. It seems that policies get worse with increased traffic. And by “worse” we mean bureaucrats instinctively seeing the “solution” as more regulation – more traffic lights, lower speed limits, speed bumps, traffic “calming”, and on and on. Oh, and then they’re shocked to discover instances of “road rage.”

What a surprise to come to Florida and see how they handle certain speed zones. School and playground zones have posted hours, but with the qualifier “When children present.” Say that one again, slowly.

Given the typical use of playgrounds in Calgary – you know, those large, empty greenbelts full of expensive playing apparatuses, completely unspoiled by any actual children – that would mean speed reductions would almost never be in effect. Indeed, in one such zone through which Mr. K. has commuted almost daily for 12 years – he hasn’t viewed a single child, ever. It’s an entirely needless restriction.

Canada has the further eccentricity of reducing speed limits near playgrounds “…until one hour after sunset”, which requires drivers to check their sundials (standard on all Roman-era vehicles), then perform a quick mental calculation as to when the heck the sun actually set. Not to mention that at the end of June, speed restrictions way up north are in effect until about 11:30 p.m.

The proviso (also common in other states) requires the driver to look out and see whether any children are around. It avoids a heavy-handed, bureaucratic blanket restriction, and absolves one from memorizing astronomical charts before touching the accelerator.

Further, on the local Interstate Highways speed reductions are indicated for construction zones, again with a qualifier “When workers present”. Imagine! You could travel the normal speed for the 20 or so hours a day when nothing is happening on-site. Also you wouldn’t have to fear odd-hour speed traps, with radar-wielding cops crouched behind parked bulldozers.

What a concept: Safety restrictions when they’re actually needed, rather than universal infringement of personal freedom, with the average voting taxpaying citizen still expected to exercise some judgment. As they say in management jargon, maybe our Snowbirds can “bring back the learnings.”

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