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Review of law ‘yields’ surprising sign situation

At left, a warning sign at Camino del Rio claim state law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians. However, along Main Avenue, right, similar signs tell drivers to stop. Enlarge photo

Action Line/Durango Herald

At left, a warning sign at Camino del Rio claim state law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians. However, along Main Avenue, right, similar signs tell drivers to stop.

There seems to be some confusion with signs that remind drivers to not hit people crossing the street. The one at Camino del Rio near the Transit Center says it’s “state law” to yield to pedestrians. Just a block up on Main Avenue, the exact same type of sign advises drivers to stop. So which one is it? – Peter

This discrepancy might lead people to think Durango places a higher value on tourists, since the “stop” advisories on Main are certainly more authoritative than Camino’s mere “yield.”

It doesn’t help that the signs on Main Street go up in advance of tourist season and go away when tourists go home while the Camino signs stay put.

But that’s not the case.

Apparently, the city ordered the wrong signs several years ago when the “state law/don’t hit people” reminders were first erected.

“That was way before my time,” said Amber Blake, the city’s multi-modal transportation guru. “There are a number of municipal sign suppliers, and they offer the ‘state law’ sign in both a ‘stop’ version and a ‘yield’ version because the law varies. I think someone made a mistake.”

Colorado is a “yield” state.

“When a yellow lens is illuminated with rapid intermittent flashes, drivers of vehicles may proceed past such signal and through the intersection or other hazardous location only with caution,” reads section 42-4-605 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.

That’s legalese for “yield.” Thus the Camino del Rio sign is correct.

Some intersections on Main lack traffic signals, but the rules are the same.

“When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway ... ” reads section 42-4-802.

By golly, Durango’s “state law/stop” signs are, ahem, not quite correct. But who cares?

Anything to get traffic to slow down for pedestrians is a good thing. And, besides, if a person is in the crosswalk, a vehicle “yields” to the pedestrian by stopping. So it’s pretty much the same thing.

The city should just blow off this faux pas. We have far more important municipal issues to deal with, such as banning plastic bags or prohibiting fertilizers in public parks.

Both of these measures will help Durango be even more like its official sister city, Boulder, with its “ridiculous yuppies who are so caught up in the dream of Subaru ownership and Shambhala meditation that they forget to do things like address homelessness in their town,” as one online pundit wrote in response to a posting, “Give me a reason not to go to Boulder.”

But that has nothing to do with local road signs. Forget the People’s Republic of Boulder and back the Enlightened Democratic Union of Durango.

Replacing technically incorrect signs would be expensive.

A quick check at Barco Products – a national firm that makes stuff such as park benches and back racks in addition to traffic signs – shows the double-sided “state law/yield” signs run about $300 each when purchased in bulk.

And you don’t have to be a municipality to make a purchase. Individuals can get traffic signs, too. “They make lovely accessories,” the city’s Amber Blake said with a chuckle.

Which is not farfetched.

Think of how many Fort Lewis College students use purloined street signage for interior decoration to complement Bob Marley posters, snowboard banners and Mexican blanket window treatments – design elements also found throughout (where else?) Boulder.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 80301. You can request anonymity if you can explain why it’s even necessary to remind drivers not to mow people down in a crosswalk.

Enlarge photo

Action Line/Durango Herald At left, a warning sign