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Our View: Durango driving

We have a rush hour, counterintuitive road designs, but we can all be courteous

An elderly couple, both in their 90s, was asked what the secret to their long life together was. They paused, looked at each other and then in unison responded: “No left turns.” This is sage advice indeed.

Big city driving can be especially hazardous. If you have experienced a Los Angeles freeway, you know why they write songs about not being able to get off one. The East Coast equivalent is the New Jersey roundabout. You can get dizzy trying to navigate one of those, as they are just as hard to exit as a West Coast freeway.

The merge lanes on New York City parkways are much shorter than those we are used to out here in the wide-open spaces. This causes a harrowing game of chicken between the merger and the mergee. Big city drivers usually win the aggressive driving battle over an out-of-town visitor like me. There are motorcyclists weaving in and out of three and four lanes at speeds reserved for the Bonneville Salt Flats. But the prize for craziest drivers, in my book, goes to Boston. I try to steer clear of that city. (See what I did there?) Bahston drivers say “pahk yah cah,” and they do it about as well as they pronounce it.

Traffic has gotten much worse during my 33 years here in Durango. When I arrived, you could still pull a U-turn on Main Avenue, and nobody would even bat an eye. And you could put pennies in the parking meters. “This is the place for me,” I thought. For the most part, Durango drivers are courteous and law abiding, but we do have the occasional tourist from out of state; (a state that shall remain nameless, but you know which one I’m talking about because all your exes live there). I love that bumper sticker that says: “How can we expect you to operate the vehicle if you can’t even operate the turn signal?”

Our driving hazards in Durango seem to have more to do with some of the truly baffling street designs. We have the notorious, locally labeled “Confusion Junction” at the convergence of 15th Street, East Third Avenue and Florida Road. This meeting place is tough enough for locals to navigate. Can you imagine three out-of-towners arriving there all at the same time? They’d all still be sitting there.

Next, we have a red light at 12th Street on Camino del Rio that turns into a blinking red light. So, we should stop, but when do we get to go again? Coming into town on U.S. Highway 160 from Cortez we are supposed to stop about 150 feet before the red light so that traffic coming from the east can turn between the light and in front of us. This is counterintuitive at best, and an accident waiting to happen, at worst.

If you would like to practice for New Jersey roundabouts you can do so out on the roundabout at the bridge to nowhere. It can’t match New Jersey traffic, but it is confusing enough to make you go around a couple of times.

Our cyclists get the welcoming priority green area up front at red lights. I am very supportive of our cyclists and give them a wide berth on roads. However, they need to follow the laws better when riding in town. Orange cone season seems to last longer here than in other places, and we seem to have fewer options to avoid the seasonal road constructions, especially now that we have a real rush hour. I still have a postcard that used to be available in Durango entitled Colorado Rush Hour. It was a picture of a busy river full of rafting traffic. Those days and that postcard are gone. Try not to rush. Maybe we could have a less-rush hour-and-a-half instead. We do get to live in Durango.

Here’s a tip. If you have young kids and want to take them on the best road dip, roller coaster ride, head north from Highway 160 on Roosa Avenue (just before Avenida del Sol). It works just as well if you don’t have young kids.

Drive safely, seat belts on and avoid those left turns. Courteous driving should still be one of the benefits of living in Durango.