As mentioned in a previous article, not all roadway encounters involve other vehicles. We share the roadways with trains, bicycles, all kinds of pedestrians, and smaller motorized mobility devices. Driving vehicles with larger blind spots means we need to show extra care. Modern roads and signage help us to be more aware of others on our roadway. In this article we will review a few special intersection situations and modern traffic calming devices.
Pedestrian Crossings may occur at or between intersections and may or may not be signalized. All crosswalks at intersections require motorists to yield to pedestrians who legally enter the crosswalk. In recent years, Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons have been placed in non-intersection areas with high pedestrian traffic. Pedestrians activate a crosswalk signal and traffic on the roadway must stop. Here is a video that demonstrates how this works: Tempe Crossing
Areas with high populations of disabled pedestrians might have warning signs for motorists to make them aware of vulnerable situations. Blind, Deaf, and wheelchair pedestrians might need additional time to cross streets. Also remember that children and people in wheelchairs are shorter and easily fit into your RV’s blind spots. Pay closer attention to these situations.
Railroad crossings are marked with a large X and an R on either side. Many rail lines and roadways run parallel to each other. Be aware of possible tracks when approaching intersections. Even if the arms aren’t down, when lights are flashing at a railroad crossing, always stop. Your RV is a longer vehicle and will have difficulty clearing the intersection before the arms come down. If you are at an uncontrolled intersection with train tracks, stop 15-50 feet from the tracks until the train passes.
There are often other warnings signs around railroad tracks. Sometimes there are two or more tracks side by side and care needs to be taken that all tracks are clear before you proceed. There is usually a sign indicating the number of tracks at each crossing. Sometimes the tracks are raised above the roadway. Depending on the type of RV and length of wheelbase, you could be in danger of grounding on a raised track. Understanding your RV dimensions and watching for signs designed for trucks or buses can help you determine whether your RV can safely cross.
A bicycle lanes are indicated by a bicycle painted on the pavement. Be sure to check for bikes before turning across a sidewalk or bicycle lane. They are much smaller than an RV, so look twice! If there is not a designated bike lane, treat the bicycle as any other vehicle. Give the cyclist plenty of room and pass only when it is safe to move over to the adjacent lane. Many local municipalities have laws for passing bicycles designating minimum distance between the bicycle and the motor vehicle. Always give plenty of room.
www.pedbikeimages.org / Dan Burden
Electric scooters are appearing in many cities and can be a concern for RVers because of inexperienced drivers and their small size. Locals and visitors can rent scooters to get around city streets, but many of these riders have never ridden a scooter and this can often lead to a dangerous situation on the streets. RVers need to be extra cautious when scooters are nearby. While scooter are required to follow the same rules of the road as bicycles, they can dart into traffic quickly and the riders are often more concerned with sight-seeing than personal safety. Their small size can be hidden in an RVs blind spot, thus creating potential conflicts where they are present.
Traffic Calming Devices
Traffic calming devices are often found near intersections of residential and commercial areas and are intended to slow vehicle traffic for pedestrian and bicycle safety. These devices such as raised pavement areas, reducing street width, traffic diversions, and surface texture are self-enforcing and meant to produce a desired result. Speed related crashes are greatly reduced in areas using traffic calming devices, but it is also acknowledged that crashes may be migrating to other roads as drivers avoid these self-enforced lower speed areas.
Federal Highway Administration
Traffic calming devices are good for slowing normal vehicle traffic, but can cause issues for larger vehicles like RVs. When driving on smaller city streets and through residential neighborhoods, be aware of these devices and avoid these area when possible. As always, slow your speed through intersections and more congested areas of travel for the safety of all.
Below are a few examples of self-enforcing speed reduction measures.
Raised Pavement like speed humps, speed cushions, raised crosswalks, and raised intersections are all intended to slow vehicles down to varying degrees by producing sufficient discomfort to the driver to discourage speeding. While raised pavement situations shouldn’t limit RV travel, the discomfort effects will most likely be magnified.
Narrowing Lanes around intersections control vehicle speed because narrower lanes have been shown to reduce vehicle speeds. Roadways are narrowed by enlarging the median, enlarging shoulders, or converting outer lanes of traffic to bicycle lanes. These factors also provide greater separation between motorists and cyclists or pedestrians. While usually wider than automobiles, RVs can still handle narrowing lane situations by driving with care. RVers, however, should pay careful attention when turning in these areas as the extra room needed for larger vehicles to make turns may not be available.
Traffic Diversions like lateral shifts and chicanes force the motorist to maneuver through otherwise straight roadways therefore slowing traffic through horizontal deflection. A lateral shift is simply realigning an otherwise straight street causing lanes to shift in one direction or another. When multiple shifts in direction are desired, a chicane, serpentine, or reversing curve can be implemented. This forces the motorist to steer back and forth on an otherwise straight roadway. Curbs and other physical barriers greatly limit lane deviation in these types of devices. Many residential streets and newer retail parking lots are utilizing lateral shift techniques to slow traffic. These shift techniques are not at all suitable for larger vehicles like RVs. It is best to find alternate routes or use great care before proceeding down streets with horizontal deflections.
Surface Texture changes like transverse rumble strips alert the driver to upcoming dangers such as intersections. While the sound they make can come as a bit of a surprise, they cause no issues for RVers and actually benefit them when approaching obscured intersections.
For Further Study:
Traffic Calming ePrimer, FHA