DeFrates column: Highway 82 is not a speed-limit free passing zone
What is your least favorite thing about Highway 82?
Ask this question of anyone in the valley, and they will have a quick answer for you. Lately, a popular response has been, “slow drivers in the left lane.’’ According to many, this is “the worst,” because it violates the sanctity of the holy passing lane.
To justify their god-given right to travel at ridiculous speeds, left-lane advocates will smugly reference the video of a state patrol officer who explains patronizingly how highways in Colorado have a driving lane and a passing lane.
From this, people then extrapolate and amplify the incredible dangers of anyone driving less than 15 miles an hour over the speed limit in the left lane. How dare someone slow them down when they are busy passing everyone on their way to somewhere else.
They stay in the left lane the whole time only because they deserve to, and if you aren’t up to speed, they have a right, nay, a duty, to tailgate you. Just remember when their bumper is only six feet from yours at 65 mph, that you brought this on yourself.
While Colorado law does designate the left lane as a passing lane on state highways, I’m writing this column to make the case to CDOT and to all the fierce drivers of the Roaring Fork Valley that Highway 82 is not, in fact, a highway. It just isn’t.
If we can agree to reclassify it, then the angry drivers can zip it about their left-lane entitlement issues and agree to give the rest of us a better chance of commuting without death.
We don’t live in New Jersey for a reason. Below, I have included my suggestions for categories which make more sense for 82.
1. Boneyard 82 — Holy dead deer, Batman. Take a moment of silence for the bumpers, hoods and headlights of your car or the car of someone you know. Thoughts and prayers, people. Also for the deer, I suppose. From Aspen to Walmart, there are hundreds of red stains formerly known as Bambi’s mother. But don’t slow down in the left lane for wildlife. It would be unsafe.
2. Scree Field 82 — Springtime in the mountains is another great time of year for Mother Nature to shout, ‘NOPE!’ as she casually tosses bus-sized boulders onto the paved surface of man’s ambition. The Mushroom Rock area by Carbondale has been especially generous so far this year.
3. Ice Rink 82 — I don’t know if you noticed, but something happens to 82 whenever it winds through a moist, shady section like Snowmass Canyon. It freezes. Very occasionally, people slow down in the left lane to avoid going airborne into on-coming traffic, or spinning out and scratching the Black Diamond rental fleet or one of the Integrated Mountain Properties trucks which account for every other car on the road.
4. Orange Cone Sanctuary 82 — These precious creatures, with vibrant coloration and reflectivity, live in some of the most dangerous habitats of the world. The people of the Roaring Fork Valley have graciously opened their arms to create an eternal sanctuary for orange construction cones, funding it generously in perpetuum through state and local taxes. Formerly “Highway” 82 offers miles and miles of cone zones to allow these gentle creatures to live and multiply in peace.
5. Neighborhood 82 — There are hundreds of residences or pocket neighborhoods that front this “highway.” Their driveways are often given a less than 60-foot turning lane, and their residents may be forced to commit the deadly sin of slowing down in the left lane in order to, I dunno, go home?
6. Main Street 82 — Recently, I’ve been working with a few people who have started a grassroots movement called “Take a Minute,” aimed at slowing the common speed through downtown Glenwood Springs. The speed limit from the bridge to South Glenwood is 25 mph due to the local shopping district, schools, businesses, parks and homes that all populate the sides of this “highway.”
Take a Minute will be rolling out a campaign in May to encourage local drivers to set a safer pace through these small-town blocks, and give up a whole minute of their lives by driving the speed limit.
That 25 mph limit allows for safer crosswalks and right turns, as well as significantly reducing noise and pollution in the heart of a mountain town lucky enough to be bisected by four lanes of people driving to and from Aspen.
In conclusion, CDOT, please pick a category from the above list and change the signage accordingly in order to give people a more realistic expectation.
Left-lane drivers, calm down; it’s not a real highway even if the signs don’t change. Your lack of getting out the door on time/displaced rage from childhood neglect should not constitute a life-threatening situation for me.
If you need to spend more time on a real highway with other angry people, please move back to the Front Range.
Lindsay DeFrates is a freelance writer living in Glenwood Springs. She can be reached at http://www.roaringforkwriter.com.
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