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Monique Doyle Spencer

Drive Calmly

My road rage is getting worse. That's because the demons of hell have invented something called "traffic calming." Drive down Beacon Street from Kenmore Square to Cleveland Circle to get a taste of it. You'll find all of the parts of this new school of thought:

You put a red light on every block. You get rid of parking in order to kill the retailers. You make new pedestrian crossings appear overnight, in between the red lights. Special bike lanes appear on one block, then disappear, with nanny signs that say "Share the Road." Meander the side streets and you'll find giant mounds in the road that are supposed to make you slow down. The traffic engineers call these "vertical deflections." Their real function is to eject the newcomer. At night, he does not see the mound, because it is not lit. He hits the takeoff ramp at 30 miles per hour, and by the time his car touches ground again he is in the next town.

I do not feel calmed.

This movement, which has taken over traffic planning nationwide, started in Europe and then migrated here illegally. I have my own, better traffic-calming plans. My favorite is for everybody but me to take the T. Since they won't, apparently, I just want to make driving more civilized.

More well-mannered. Yes, calm.

First, we need two horns for our cars. You keep the one you have now, but that's for emergencies. Your new horn is for sending messages to other drivers. It is softer and sweeter than your old horn. Maybe it sounds like a bell. It is used to say "The light has turned green, kind sir." Or "Hi, cyclist - gosh, please don't ride in front of me up a hill after your 35th birthday."

Imagine if all of our Boston beeping changed to a pleasanter sound for these communications. Our city would be quieter, nicer. Your old horn would only be used for emergencies, like "There's a firetruck coming" or "Hang up that phone, you idiot."

Second, we need to create more tickets that will foster calm driving. If you let someone in, and they do not wave, they can be stopped for thoughtlessness and ticketed $40. Everybody will have to be nicer. Here's the fun part: it applies to pedestrians, too, especially slow ones. There you go, politely stopping at the pedestrian crossing. Seven 200-year-old men start their journey without so much as a nod or a smile. Pedestrians should give a friendly wave of thanks or be ticketed. Imagine the revenue potential! And if a young person walks slowly across while talking on a phone, the ticket is $100. I feel calmer already.

Special tickets will be created for cyclists. First, they must be licensed.

They must pass the same road test the Registry of Motor Vehicles gives drivers, so maybe they'll stop at red lights. They will be given an extra test, an attitude test. If they are found to have an uppity view of cars or a tendency to scream and swear, they will be ticketed. The fine? They must wear a special plate on the bike that says "Honk right near me if you love cyclists!" Why do we need this new traffic calming, anyway? We're actually not the nation's worst drivers, who are found in Worcester. But these engineers are a runaway train and they'll be bringing this to your neighborhood soon.

Stop them at all costs. It's easy: schedule the meeting in Kenmore Square and give them directions down Beacon Street. They'll never make it.

Monique Doyle Spencer is author of "The Courage Muscle: A Chicken's Guide To Living With Breast Cancer."

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