There are lots of places where people tend to drive a little too fast. Some of these places have had various ingenious traffic control systems put in place to slow people down. Roundabouts are a popular solution in a lot of regions, however unpopular they may be in Whitehorse. Speed bumps are another solution often used in residential areas and in large parking lots.
In Dawson we have what I call reverse speed bumps, otherwise known as potholes and ditches. Speed can be a bit of a problem in Dawson. There are two main thoroughfares that can get you through town without having much of your route interrupted by stop signs.
The most obvious one is Front Street, which is really an extension of the North Klondike Highway. It leads right down to the ferry landing where it terminates at the George Black ferry (in the summer) or the ice bridge (most winters, but not this last one.)
The posted speed limit out on the highway is 90 km/hr (though very few people drive that slowly). Approaching Northern Superior the posted limit is 70.
Driving over the Klondike River on the Ogilvie Bridge, you soon pass the baseball and soccer fields and the signs advise slowing to 40. At that point you’re just around the corner from the RCMP detachment, so you’d be well advised to have done that.
Fifth Avenue is the other south-north route, at least as far as Duke St. It’s interrupted by a couple of speed zones.
If the Westmark Hotel had had its way, there would have been stop signs at either end of its block, but all it got was a crosswalk zone and a reduced speed area.
The Robert Service School also has a speed zone area during school hours and every so often the RCMP have to stake out the block to make sure people pay attention to it.
Most of the other avenues in town have a stop sign at the end of every block. Not that that stops some people from seeing how fast they can go between signs.
Then there are the lanes between some of the avenues, though these tend to be more of an issue with snow machines in the winter and ATVs in the summer. While stopping at the end of a lane before entering any street should be obvious, somehow it isn’t.
Except for Front Street, which was newly paved after years of neglect just a few years ago and is holding up well, Dawson’s streets are graded gravel.
This time of year the melting snow and ice and the runoff from the hills to the river create lots of potholes all along the streets and little trenches running east-west across just about every intersection.
Some of the trenches are deliberate, made to lead the runoff water to the storm drains. Others are just natural ditches and can be quite powerful. Overflow coming down Mary McLeod Road at King Street made a valiant attempt at taking out the entire intersection last spring.
The net effect of all this erosion is that people are forced to slow down on most of the town’s streets during the melt season and after just about every heavy rainfall, or run the risk of breaking the suspension on their vehicles.
As much of a nuisance as our reverse speed bumps can be, it’s probably just as well that we have to slow down a bit.
While our summer visitors love our picture-worthy boardwalks, they tend not to walk on them, and our slower speeds no doubt save a few lives every summer.
After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.