When I drive to work in the morning, I usually take the quickest route; down 13th Street to Hiway 2, then east to 56thStreet. With 10 traffic lights in little more than 5 miles, the trip can take from 10 to 20 minutes. I don’t mind the lights; that’s just part of city living. What I do mind are the drivers who can foul up a perfectly good traffic flow by turning left on a red light, gab on their phones (or do their hair, or yell at their kids) and hold up the rest of us waiting for them to finally realize they have a green light.
OK, everyone bitches about traffic, just like everyone bitches about the weather, the economy, and gas prices. But the easiest of these to change is traffic. If we all pay attention, turn off our cell phones, watch traffic signals and signs, and drive within the speed limit, I believe traffic in this town would flow quite a bit smoother. And those of you who like to lolly-gag, look at the garage sales along the route and drive 15 mph under the speed limit, you are just as much a problem as speeders. You are keeping the rest of us from being part of the smooth flow of traffic intended for that part of town. Save it for Sunday.
Which brings me to roundabouts. What is wrong with the wiring of the minds of Americans that they just can’t seem to understand how a roundabout works? My first encounter with a roundabout was in Dublin Ireland, in a very busy part of the city, where the roundabout had 8 lanes entering the circle, like spokes on a wheel. What’s the point? I thought…until I realized that with the hundreds of vehicles (and more, during rush hour traffic) traveling through the roundabout, most of them had to wait only10 to 20 seconds before entering the roundabout. If this web-like intersection was controlled by traffic lights, who know how long it would take? The roundabout is a simply brilliant and brilliantly simple idea…yield to the vehicle already in the circle. And signal when you are leaving the roundabout. Don’t cut in front of someone in the circle. Wait that extra second or two till they pass.
When I head home from work, I take the scenic route, through Sheridan Boulevard. All the gorgeous old houses with deep, flowery yards, huge trees lining the street, beautiful landscaping between the lanes…this is such a relaxing drive I wish it would last longer. But this unwinding bliss is interrupted twice each evening. There are two roundabouts on my way home along Sheridan, and although they are not the original plan of the street, they have been there long enough so that people who travel these streets should have learned the rules of the roundabout. But I still see people racing into the circle, almost clipping the car that’s approaching them, drivers stopping in the circle like it’s just a convenient place to check the GPS, and drivers stopping in the circle to allow other drivers enter in front of them. (Polite, but wrong.) Twice this past week I was almost t-boned by someone who failed to yeild and just drove on into the roundabout.
C’mon, people? If a roundabout with 8 or even more lanes of traffic can work in a huge city like Dublin, Ireland, surely we can handle our itty-bitty roundabouts with 4 lanes. All it takes is patience, and manners. But I guess patience and manners just isn’t the American way.