Blink or you’ll miss it

A certain member of the editorial staff here at the RN&R needs only travel a few blocks to get from the home to the office. It’s a distance that really should just be walked, were an extra hour of sleep not such an appealing proposition, or biked, were the bicycle not in dire need of a tune-up. Perhaps by Bike to Work Week, May 14 to May 18, the bicycle will be unearthed, dusted off, aired up and ready for the streets. But for the time being, that short distance is driven in a car.

And it’s remarkable how, over the last couple of months, there seems to be innumerable variations and combinations of the unholy trifecta: road construction, convoluted detours and discourteous drivers. These three beasts arise each morning in horrific new forms. Like Gozer the Gozerian, they take different forms every time they arrive to destroy the morning mood. A 15-block drive, almost entirely in a straight line, should be the same every morning, but, nope, every day it presents new frustrations. Sometimes Virginia Street is closed. Sometimes Evans Avenue is closed. A drive that should take 10 minutes sometimes takes double that, which then provokes the ire of certain coworkers, who glance pointedly at their watches.

And the return trip can be just as bad, as drivers unsure how to merge, or how streetlights work, block Center Street from I-80 to Fifth Street.

Every local commuter has some variation of these frustrations. And they are bound to get worse in the coming months as road crews start tearing up the roads and building them anew. So this is our semi-annual plea to local drivers to keep cool heads. Remember that those road crews build the streets which are all that separate your car from the surefire flat tires of unpaved terrain. So be nice.

Be mindful of bicyclists and pedestrians. The weather’s nice, gas is expensive, and the local economy sucks, which means more people than ever are going to be out walking and biking. And inversely, pedestrians—and aren’t we all at some time or another?—be mindful of cars. Use the crosswalks. Don’t just go bolting out in the street like a suicidal squirrel.

And drivers, here’s a great technique for insuring road safety, recommended by numerous driving professionals. Most modern automobiles come equipped with something called turn signals. If your car doesn’t have turn signals, it’s recommended you get them installed. The operation of these signals is often easy and highly intuitive. Here’s a quick review, since we have noticed that many local drivers apparently don’t know how to operate them. There is generally some sort of lever attached to the steering column. You usually lift this lever up to indicate that you will soon be turning right and push it down to indicate that you will turn left. It’s easy and fun. It’s usually a good idea to do this a few moments before the turn—not halfway through—so that other drivers around you understand your intention to turn. Hopefully, this clears up the confusion on this practice that seems endemic among local drivers.

Also, the signs that indicate “speed limit” followed by a number are there to direct you, by law, how fast you’re allowed to drive. Driving faster than these posted speed limits—or “breaking the speed limit”—is illegal and could potentially endanger pedestrians, including children and animals, and other drivers.