Joe Urban on A Traffic Light Out, an Intersection Improved: “”
Now watch this video on You Tube that I took today at 38th and Hiawatha, near my home. I call it “You Go, No You Go.” True, the traffic signal was out (just blinking red – treat it like a stop sign). It has been that way all week. But the similarities to the resulting behaviour was uncannily like that seen in the London example [ON THE BOTTOM, FROM A FEW YEARS AGO].
Believe me, a four way stop sign at that intersection is perhaps not the best long term solution, but….
…But allow me a moment to point out the “dance.” As you can see, the traffic is backed up to Lake Wobegon, but that’s not the point. At the actual intersection, everyone is taking turns and pedestrians and bikes are almost on equal footing, if you will. Everyone is stopping. Everyone is looking. The train goes by, the gates raise, cars cross north to south, the eastbound car and bus pull up to Hiawatha, pedestrians cross to the median, one of them dashing across the entire street as the northbound vehicles are coming across, It is a dance. A bit clumsy, but a dance.
And a funny dance at times. You go, no you go. That’s what half the drivers seemed to be saying this week. They were used to zoning out there – red: stop, green: go. What the hell!? Now I have to think about it and be careful? I’m taking Minnehaha Avenue instead! As I watched the traffic before I started filming, one car pulled up to the blinking red lights, windows open. I could hear the passenger giving instructions – “who goes? who goes? OK go! Aaah, don’t crash!” Bikers especially woudl get to the intersection and look left, right, left again, behind, above! Trust nobody!
As a biker taking my kids to preschool every day in the Burley, I have to say I kind of prefer it this way. I cross that beast of a street on a typical day, and frequently, while sitting on the island between the right turn lane and the traffic streaming by at 45 miles per hour, I feel, um, insecure. I have visions of how on earth to try and jump out of the way of an errant car, while still saving my children in the trailer behind me. It isn’t fun. Sure, it has been confusing for us this week, but at least at the intersection everyone is moving slow and for the most part, paying attention. I like that. I like that a lot.
I am all in favor of Shared Space in the right context (e.g. campus, London). Unfortunately, an almost freeway (Hiawatha Ave) is not that context. Why do the pedestrians run? Not an improvement.