Archive for Monday, May 26, 2008

Columnist adapts to Kansans’ driving habits

May 26, 2008

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Last year, as a newcomer, I poked fun at Lawrence drivers, giving my impression of their habits as well as the imponderables of Lawrence streets. Back then, I riled a lot of people, and the online forum lit up like the Fourth of July. Some folks were pretty upset at my "criticism" of Lawrence slowpokes who insisted on driving 25 mph in 45 mph speed limit stretches such as South Iowa, as well as my musing on courtesy at four-way stops - you go first, no YOU go first - and their screeching to a halt for pedestrians to cross on Massachusetts.

It was my second column, and some folks didn't get my sense of humor back then. Some literal-minded readers didn't understand that I was in fact complimenting Lawrence drivers. That was partly my fault because I took out one critical sentence at the end to shorten a too-long column. That deleted sentence went something like this: "Now, for the first time in years, I no longer arrive home a nervous wreck from a simple drive to the grocery store."

I was writing from the perspective of someone who had just endured 20 years of exceptionally rude drivers in the Washington, D.C., area. By the way, I just returned from a week there, and for the record, the Capitol Beltway is still the highway to hell, and Washington is still one of the rudest places on earth.

Quite a few Lawrencians predicted I'd change my tune once I'd been here a while. So, I thought it might be interesting to compare my view of Lawrence drivers and roads now that a year has passed.

1. I no longer strain to go the 45 mph speed limit on Iowa or get irritated at the drivers who pace themselves at 30 mph. I just go 30 along with everyone else. So what if I hit every light red. I have accepted what one wise online reader pointed out, that people naturally go the speed at which they feel safe, regardless of the posted limit. He was on to something. However, I hope traffic officials don't decide to lower the limit to the speed most drivers chose. In the early morning hours when I'm off to the airport and the only one on the road, it feels great to sail down Iowa at 45 mph, hitting every light green all the way to the toll road.

2. I still think they need a light at 31st and Louisiana. At rush hour I have counted lines 20 cars deep in three directions, waiting to get through the four-way stop. Where do you all get such patience?

3. What's with the sand? I watched an accident occur on 31st street when a driver skidded on the sand. Ice seems safer - at least you are expecting to skid.

4. Loads of places, such as westbound Ninth Street at Iowa and various points along 19th Street, to name a few, have "unmarked" left turn lanes. The painted arrows have long since disappeared. Same for the yellow line dividers. Does anyone know how dangerous that is for newbies who don't "remember" where the lanes are? A little paint would go a long way.

5. I got a speeding ticket on Highway 59, after telling you all that I was too smart to get one since I know about the highway patrol speed trap three miles south of town. I made some smart aleck comment to the effect that I would never go faster than 59 mph on highway 59. Well, they got me. I was going 65, 10 over. Serves me right.

6. One year later, I still believe Lawrence drivers are amazingly polite and pedestrian-friendly compared to the rest of the world. Prevention Magazine says we are the best walking city in Kansas, and one of the best in the nation. While the city planning folks and hearty walkers deserve the credit, drivers also help make it so.

7. As to my admittedly unscientific driver politeness scale, I told you last year that I had heard a horn honk only three times and one of them was me. A year later, I've heard someone lean on a horn only seven times. Yes, I'm actually counting.

And this time I'm writing short so I don't have to cut the last sentence, which is: I still cherish the fact that I can return home relaxed and calm after driving around Lawrence.

(I wish I could say the same thing about column deadline day and the task of disciplining myself to stay within my word limit. It's as hard for me as driving 55 on 59. Now that I've managed to do it, I think I'll go for a relaxing drive.)

Elizabeth Black is a writer living in Lawrence. A southwest Kansas native who attended Kansas University, she recently returned to Lawrence after living in Chicago and then on the East Coast for more than 30 years.

Comments

Sigmund 6 years, 10 months ago

"It was my second column, and some folks didn't get my sense of humor back then."Still don't, I don't feel safe riding my bike on Lawrence streets till after KU graduation and most of the students have left town.

labmonkey 6 years, 10 months ago

Everytime I visit Lawrence, I thank God I no longer live there. Lawrence is a giantic clusterf**k of poorly designed roads and infrastructure that make it impossible to get from one side of town to the other without 30 stops. Not to mention the Lawrence bacon patrol like to speed trap the few areas that can flow freely.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 6 years, 10 months ago

"I still think they need a light at 31st and Louisiana. At rush hour I have counted lines 20 cars deep in three directions, waiting to get through the four-way stop. Where do you all get such patience?"This is political. If they put a light there, people would find that they don't really need the SLT after all.

RedwoodCoast 6 years, 10 months ago

You know I just had an amusing thought. People can't figure out how to use roundabouts. This shouldn't be a surprise; just visit any busy 4-way stop and see how many use those correctly.

jhwk2008 6 years, 10 months ago

fourkitties (Anonymous) says: Cool, I agree what is it about people and the 19th and barker round about? No body understands how to do a round about! They all come at once from one end and just keep flowing. The person at the north or south has to sit and wait. Round abouts don't work that way! Thanks for bringing it up!--------------------That is exactly how round-abouts are supposed to function. Cars in the roundabout have the right-of-way. Furthermore, you are only allowed to enter the roundabout when there is an adequate gap in the traffic flow. Maybe cool was talking about you fourkitties? The only problem I have with that particular roundabout is the four foot tall center island; it's impossible to see over it in a small vehicle.

camper 6 years, 10 months ago

One should drive slow and coast as often as possible. You can save a lot of gas that way. Unless you are going to deliver a baby or something, just take it easy and drive safe. Your blood pressure goes down, and you will get to where you want to go in plenty of time. It won't matter a hundred years from now.

Puff_Dragon 6 years, 10 months ago

19th & Barker. City should put a web cam there. The rest of the civilized world can figure it out. It's good for a laugh tho' when you have out of country guests to show around town.

fourkitties 6 years, 10 months ago

Cool, I agree what is it about people and the 19th and barker round about? No body understands how to do a round about! They all come at once from one end and just keep flowing. The person at the north or south has to sit and wait. Round abouts don't work that way! Thanks for bringing it up!

1Patriot 6 years, 10 months ago

Driving in Lawrence is a challenge. Traffic laws seem to only apply to vehicles. Pedestrians? Bicycle-idiots? Where and when I grew up we were taught to look both ways "before" stepping off the curb and only to cross the street at the corner. Not in the middle of the block even if going to the corner meant walking 20 more feet to get to your favorite watering hole. The first couple of times I drove down Mass street I had to convince myself I was in the town of the "JayHAWKers" not the town of the "JayWALKers." And I really love the signs that remind you to stop for pedestrians', "State Law." Not taking into account that the pedestrian might be breaking the law at the time. Now I'm not knocking all bicyclists. There are some that do recognize and practice traffic laws. I'm referring to the ones that ride up to a stop sign or red light, on the right hand side of stopped cars, pass the stopped cars and ride directly through the intersection without stopping. And if you ever honk your horn at them as you slam on your brakes and swerve to miss them, you are given a go-to-hell look! You know who you are. And riding single file? I've yet to see two bicycle-idiots ride single file, let alone a whole pack. In the last couple of months, traffic on the bridge has come to a complete stop as about 50 bicycle-idiots traverse across the river weaving in and out of traffic going across the bridge. They couldn't have been satisfied with one lane, no, they had to block both lanes. Oh, to have been driving a "honey truck" on that day!Maybe the city commissioners can set up a jaywalker and bicycle-idiots court, all proceeds can go to build more round-a-bouts and maybe that new "green" cemetery project of Boog's.

cds 6 years, 10 months ago

cool (Anonymous) says: worst drivers ?again - at the 19th & Barker traffic circle.they don't know what to do ?pathetic.___Sure they know how! Drive at least 25 thru it and make sure to honk at anyone else who happens to enter the roundabout at same time they do.___RedwoodCoast (Anonymous) says: You know I just had an amusing thought. People can't figure out how to use roundabouts. This shouldn't be a surprise; just visit any busy 4-way stop and see how many use those correctly.__Yep had fun at one of those 4 ways last week. Pulled up to northbound lane where 2 cars coming from the southbound direction had just stopped, waited for first one to go, then proceeded to turn left infront of second one in line (yes had my turn signal on), got the polite yelling of "what the f&@%" as he rolled right thru the stop sign like it didnt exist nearly hitting the car that was right infront of him turning.I have to agree with Gnome, why do we spend so much money on things not really needed instead of peoples safety, 9th streets a great example of that, no matter which direction your heading.

classclown 6 years, 10 months ago

If the city insists on paying for "art" every year, then how about getting the so called artists from KU and their parents attics and pay them to paint the lines and arrows on the streets?Then the city can host a street art festival. Everybody wins.

bearded_gnome 6 years, 10 months ago

yo, Bets,just be aware that some, perhaps many, of the posters on here revel in getting riled. reaping rough reports from riled revelers can be risky. 4. Loads of places, such as westbound Ninth Street at Iowa and various points along 19th Street, to name a few, have "unmarked" left turn lanes. The paintedarrows have long since disappeared. Same for the yellow line dividers. Does anyone know how dangerous that is for newbies who don't "remember" where thelanes are? A little paint would go a long way.oh, can't afford painting them arrows...too busy spending money on art, new roundabouts, flowers for downtown. so, when you're there, just treat them as "virtual arrows." whatya' want, this lawrence driving experience made easy? ***cool, your buddy elmer "merrill" beat you by over a year, he said posting on this board that 'broken streets served as passive traffic calming devices.' and, he's on the d----d traffic safety commission!

kusp8 6 years, 10 months ago

classclown (Anonymous) says: If the city insists on paying for "art" every year, then how about getting the so called artists from KU and their parents attics and pay them to paint the lines and arrows on the streets?Then the city can host a street art festival. Everybody wins.-------------------------------CHuckabee24 says:Good idea, once KU finds a new Fine Arts Dean you can suggest that to him or her.

mom_of_three 6 years, 10 months ago

I am still one of those folks who want to go 40-45 on South Iowa, and 30 seems much too pokey. Been going the speed limit on that road far too long. I like hitting the green lights instead of stopping on every red one.There are pedestrian crossings downtown on Mass in the middle of each block. I stop when i see people waiting, as drivers are supposed to do. But I see tons of cars drive through them as pedestrians are waiting patiently. Last week, I stopped for a family, while a car, traveling the opposite way with plenty of time to stop, just kept driving. No wonder people "jaywalk" in this town. If they had to wait for traffic, they might grow roots in the sidewalk!

PatKirk 6 years, 10 months ago

I remember that first article. I laughed out loud when you said you as a pedestrian had to cross the street the wrong direction because a driver politely waited for you. Then when the driver was gone, you crossed over again and went the direction you needed to go. I thought you were the most polite person in the world.The only thing was, I thought you were a serious young and idealistic college girl, too soft hearted to tell the driver he or she didn't have to wait. It didn't occur to me that it was a joke. I even felt bad because I left a laughing comment. I'm even laughing now because you "Gotcha" (me)

Bradley Kemp 6 years, 10 months ago

jhwk2008:Why do you want to see over the center island? You can see to your left -- where the traffic you're supposed to yield to is coming from -- and to your right -- where the traffic that is supposed to yield to you is coming from. Seems to me that's about all you need to see.

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