May 22, 2009

Annoyance On the Road

I guess it's road work season, because getting from point A to point B has suddenly become a lot more annoying.

Seems like every 600 feet or so there's a work crew with a police detail. The new Massachusetts law says that you have to slow down to a crawl if there's a crew at work and the road has only one lane open. Makes sense, but how do you know you're going slow enough to avoid a fine? Sometimes you can tell that those detail cops are having a really bad day.

Of course, road maintenance is absolutely necessary. Most of the time. Traffic is especially fun where Rte 79 dumps onto 195 East, under Government Center in Fall River. The highway is perpetually down to 2 lanes there and timid folks on the on-ramp can cause a back-up all the way back to the U.S.S. Massachusetts.

But what really bugs me this time of year in town are the pervasive yard maintenance trailers which are invariably parked in the street in front of the people who pay for yard work. Driving around those things often puts you face-to-face with oncoming traffic. It's not so bad on a side road, but why are so many of these things parked on main roads? It's double-fun when they're parked on a corner and you can't see well around them. Drop to 20MPH and hope nobody is speeding in the other lane, if you value your life.

Speaking of blocking the road, there must have been a baseball game up the street, and the folks in attendance had never heard of carpooling. I have never seen so many cars on our little road before. Lining both sides, I barely got my car down the road. Seriously, I thought I was going to scrape some cars. There was a truck behind me, and as I passed through the gauntlet of parking horrors and descended the hill, I could see in my rear-view that he was coming to a complete stop. I can't say for certain whether he ever made it down the road.

Of course, walking and cycling present their own set of problems. I saw someone in Fall River biking while on a cell phone, getting ready to cross a busy on-ramp to 195. I wasn't sure if he was going to stop or just dash in front of me, since his cell-phone-hand was between my car and his face; I didn't think he could see me. Luckily, I was watching him. But he stopped, unlike the guy who, later int eh day, crossed two lanes of a much more busy street lost in conversation on his phone. This guy was seriously tuned out. He got halfway across the road and stepped in front of a large commercial truck which then slammed on its brakes. As the truck screeched its disapproval, this guy never broke stride, even as he planted his foot on the opposite sidewalk and the truck's wake tousled his hair.

It's spring in New England.

Posted by James at May 22, 2009 8:25 AM
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I won't even wear headphones when I bike or scoot, never mind try to talk on a cell phone. That's just crazy!

Though they do sell bluetooth equipped motorcycle helmets, which just sound like a bad idea.

Posted by: David Grenier at May 22, 2009 8:53 AM

1. Mass. is one of the few states that pays police officers to do roadwork duty. Very expensive.
2. Few things make me angrier than cyclists who don't follow the rules of the road and then get angry when they're almost hit. A few weeks ago, a cyclist was sneaking up on my right side; luckily I saw him in my rear-view mirror. I had stopped to parallel park, put on my right directional, and shifted into reverse, then I paused for him to pass. He started swearing at me and my kids and slapped my car. It was scary and maddening.

Posted by: Karen at May 22, 2009 9:56 AM

I never listen to music while I run either, and I'm super-conscious of cars. I do sometimes carry my cell phone. Once I was waiting for an important call, but when I got it I stopped running and moved into the grass.

What bothers me is the self-involvement and arrogance of the people James is describing. If you get hit by a car it's going to make the rest of your life a lot worse than the driver's, if you survive, and the driver, unless s/he was really negligent, is not going to jail. I've seen so much crap because of people on their cell phones, including two incidents now where somebody was stopped in the middle of an intersection talking on their phone, apparently oblivious to their location. That's pretty bad, and I've seen it twice!

Posted by: Maggie at May 22, 2009 10:01 AM

WHen you're cycling you have to be AT LEAST as alert as a driver. But many are just clueless and do things that would get you arrested in a car.

Just this morning I drove through Fall River to give Ryan a ride to work. A cyclist crossed 2 lanes of traffic against the light. I was stopped in the left lane behind two cars, but someoen quickly passed us all on the right and he couldn't have seen the cyclist until the bike crossed into his lane, and the cyclist probably didn't see him either. The car had time to slow down, even though he was driving fast (near the speed limit). But he shouldn't have had to -- he was approaching a green light. He was well within his rights.

That cyclist was very lucky.

A sense of entitlement doesn't serve you well on the road. He really looked as though he felt entitled to cross whenever he wanted. Everyone is welcome to his own opinion, but there are also physical laws that are seeking to deal you a harsh re-education should you find yourself trying to occupy the same space that a car is about to occupy.

Posted by: James at May 22, 2009 11:42 AM

BTW - I used to use a Walkman while I ride my bike back in the '80's.

I used open-ear headphones and kept the volume very low, but it was motivating. I tried to be very aware of my surroundings. But it is non-optimal for safety. Probably ill-advised.

I get bored when I'm out exercising.

Posted by: James at May 22, 2009 11:46 AM

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