Moron Patrol


One way or another, wrong-way driving just ain’t right

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Here’s my weekly column from the paper. Comment away below.

2009_JunArmoryOneWaySmall.jpg

Roadguy enjoys Twins season, and not just because he likes a good baseball game. The driving habits of the fans also create edge-of-your-seat excitement.

Most of the dramatic tension takes place on the one-way streets near the Metrodome, where unfamiliarity breeds confusion — especially for drivers emerging from a parking area they’ve never used before.

I’ve seen cars leave a parking lot and zoom, lemming-like, into a bus-only lane. But more intriguing is watching departures from the Armory, a hangar-like building that’s used for parking.

As a driver peers out onto 5th Street — which has no on-street parking and a two-way light-rail line down the middle — there’s no clear evidence that it’s a one-way street. The sign across from the exit says merely “do not cross tracks.”

2009_JunArmoryOneWayView.jpg

The closest thing to a clue is a few car lengths away and barely discernible: the remnants of a white arrow once painted on the street. The mythical Giant Eraser that attacks so many of our signs and markings has apparently paid a visit:

2009_JunArmoryOneWayArrow.jpg

The overwhelming majority of drivers, perhaps recalling that 5th was a one-way when they arrived, do turn left, the correct way. But when someone does make that right turn, it’s a harrowing sight. The vehicle heads not only into oncoming traffic, but also toward a busy intersection where the errant driver can’t see any stoplights because they face the opposite way:

2009_JunArmoryOneWayPortland.jpg

The city generally leaves it to parking-lot owners to let patrons know that they’ll be entering a one-way street in the middle of a block, said Matt Laible, a city of Minneapolis spokesman. Indeed, Roadguy has seen numerous ramps that have warning signs — and now the Armory is planning to join them.

Paul Schnettler owns Premier Parking, which has operated the Armory for several years. Until Roadguy called, Schnettler hadn’t heard of anyone turning the wrong way onto 5th, but he said it would be easy enough to install a one-way or left-turn-only sign.

That’s good news for Twins crowds, who return to the Dome on Tuesday after an 11-day absence. Now if we could just keep cars out of the bus lanes.

A BIT LESS PAIN ON I-35

Roadguy sometimes hears from Duluth-bound drivers who want to know why Interstate 35E gets two lanes but 35W gets only one when the freeways merge near Forest Lake. Lo and behold, a federal stimulus project could make things easier for northbound traffic.

When the area is repaved later this year, 35W drivers will keep their two lanes until about a half-mile after the convergence point, said Todd Kramascz, metro spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. There wasn’t enough money to extend the lane farther north, he said, but the agency is optimistic that the change will provide some relief.

One solution to crooked parkers

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

When a car is moron-parked over the line and taking up two spaces, Roadguy has often wished for super-human strength to pick it up and move it over to where it belongs. This comic, sent in by alert reader Steve, suggests something more drastic.

Count the parking sins in this photo

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Alert reader Morg sent along this cell-phone pic yesterday afternoon:

FromMorg2.jpg

Morg writes:

I guess this postal carrier thought they worked for UPS, as in Unlimited Parking Spaces. They decided it wasn’t enough to park illegally in ONE handicapped space, so they straddled the line and took TWO!!

Maybe the truck was, you know, on fire, and the driver didn’t have time to think, or, um…

Hmm. Nope. Pretty much inexcusable.

Dept. of Bad Ideas: Multitasking on a bike on a busy road

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Roadguy is on the road again today, so for your reading pleasure he’s reached into his mailbag and pulled up a li’l something that alert reader Amy sent along a couple of weeks ago:

I had reason to be on Snelling Ave. in Roseville this afternoon. Snelling is all ripped up, under heavy construction, and with the stoplights, traffic was backed up for blocks. While idling away at a red light, I looked over and saw a teenage girl, weaving and swerving on a bike. At first I thought there was something wrong. But no — she was steering with one hand and texting on her phone with the other. Eyes on the phone, of course. In heavy traffic, in a construction zone. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, thinking maybe she was just dialing a number, but no, it just went on and on.

My jaw still hurts from where it hit the steering wheel!

Maybe she was texting her legislator to ask whether the texting ban applies to bicyclists…

The Lowry Av. Bridge is closed to (most) pedestrians

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

This morning, some folks from MN2020 held a news conference at the closed Lowry Avenue Bridge to release the results of a survey of the state’s county engineers, who are worried about funding for deteriorating roads. The full report is available here.

While the think-tankers were sharing their thoughts, Roadguy was quite surprised to see this:

2008_June_26_LowryBridgePeds1.jpg

Yes, these pedestrians went over the barricades to cross the bridge. (Click to enlarge to see whether it’s anyone you know.) I also took a picture of how they did it, but I’m keeping that to myself — we don’t want to give alert reader Bonnie, who misses walking her dog across the bridge, any ideas.

It’s not good to have pedestrians on an unsafe bridge, but do we really want to resort to razor wire and 24-hour guards? Share any thoughts or ideas below.

Less-than-perfect driving: A photo, an excerpt and a link

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

It’s been days since we’ve had a photo around here, so here’s one I took on Tuesday:

2008_JuneLRT_Moron.jpg

Both cars were coming east west on 5th Street, which at that point is a one-way and has light rail tracks down the middle. The car in the foreground decided to ignore the “no turns” signs and the straight-ahead green arrow and make a left turn from the right lane. The other car seemed to be behaving appropriately in the left lane but was “in the way” for Mr. Illegal Left Turn, who had to stop on the tracks while everyone figured out what was going on. Fortunately, no trains — which had a green light — entered the picture.

Roadguy has said it before, and he’ll say it again: When you’re in the wrong lane, it’s not the end of the world to go around the block.

Another questionable driving episode turned up in C.J.’s Tuesday column:

Doug Anderson squired Baryshnikov about in lavish wheels supplied by Maserati of Minneapolis, which is owned by Morrie Wagner.

At one point, Anderson says, he was just driving along when he noticed the speedometer was at 109. “You can’t tell how fast it’s going. Felt like you’re doing 50. It really is the smoothest. Unreal,” he said. “I won’t be doing it again, tell you that. It scared me.”

That news scared Maserati of Minneapolis’ GM Barb Bowman, too. “Great. That’s what we want to hear. Our poor loaner car,” she said Monday.

Roadguy immediately thought of alert reader Paul‘s treatise from the other day and how a car’s features can detach a person from the driving experience.

Our last item is from alert reader Suz, who writes:

I saw an article recently that might make an interesting Roadguy topic. A researcher at Colorado State Univ. performed a study in which they found a relationship between road-rage and personalizing your car.

Suz notes that you have to have a subscription to Nature to read the whole article, but she found this blurb with more information on Slashdot. An excerpt:

A study by psychologist William Szlemko at Colorado State University in Fort Collins that recorded whether people had added seat covers, bumper stickers, special paint jobs, stereos and even plastic dashboard toys to their cars has found a link between road rage and the number of personalized items on or in their vehicle. “The number of territory markers predicted road rage better than vehicle value, condition or any of the things that we normally associate with aggressive driving,” say Szlemko. What’s more, only the number of bumper stickers, and not their content, predicted road rage — so “Jesus saves” may be just as worrying to fellow drivers as “Don’t mess with Texas.”

Szlemko suggests that this territoriality may encourage road rage because drivers are simultaneously in a private space (their car) and a public one (the road). “We think they are forgetting that the public road is not theirs, and are exhibiting territorial behavior that normally would only be acceptable in personal space,” says Szlemko….

So start counting bumper stickers and see what happens. Just don’t get so distracted that you drive 109 on the light-rail tracks.