Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Five Corners fellow sufferers

OK, sometimes I like going beyond the trilogy, especially when new information comes to light.
Translation:  "That ain't our mess."
Now that we have a clearer view of who the responsible party is, I will attempt to get more information on the full scope of the changes that are in progress.  Such as, how much of our tax dollars are being spent on this mess?  
I want to provide you with some additional photographs of this "project" so that you can make up your own mind about what's happening here, rather than just listening to me beat my gums post after post.

But first, a digression for the purposes of expounding on context.

I'm the proud 'rental unit owner of a newly-learner-licensed teenager, and one of the things I've been teaching her is how to evaluate autobody language as it expresses itself uniquely on our different local roads.
Screengrabbed from this 2012 post.  My Dad and I are in a friendly competition to see who will manage to go the longest without having a car accident.  I'm currently at 31 years.  My Dad is at a remarkable 55 years and counting.  There's a good chance that only one of us will live long enough to see who actually wins this competition.   
Learning to read autobody language to the depth that it can be achieved is like defensive driving on steroids.  During Sunday's practice session, for instance, my newbie driver learned that there's a subtle but important difference in driver expectations between SH 96 and SH 146.  The headspace changes the instant one makes the turn from one to the other, and the wise driver accounts for that in his or her own mental state and driving style.

Similarly, left-turning from SH 146 onto FM 518 needs to be done with a degree of responsiveness that isn't necessarily expected at every similarly-configured intersection.  Drivers don't like being on SH 146 - it stresses them out - and they want to get the hell off it ASAP.  If you don't accommodate the implicit demands of your fellow left-turners, they are going to get just a little bit antsy, and when drivers get antsy, surrounding people get just a tiny bit distracted, and then the chances of accident go up for everyone involved.

Five Corners has always been unique in the degree to which procedural expectations and negotiated rules of mutual exchange dominate driver behavior.  Most of the people who drive Five Corners do it daily, so they've seen every possible transactional scenario hundreds of times and they're pretty comfortable with the long-established de facto rules of driver conduct there.

It is that status quo that the curb improvements are interfering with now, and not in a particularly functional way.  In other words, it's not that we're changing to a new status quo that simply happens to be different.  In my opinion, we are devolving.  As my teenager was honing her skills yesterday, here are a few pics that I took from the passenger seat to further illustrate this.

Here's a lesson in exasperation:  This driver is mentally still trying to operate under the pre-concrete rules.  Nobody would have the guts to attempt this maneuver in this spot unless they already knew from previous experience that (a) it was physically achievable and that (b) other drivers would tolerate it without getting antsy.

And it was achievable, right up until the point where that barrier went in.  This is what I meant in my third trilogy post when I said that we can't afford to be forfeiting even one foot of space here and there at Five Corners.   All this fellow needed was another foot of space to complete a legal traffic move.  I see nothing to be gained by not letting him (and those like him) have that foot which was there to start with but which has now been taken away from all of us.    
Here's a lesson in impossibility:  Compare the size of that extended-cab pick-up truck to the width of the opening in the left-turn center lane.  How is that even remotely supposed to work?!  If that pickup were traveling in the opposite direction intending to turn left, could he make it through the almost 90 degree turn that this configuration obligates?  
Here's a lesson in autobody language:  Have you ever taken a plastic laundry basket, turned it upside down, and plopped it on top of a cat who was curled up on your living room floor?  Cats *hate* that.  They get that sour, withdrawn look on their faces as they try to figure out how to flee the situation with some small portion of their dignity still intact.

That was the analogy that occurred to me as I watched the driver of this Toyota.  (S)he was being a nice driver who was doing the things that are expected of drivers at Five Corners - responsive to the needs of the larger situation, aware that there were other drivers to the rear who were also needing to turn left.  So (s)he pulled way up in order to give those other drivers room to also enter this ridiculously small turn space, only to end up trapped in the laundry basket that this configuration represents.  There's no way (s)he could have completed that turn without scraping that barrier or maybe even hopping it.

It's a mystery to me as to how such a restricted turn lane could be placed on a sharp curve such as this one and function, even if it the concrete had been cast correctly.  
In just one single back-and-forth pass through Five Corners yesterday, I took pics of two drivers who were obligated to smack the concrete barriers.  Both of them were acting within bounds according to the unwritten rules that govern behavior at Five Corners.  It's not going to matter whether these barriers are "painted yellow for safety" or not.  They're still not going to help the situation there.

My daughter was initially skeptical that a thing called "autobody language" even existed.  The challenge for her now as a beginning driver is to learn to partition her finite attention resources such that she can register those large-scale manifestations of driver behavior and road conditions and still have enough mental reserve left over to devote to monitoring the fine-scale, subtle behaviors that paint a deeper picture of what's happening in the roadway at any given moment.  It takes years and years to develop that capacity - Gladwell's ten thousand hour rule comes to mind.

In the meantime, Five Corners will continue to give us both a constant run for our money.  My Dad has an unfair advantage in our crashless competition.  He doesn't live in this area, and so he doesn't have to drive Five Corners.

Quote screengrabbed from this post.  

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