Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Five ways Ottawans are being molested, violated and sexually assaulted but definitely not raped by traffic

Here are five of the biggest causes of traffic SNAFUS in Ottawa, in my opinion
(Originally published 3/27/14)

5. Buses that don't signal when pulling over to pick up passengers.
If traffic is a living organism, then turn signals are the words (horns are the middle fingers). Vehicles proceed in a straight predictable line but can turn off at any given moment. The only thing to keep it all cohesive is turns signals, they keep everyone on the same page at all times. Certainly there are people who don't use turn signals, and there's a special place in hell for them, but the buses are a different story. Once upon a time, a bus would signal right, pull over and pick up passengers, signalling right the whole time. When they were done, they'd signal left and merge back into traffic. During the pickup, cars would be passing the bus on the left hand side if safe to do so.

Then one day the City of Ottawa introduced a new law that said you had to give right-of-way to a merging bus that's finished picking up passengers. Seems fair, right? They need to get back in, so not everyone gets a turn to pass, otherwise the bus would be there all day. Except that seemingly at the same time, buses just suddenly stopped signalling before and during their pullover. Now they just... stop. You're driving behind a bus and it's just... stopped.  Previously, the turn signals meant "I'm pulled over, go ahead and pass" but now with a lack of signal, nobody has any clue what the bus is doing. So these lines of cars just pile up behind the bus stopping every 200 feet because no one knows whether it's ok to pass, or if they should hang back because the bus is about to merge. Nobody knows what in the hell is going on, and cluelessness leads to bad traffic flow.

4. No right turn on red, 24/7
I understand that in a busy urban environment, there are times when turning right on a red light is detrimental to the flow of traffic. Cars block crosswalks waiting for a hole in the perpendicular traffic flow so they can jump in. You also see a lot of these "no right on red" signs in double lane roads that end in a T (ie both lanes turn right, the left lane also turns left). The logic, I think, is that you can't have someone from the left lane turning right on a red because they have to cross a whole other perpendicular lane to do so, and that's not safe when oncoming traffic from the left is going straight. It pretty much doubles the chance of a collision.  A good example is Dalhousie when it meets Besserer:



But instead of having a totally common sense rule like "You can only turn right on a red light if you're in the far right lane", they decided "We should ban all right turns on red, ever, even at 3 AM". My point is that there's a time and a place for traffic control, and there's a time and a place when drivers can use their common sense to proceed safely. How is that drivers are trusted to come to a complete stop at a STOP sign but can't be trusted to turn right on a red light at 3am?

For that matter, I'm not even entirely sure that red lights should count after midnight, period. But that's a whole other thing.

3. Bike squares
These are new things that are popping up downtown and the west end, and maybe elsewhere that I don't know about. It's a green square painted on the other side of the stop line where cars stop for a red light. Here's an example where Bay meets Wellington. Google Street View isn't up to date on it, so I drew the damn thing in myself




The way it works is that bikes go in front of the cars at the red light, and they get to go first when they're trying to turn left.  The idea is that when you're in the right lane on your bike, a lane which has people going right and left in their cars, there's potential for you to get run over by a right turner as you go out. Well you know what? Pedestrians face the same risk every day, and yet magically they don't get destroyed by cars and end up needing a big giant box that gives them the right of way. Fucking suck it up. There a billion times in your bike trip from home to work and back when you have to look out for cars going in a different direction than you are. If you can't make this totally easy turn on your own, then use the damn crosswalk and THEN turn left. Pedestrians navigate this all the time, and you can't on your bike? Eat shit. These green boxes make for an automatic "no right turn on red" and guess what: that shit's 24/7 AND applies in the winter when only 3 insanely brave people bike to work.  As you can imagine, all this rage came from an experience where I waited to turn right at a red light at 3pm on a January Sunday afternoon at Holland and Tyndall because of one of these fucking boxes.

2. Merging improperly when a lane ends
This is an ongoing debate pretty much everywhere. The lane up ahead is ending because of construction. Do you a) drive to the end of the lane and wait for someone to let you in (the zipper merge, a well proven method that is best for traffic flow) or do you b) fuck everything up by merging at some random spot 500 meters back that no one could have predicted?  Look, the fact is, they closed that lane where they closed it for a reason. Because that's where the road ends. If you want to merge 500 meters back, what in the hell do you think the rest of the lane is for? Sunbathing? 

Look, if everybody played ball with the zipper merge, then it'd be easy because everyone knows exactly what is going on at all times.  Enjoy a theatrical recreation:

Zipper merge:
Left lane driver: "I am approaching the place where the lane ends, and that fellow in the right lane wants to merge in front of me. I predicted this because the fellow in front of him merged in front of the fellow in front of me."
Right lane driver: "My lane is about to end, I am indicating my desire to merge right now but really it is unnecessary because everyone knows what's up because we're all doing the zipper merge. Thank you kind sir for letting me in front of you, as expected."

Non-zipper merge:
Right lane driver: "Oh this lane ends in 500 meters. This seems as good a place as any, I'll just go now, I guess."
Left lane driver who is being merged in front of: "Oh you're merging now, unexpectedly? Because I didn't expect it, I was caught off guard and I've tromped my brake slightly, setting off a chain reaction of increasingly longer brake pedal tromps until traffic comes to a dead stop 30 cars back. All because you decided some random place where you were going to merge."
Left lane driver who used to be in the right lane: "Look at that jackass cheater in the right lane, zipping past us as we wait at a standstill which was caused by everyone else merging too early. He is a bad driver."

And don't tell me "the zipper merge only works in free flowing traffic, once traffic's at a standstill the zipper merge is useless". Because if you do I'll say "No, predictability is the cornerstone of smooth traffic flow, and in absolutely all cases, merging where you're expected to merge is always better than merging at some random place determined by reading chicken guts"

1. Buses during rush hour
I know the city is trying to fix this with the tunnel thing, but I have a much easier solution that would have saved the taxpayers easily one zillion dollars: move all those god awful express buses out of the downtown core.

Every. Single. Bus. That goes through downtown has to pile into one lane between Hurdman and Lebreton. After that they start to go their separate ways.  Hurdman and Lebreton are smack dab in the middle of fields. Expand those stations and have all the express buses pick up there instead of clogging the downtown core.


Make a series of express buses that only run between the two stations.  They fill up on their way through the downtown core with people who want to go everywhere. These people can also take regular buses like the 95, etc. They get off at Hurdman or Lebreton and catch their damned express bus there. Everybody wins, no tunnel.

Oh also: don't let STO come to Ottawa anymore, or if you do, just have one bus, called "This Bus Goes to Gatineau". Quebec residents get on at Rideau and get off somewhere across the river and transfer to your specific bus there. I think they may have done this with the new Rapi-bus system, but I haven't seen it in action so I'm not sure how it works.

Honourable mentions:
Quebec
No turn signals, a billion cars lined up for kilometers to pile onto one bridge, forgetting they're allowed to turn right on red, piling up kilometers in advance for an eventual left turn, tailgating and yet being terrified to speed in Ontario... truly Quebec is fucking us.

Condo lane hogs
I don't understand how it's legal for a condo developer to shut down an entire lane of road for two years to store their dumpsters and extra equipment. Shouldn't rule #1 of condo building be "Figure out a way to do it without blocking traffic with all your bullshit?"

Left lane cruisers 
You know 'em, you love to hate 'em. The dipshit in the left lane of the Queensway doing 100, despite the fact that there are 12 cars directly behind him and no one in front of him. No amount of headlight flicking, honking or tailgating will get him to move over because he is intentionally going 100 in order to police the roads because he honestly believes that people shouldn't go faster than 100 or children will die. As you pass him on the right, take a look at his face - he looks really dumb. He never looks cool, or rad. He looks like a lame shit.

People that merge onto the Queensway at less than 100km/h 
Jesus Christ lady. Gas pedal. Use it. 

People that change lanes without speeding up to match the speed of the next lane
If you're changing lanes and not accelerating to do so, you're doing it wrong. You probably fuck the exact same way, you weiner.
Parallel parking anarchy
Years ago, they removed all the parking meters and replaced them with those ticket machines. Fine. But at the same time some mongoloid at city hall said "Hey now that we don't have a meter for each space, let's just remove all the lines except at the start and the end of the parking area. Now where did I put my lunch? Oh here it is in my shoe. Oh, lunch IS my shoe. Oh well. *chomp chomp chomp*". Because of this decision, people just kind of put their cars wherever, and you end up with a bunch of strange spaces that don't fit cars. Or spaces that are EXACTLY one car length but only Ace Ventura could actually get his car in there. The worst offenders are those at the start and end of the parking area, and they leave 4-5 feet between themselves and the line, fucking it up for everyone else.

Early goers
You're waiting to turn left, the lane closest to you is clear but you're waiting for me to go by in the other lane so you can get behind me. You calculate how much time it'll take me to go past, and you start going early accordingly, so that by the time you cross the empty lane, I'll have just driven by and you can scoot in. The problem is that YOU DO THIS SO QUICKLY THAT YOU GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK BECAUSE I THINK YOU'RE ABOUT TO HIT ME. I get it, you've got all the speeds figured out, but for christ's sake, do your thing at a crawl instead of just lunging towards me. Same thing goes for pedestrians jaywalking. Have at 'er, just do it in a way that shows me that you're aware of my presence as I barrel towards you at deadly speeds.

Wow, there are more honourable mentions than actual list items. 

Screw it, I'm done writing. Will probably add more. Make this a "living document" or whatever.


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