The observations and opinions of a person who has no discernible insights or ideas.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Happy Pi Day 

Yes, today is that happy day when we celebrate the ubiquitous ratio between the area of a circle and the square of its radius. This is also the 126th birthday of notable physicist Albert Einstein, and the 3rd anniversary of my friend Dan’s proposal to his wife. So, eat some pie, watch some Monty Python, and enjoy this transcendental day.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Reasons why it sucks to drive in Bountiful, UT: 

Not enough shoulders. It seems that Bountiful was lazier than its neighbor, Salt Lake City (and several other nearby towns) in terms of street layout, and figured that they didn’t need such wide streets to make due. Now, all major streets in Bountiful are wide enough for two lanes in each direction and one turning lane, but not for enough space on the side of the road for parking or turning. The net result is that turning vehicles must slow down in a traffic lane, which slows down the entire road and is really quite dangerous.

Too many lights. Arguably, most of the stoplights in Bountiful were necessary at some point. That was before many of the major stores in the area started going into a decline. Now, several lights are completely superfluous, and actually slow down traffic more than help it. Take, for example, the light at 2nd west and 1800 south. This light was vital during the hayday of Five Points, but now that the mall is gone, the intersection doesn’t get that much traffic. If the light were replaced by a four or two way stop, then traffic flow would be greatly improved.

Turn anticipation anxiety. It seems to be a rare thing in Bountiful to see someone make a turn onto a four lane road and end up in the lane closest to where they started. Instead, almost all left hand turns are made into the right hand lane, and almost all right hand turns are made into the left hand lane (sometimes even when there is oncoming traffic, and the only oncoming cars are in the far lane). I attribute this to a fear of changing lanes. The road in Bountiful can be quite busy, and so timid drivers may feel that it’s best to get into the lane that they ultimately want to be in. They, of course, are wrong. It’s illegal to turn into the far lane. The problem is apparently widespread enough that a coworker of mine, who is a long time Bountiful resident, believes that it is perfectly legal to turn into the far lane.

Once, while driving along 5th west, I was the first car at the light on 5th south when it turned green. I was in the right lane, and my lane was entirely clear, until a driver turned left onto my road at the last second. However, instead of turning into the left lane, they turned into the right lane. I was angry, and pulled into the left lane to get by, but since they turned right at the first driveway, I can grant them some credit for what was probably a necessary move. Then, a couple blocks down the road, a van made a right turn into the left lane (where I still was after avoiding the first car). The right lane was entirely clear at this point, and I had to break and change lanes to avoid hitting the van. Unlike the first car, the van stayed on the road going in the same direction until I left the road over a mile later.

The transverse bias and other traffic signal foibles. I have come to the conclusion that in many places, prominent citizens of a city (the mayor and city council come to mind) exert great influence on the programming of traffic signals. The result is a highly noticeable bias in favor of traffic patterns that head toward the wealthier parts of town. In Kaysville, the southbound exit from I-15 has two thirds of its traffic come off of the freeway, but the light spends two thirds of its time letting east-west traffic pass so that the city council can go into West Kaysville (westbound traffic leaving I-15 don’t have to stop due to a special right hand turn lane).

In Bountiful, the wealthy people live on the east bench, and so traffic is arranged to make it as convenient as possible to travel eastward from the freeway. This is most noticeable at 5th south and 5th west, where the signal is timed so that the north-south traffic can barely make it through the signal before it turns red again, but the east-west traffic can clear out and give the intersection lengthy downtime in which no one is passing through it. This only applies since the light on a street with a freeway exit. Other lights tend to favor north-south traffic.

A special note should be made about the light at 1500 south and Orchard Dr. This light has protected left arrows for all four directions, but it only has lots of traffic during rush hour. The protected turn arrows, however, are used all the time. This means that if two cars are at the intersection waiting to go straight (but in opposite directions), the light will turn green for one way and give that direction a protected left, in spite of not having any cars there waiting to turn. There are probably other lights in the area that suffer from the same problem, but this is the only one I have noticed.

The Granny Factor. I always figured that drivers in Cache Valley had learned to drive on farms, away from any traffic, so when they came into a large, busy city like Logan (population 42,000, which is nearly half of Cache County’s population), they would be intimidated by all of the other cars (some of them driven by people who have driven in crazy rat race cities like Salt Lake City!) and drive extra slowly to compensate. Bountiful, on the other hand, has always been in the heart of things between Salt Lake and Ogden (although some people from the Salt Lake area forget how much closer Bountiful is than Provo, but that’s another issue for another day). Instead, I attribute Bountiful’s slower traffic to two factors. The first is the lack of shoulders, which has been addressed earlier. This is a very sane reason to slow down, since you can never trust other cars to maintain their speed (you can typically trust them to not change lanes, since they already got into the lane they wanted to be in back when they turned onto that street). The other reason that I see for the slower traffic is the aging population of Bountiful drivers. Bountiful seems to maintain a large population of mature residents, and this seems to lead to typical granny driving. This is most noticeable when you get off of the main roads (where slowing is due to the narrowness) onto the more comfortable back roads.

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