Friday Firesmith – An Argument Starter

I work with traffic, and on occasion, I work in traffic. There’s nothing more contentious than putting a traffic signal at an intersection unless it’s the timing of that light. At the intersection of Saint Augustine Road and US84, aka Hill Avenue, things get plenty damn weird at a little after five. All of the businesses on the Industrial road let out at five. That’s about two miles away, so at five after five, there’s a herd of people heading towards this intersection. At ten after there is a crowd, and at eleven after five, you might as well be in a parking lot. From the time the light turns red until it turns green again, is two minutes and thirty seconds. The left turn lane, the one with the red line, has a light that stays green for only fifteen seconds. Rarely, very rarely, will cars at the end of the line be able to make it through in one cycle. This means they’re going to sit for a while.

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Here’s the issue I have. Note the side street, Hemlock. People trying to get out of that side street have to wait for a lot longer than the people in the turn lane. Now, there are usually no more than one, maybe two cars at any given time, while the turn lane looks like a Georgia road during an ice storm. Some good intention folk will stop, wave at the cars trapped on Hemlock, allowing them to merge, and the cars on Hemlock are free! Yay! That should give you a warm fuzzy feeling, right?

Meanwhile, fifteen people stacked up behind are watching the light go from green to yellow, to red, knowing they might not make it next time either. What this causes is a chain reaction of people getting to the turn lane, getting delayed, and this causes even more issues on Hemlock because there are now more cars than there would have been, had everyone just played by the rules. Does this make sense?

Okay, here’s the part that will cause the argument; this is true in nearly all cases where there’s a traffic light involved.

For every one person you help by letting them into traffic, you’re screwing over a dozen, maybe more. For that smile and a wave you’re getting, you are also generating swearing and a middle finger behind you. Of course, you can’t see this so it doesn’t matter as much, does it?

The argument against this is usually, “Well, you want people to let you in, don’t you?”

And that’s saying, “We should all do things for selfish reasons.” If it serves me or makes me feel good, then what does it matter if twenty people are inconvenienced?

That’s the argument for letting people in.

Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.