Thursday, April 12, 2012

Skirting around the truth

I would really like to know who the smart ass is who decided that it would be a good idea to put a round-about on St-Luc boulevard in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu at the intersection of du Lac and Douglas streets.

I'm sure our city planners have been congratulating themselves and giving each other pats on the back, all the while being completely oblivious to the fact that what they have done is to install a dangerous road hazard in an extremely busy area.

Did they really think that St-Jean-sur-Richelieu was ready for something like this? In some countries round-abouts are commonplace and people grow up understanding how they work. But around here there are no round-abouts so people are not used to them, they don't know how they work, and nobody has any interest in investing their time and energy to learn how to navigate a round-about safely.

The round-about they built on St-Luc boulevard is not a single-lane round-about, it's a two-lane round-about. Two-lane round-abouts have specific rules that need to be adhered to. Ignorance of these rules causes total chaos.  

I have to put the blame on the city for not making a proper effort to inform and educate drivers on how to use a two-lane round-about. I happened to be reading through the local leisure activities booklet when I spotted the following on the very last page:

Are you kidding me? This is where you decide to put the critical instructions on the usage of a two-lane round-about? In a local booklet that most citizens toss into the recycling bin without even opening? I checked on the city's website and you know what they have? A video (that they probably pilfered from somewhere) showing how to navigate a single-lane round-about. Come on guys, you couldn't put in the proper effort and make a video showing how a two-lane round-about works?

Unfortunately I have to use this road to get to the grocery store. Every time I have to go through the round-about I watch in total horror as people behave like complete assholes. On a regular basis I see drivers throwing themselves into the circle without yielding to cars that are already going around. Although the rules specify a single lane and no passing, the number of times I have had someone speed past me in the right lane with their tires screeching, so that they could cut me off and go to the left while I am exiting to the right totally blows my mind. Instead of calling this thing a round-about they should be honest and call it the circle of Russian Roulette.

And summer hasn't even arrived yet! I don't even want to think what's going to happen when we add a bunch of pedestrians, bicycles, in-line skaters and dare-devils on skateboards into the mix.

What's it going to take for drivers around here to get with the program and make an effort to learn how to use a round-about? A fender-bender? One whole side of their car bashed in and scraped up? A few days of inconvenience while their car gets repaired? A hike in their insurance rates?

And what is it going to take for the city to realize that they made a huge mistake? Some serious injuries? Perhaps a death or two? Because if it's statistics that they're looking for I am sure they will soon have more than they need to approve a budget to undo the mess they've made. They need to abolish this stupid round-about and put up traffic lights instead. Sad but true - that's what they should have done in the first place. You can't just throw a two-lane round-about into a busy area and expect everyone to know how it works. If you are not willing to make the effort to do it properly, then you shouldn't do it at all.

Unfortunately the city has the big end of the stick and until somebody's child gets run over and killed nothing is going to change. Realistically, even if there are hundreds of accidents and numerous serious injuries and deaths caused by this round-about the city probably still won't do anything about it. That would mean they would have to admit that they were wrong, and there will be none of that!

I am tired of stressing out every time I have to drive through that death-trap. I'm particularly worried that while I am preoccupied concentrating on the idiot driving on my right (who isn't exiting like they're supposed to and will probably end up cutting me off or side-swiping me) that I will be distracted from seeing a pedestrian or a cyclist who is trying to cross. So from now on I will be taking a huge detour to avoid the round-about. I'll be taking highway 35, turning off at Pierre-Caisse then turning on de Normandie to get to the grocery store. It's bad for the environment and it will cost me more in gas, but at least it will save me from the terror of having to drive through what has basically become a potential bumper-car lot.

Last week I sent a letter to the local newspaper expressing my thoughts on the matter and yesterday I was thrilled to see that they had published my letter (although they had to chop a lot of the good bits out in order to fit it into the allotted space). I am sure there will be some people who will read it and agree with me. What I hope is that those who have no clue how a two-lane round-about works will read the part where I explain that although two lanes lead into the round-about, there is only ONE LANE in the round-about and NO PASSING.

I know - it's like duelling against the big stick using a measly toothpick, but there's really not much else I can do.

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