Friday, February 01, 2008

5 of the worst traffic intersection ideas.

Yesterday I was reading Legally Blonde and she talked about how she had to go to the cleaners that was located by a Michigan left. That is the first time that I have heard of that term, but researching it has lead me down a Wikipedia induced foray into the stupid ideas for traffic intersections. So I have decided that I will list the five worst intersection ideas and will discuss their stupidity.

5. Continuous Flow Intersection
The brilliant plan behind this intersection is that all opposite flow traffic (east and west, or north and south) do not have to stop at the intersection to make any turns. That's right, both opposing flows of traffic can make unhindered right and left turns. How is that possible? Well just look at this simple diagram of the intersection:
Make sense? Yeah, I bet it is even harder to get what to do when you are actually driving in a car and you have five seconds to figure it out. But basically the left turning traffic gets all the way over to the left side of the road and then can go through the intersection without crossing the oncoming traffic. Thats alot of trouble to go to so that you don't have to stop when you make a left hand turn.

4. Roundabouts
I know, I know. I hate roundabouts with a passion so it is very surprising to find them on this list at only number 4, but when I said I don't like roundabouts I also didn't know about the even worse ideas out there. But in case you don't know, a roundabout is an intersection where everyone exits right and then goes around in a circle until the get to the road that they want to get off on. Essentially this means if you want to go straight you have to drive around half of a circle, and for a left hand turn you make a 3/4 circle. While on the roundabout you have the right of way to those entering into it.

The worst thing about roundabouts is that it seems like in Manhattan (Kansas) the traffic engineers think it is the solution to every problem. And while roundabouts are only slightly annoying on small roads, they are unreasonably complicated when each direction of traffic has two or more lanes of traffic.

3. Hook Turn
How about this one. If you want to turn left you get in the right most lane of traffic, and then turn across all lanes of traffic. Sounds like a good idea? (hint: No is the answer to that question.) The reason that hook turns are used is when intersections also contain other middle traffic (like a light rail or bus lane), so that you can check to see if there is anything in that lane before you make the turn. Observe:

The hook turn is a bad idea because it blocks all right and left turning traffic. I would think a simple stoplight that can account for traffic in the middle lane would solve this nightmare of a turn lane.

2. Traffic Circle
I have never heard of this before looking it up in Wikipedia, but a traffic circle is a large roundabout where entering traffic gets the right of way over traffic already in the circle. Yeah, like that is a good idea... if I want to go straight I have to wait for people that want to turn right onto the same road as me. Here this diagram might help navigating a traffic circle:Ok, they aren't all that bad, this one is a notoriously evil traffic circle. Still traffic in the circle has to yield to traffic entering the circle? That is just not right.

1. Michigan Left
Ah, when I found you Michigan left, I know that I had found something special... I thought my hatred for roundabouts could not be equaled, however Michigan left, you met and exceeded anything a roundabout could have ever done. A Michigan left is an intersection where there is no left turns. Instead if you want to go left, you go straight through the intersection and then you make a u-turn and then go back to the intersection and make a right turn. Yeah try explaining that one when you give directions to somebody.

So instead of waiting and turning left onto a busy street, I now get to wait and turn right, cross all lanes of traffic, exit left, and then turn left into the "fast lane" of the busy street that I want to be on? Um, yeah, I think I will just not go to Michigan ever. That will be easier to do.

Honorable mention: Jughandle


elizabeth said...

I got stuck in a traffic circle once. I was there for hours. Got verra dizzy.

After reading this and trying to get my head around all of these - I think I am going to stop driving all together. My brain hurts.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

I got rear ended in a traffic circle once. Fortunately, the other drive and I were OK. I've seen on TV the roundabouts in Europe where whips around it all crazy like it's nothing.

Melanie said...

i couldn't read the entire thing... i used to know a traffic engineer. but i didn't like him for his brains.


Ookami Snow said...

@elizabeth- Yeah it took me forever to figure out how the Continuous Flow Intersection actually worked... I will avoid driving around all places that have them

@jon- Traffic Circles are just asking for people to have wrecks. they are probably invented by repair shops.

@melanie- Well at least the traffic engineer you dated was a person... I bet here we just use a magic 8 ball that has "roundabout" on 8 or the 10 choices.

The Mountineer and the Husker said...

Holy Crap, those are some bad traffic ideas.