Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One curve, two unrelated photographs

Perrymont Road in McCandless, which I walk 4 to 10 times a week, should be the poster child for the Suburban Road From Hell Foundation. Barely a mile long, it carries on average five cars a minute -- unofficial, but having lived mere feet away from it for almost 20 years, I can speak with some authority.

On any trip westbound, when I get to that first curve -- the eastern one about halfway between McKnight and Perry -- I always have to be very careful of eastbound traffic, as the majority of cars hug the shoulder -- never mind the white line -- as they traverse the curve. This, of course, is exactly where westbound pedestrians are supposed to walk. The speed limit on Perrymont is 35, the curve is posted 25, but 40+ is commonplace, and in a vehicle with good tires and handling it can be taken at 55 or better. The curve, not the straightaways, mind you. The straightaways are less an issue because pedestrians can usually see them coming.

On today's trip westbound, there was some fresh snow, enabling me to document my pedestrian problem solving skills for posterity, which I will now show you:

Upon hearing an approaching vehicle, I stepped sideways at least five feet. Note the left-most two footprints; that's where I stood. After the car passed, I walked back to the pavement to continue my trek. Yes, I am walking in the traffic lane. It is no less safe there. Remember, I am re-writing the rules here. Following the rules can get you killed. Do what I say, and what I do, and you will be fine. If there's no car coming, walk in the street. If there's a car coming, get WAY out of the way.

Got that? That's how you walk along a suburban road when there is essentially no shoulder. I walk it 500 times a year, all times of day, all weather conditions, from torrential downpours to sub-zero wind chill to blinding snowstorms to blistering heat. No matter. Between me and the bus stop is 0.8 mile of Perrymont, and that's how it's done. Of course I say this because there are 10,000 other roads just like it, with 10,000,000 other people who have to walk it. Or will.

On to Photo #2. Yesterday morning, I noticed cars turning around on my end of Perrymont. This usually means a wreck on one of the two curves, and I was not mistaken. This morning, as I walked along there, I had forgotten about it until I saw the debris not yet swept up or hauled away.

Ignore the clearly visible tire tracks veering left, which are the mailman's. Instead look at the tracks veering right, directly into scraping the guardrail. The car wrecked fully into the guardrail in the distance. Zooming in, you can see the black bumper still there, a day later. Those tire tracks point directly at the bumper.

These two photos were taken barely 100 feet apart, and about 35 of those feet are the width of the pavement. For what it's worth, this photo ...

... from back in September 2010, is also on this same curve. That wooden fence used to come all the way down to the driveway in the foreground, as StreetView shows. This pic is looking eastbound.

There is no easy answer to all this. We're talking about changing human behavior here, and that never works, especially with the word "should" involved. Yeah, people should slow down. Yeah, people should learn how to walk along roads that don't have sidewalks. Yeah, we should spend a bazillion dollars to improve walking conditions along a kajillion miles of such roads.

It all comes down to this: Cheap gasoline is not going to be an option in the probably undistant future. There will be a lot more pedestrians and bicyclists, not just on Perrymont but those 10,000 other roads you will surely be traveling. Get used to it.

If you are the driver, expect them. Slow down. Watch especially for curves such as these, as there are problems on both sides of the road. All accidents are driver error. You are the driver. It doesn't matter if it's a rolling trash can or a pedestrian on the edge of the road, you don't hit it. You have the control here.

If you are a pedestrian, know the rules, and know when to screw the rules. Sometimes the other side of the street is safer. Just getting five feet off the road, into snow, brambles, whatever, is the preferred option. Don't be afraid to bust up someone's bush or branch off a tree, either, if it's in the way of your path of travel. Their fault for not having it cut back.

Guerilla pedestrianism. Coming soon to a Suburban Road From Hell near you.

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