Last year’s arrival of bicycle-only green, yellow, and red lights brought a choice to traffic engineers: Do you let peds and cyclists go go first or do you let eastbound cars wanting to turn left on Masonic go first? Originally, bikes had to wait and cars would go as soon as cross traffic got a red and had to stop. Some cyclists would intentionally and improperly jump the red but most would not. The cars would go and then the cyclists and peds would get their turn.
But things have been rejiggered so now cyclists and peds “go first” in the signal cycle. The vast majority of eastbound cars on Fell in the left-only lane start to creep forward when the light goes green for all the other lanes of Fell Street. A lot of drivers are like ignorant cows who don’t really pay attention and just go with the flow. So, the same kind of peer pressure that educated cyclists about how they shouldn’t go until the bicycle and pedestrian green light is now encouraging drivers to negligently go through the red left turn arrow that’s just for them.
(Obviously, the City had reasons to adjust the signals to the way they are now. Hopefully, ideology didn’t play a role.)
You see? People are social animals who take cues from others. Peer pressure worked in a positive way before, reinforcing good behavior. But now, peer pressure, of a sort, encourages bad behavior. The pack mentality contradicts the bright red light that the driver obviously can see. Proof of this is the fact that virtually every driver sitting first in the left turn lane creeps forward when the lights for all the other lanes of Masonic turn green. Aren’t drivers addled enough as it is? That’s something to think about as you hear the horns of cars backed up in the queue, with drivers wondering why the idiot up front isn’t going anywhere.
Now, on with the show…
The City and County is still trying to get the word out on the changes to Fell and Masonic with these electronic signs. Isn’t the graffito lovely? Click to expand:
This is what it looks like to a cyclist when a car improperly runs the red left arrow. This driver doesn’t understand how the lights currently operate at this intersection. (Sorry for the astigmatic view – welcome to my world sans glasses.)
In contrast, this driver, a local, knows damn well what he’s doing. He’s saving himself the time of waiting through one or two more signal cycles at Oak and Masonic. Is that worth risking a moving violation?
All right, now we’re cooking. This “radio car” from Ferrari-busting Park Station (you know, the one Bill Ayers’ wife pipe bombed(!) back in the day, killing(!) somebody, (allegedly)) sat in wait for someone to blow the red. This bewildered-looking taxi driver didn’t seem to know what he was doing as he slowly made his turn. He got the bad news and a citation on Page Street. Lesson learned, the hard way, one driver at a time.
Let’s switch to night vision – hey what’s that over on the right side? Could it be a Crown Victoria with cop motor on the sidewalk hiding behind a gigantic Tasmanian Blue Gum Eucalyptus? Let’s wait for a driver on the left to make an illegal turn. It won’t take long.
Uh oh, the brake light just turned on, meaning it’s too late for this Arrow Cab (sort of like Veteran’s) driver. He sees the cop car and doesn’t actually complete his improper turn, but he entered the intersection on a red arrow so he’s breaking the law, breaking the law just the same.
The inevitable result – flashing lights and yet another moving violation.
Is that good enough for you?