I take driving rather seriously. While I may appear “casual” to some people, I’m always in control of my vehicle. I spent a good part of my youth learning precisely what the limits are, usually by exceeding them. There is nothing that gathers your attention like asphalt where the sky should be.
I’ve done just about everything you can do with a car, and when I was a field technician my drive time between calls was described as “traveling in low Earth orbit”. I would rather drive a manual transmission, no power steering or power brakes, to easier be one with the car. Traffic is like floating down a stream, or being a leaf in the breeze, I am aware of everything in front of me and behind me. Driving in Manhattan is like Fólkvangr, a field where I can commune with my peers, without the distractions of mortals.
It didn’t take much for me to stop driving. I was pulled over for not slowing down in a school zone. I hadn’t noticed the flashing yellow lights on the sign. It occurred to me that if I didn’t notice the lights, I might not notice a pedestrian. I called my manager and told him I wouldn’t be driving, and if that meant he would need to dismiss me, I understood. Instead, he called me back the next morning and told me he would be creating the first walking position in the district, I just needed to take the train into the city every day.
I didn’t drive for over ten years, then after I stopped working and moved to Princeton I decided to give it a try again. It’s took a bit, but I’m comfortable behind the wheel again.
Now, even more than ever, I am amazed at the way other people drive. I stopped doing what I loved so that I wouldn’t be one of these people.
This is a corner on Quakerbridge Road. You are observing the barrier on the inside of the corner, the recommended speed limit for the right turn which the car you see just made is twenty mph. It’s a ninety degree turn uphill. The barrels you see crushed were whole the other day. I have no idea how they were hit, nor do I know how the section of guardrail, nice and shiny in this picture, gets crushed. It’s shiny because it has just been replaced for the fourth time since I moved here, and the entire road was closed for almost a year at one point.The road also closes regularly during heavy rain. The stop sign you see is on a gate that swings across the road when the road floods.
I can’t figure out how someone making a ninety degree turn up a hill runs head on into a guard rail on the inside of the turn and crushes twenty feet of guard rail. Four times in two years. And they all wonder why insurance rates are so high.
Lieve and I made a wager the other day when we noticed the rail had been replaced again. Lieve thinks it will take a week until it’s hit again, I immediately went cynical and said within twenty four hours. At the time the orange barrels were in tact, so someone has hit there, just not hard enough to crush the rail.
Apparently, it really is difficult to stay in just one lane for people in Princeton. It’s much safer driving in Manhattan, people who can’t stay in their lane don’t make it through the tunnel.
Update, 13 December 2013: The guard rail on Quakerbridge road has been crushed as of this morning.