Thursday, March 18, 2010

Extreme Stop-and-Go!

I'm teaching my granddaughter Mackie about traffic signals. When we're out and about on bike/trailer, I ask her what color the light is, and what it means. Red means stop! Green means go! She watches, and tells me when I should stop and go.

Or at least that's the way I learnt it.

Nowadays I kinda wonder. It seems to have changed.

Based on a lot of motor-vehicle behavior, you'd think green means PUNCH IT! It's like Don "The Snake" Prudhomme watching the Christmas tree, at every intersection! Green light... a bellowing roar and a cloud of dust and burnt rubber! Of course, it's for a block, and then...

Red means stop! Jam on those brakes - punish 'em!

(It's pretty amusing for this cyclist to observe as that pattern repeats, light after light, as I ride alongside.)

How about yellow? Nowadays it seems, if the light turns yellow and you can make it through the intersection within 3 seconds after it turns red... PUNCH IT!

I've sure learned by scary near-misses that green doesn't necessarily mean "go"! It means, check and see if some idiot is blasting through the intersection against a red light... then proceed carefully.

Of course, the cellphone/text-message people sometimes don't react one way or t'other. Green light or red light... they just coast blissfully along in their alternate universe, while the rest of the world adjusts and/or reacts. (They probably get pretty decent gas mileage.)

Frankly, it's a miracle that there aren't a lot more intersection accidents.

I've never ridden in a Prius, but I understand they have a "real-time" MPG indicator. It tells you how many miles-per-gallon you're getting RIGHT NOW. As you accelerate, down goes the MPG. As you coast, foot ever-so-light on the gas pedal, it comes right back up.

All cars should have that gauge. Maybe it would enlighten John-Force-wannabe driving his Diesel Ram to work.

(Regular cyclists don't need that gauge. They are intimately familiar with the amount of energy required to accelerate, compared with the amount to maintain a steady speed. It's hard for me to ride passenger in a car, because I feel almost a compulsion to "back seat drive"... especially when I paid for the gas in the tank. I cringe when we're accelerating-and-braking, when alternatively we could coast along at a steady speed and watch the lights turn green.)

My youth coincided with the opening of Firebird Raceway, off Highway 16. And my buddies and I were "regulars" up there. Forget about the bleachers! We'd sit at the edge of the vibrating asphalt in the staging area. Top Fuel Clorox burnout - 20 feet away! You could feel the air pressure change! That was some heady stuff! (I doubt they let teenage punks do that any more... things were different 40 years ago. Thankfully we had the common sense to plug our ears at blastoff time, and I retain a bit of hearing, all these years later.) But flooring-it in your Saturn just ain't the same thing, buddy!


Clancy said...

When I take my kids to school on the Xtracycle. I make them do the left and right signals from the tail gunner seat.

I was riding home yesterday on Harrison and took the lane, signaled left and started my turn left. All of a sudden, the car on the side street jumps off the line and turns left in front of me. I had to apply the brakes hard enough that I felt the rear wheel lighten up almost enough to come off the ground. This all happened while wearing my yellow jacket.

Anonymous said...

And all this time I thought your loss of hearing was caused by heavy metal bands and not the raceway!

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Bikeboy said...

What's with these comments? Just somebody practicing "English as a second language"? (I'm having to whittle 'em away all the time!)