We as individuals can’t do anything to fix the horrible roads in Pittsburgh, but something we can all do is drive the best we can.
Pittsburgh was recently rated as some of the most courteous drivers in the country. As an outsider, I can concur, people are super courteous here, but to a fault. And as much as I hate to say it, we as drivers are just as responsible for the road mess here as PennDOT. So I’ve put together a brief guide on how you can improve the roads for everyone, while still being courteous.
When a Lane Ends Use Both Lanes Until The End.
It’s sad that PennDOT actually has to put signs reminding people of this, but I’ve seen it first hand several times, where a yinzer in a big pickup truck will block the closing lane to ensure people don’t “cheat” by using that lane until the end.
Have you ever seen a zipper before?
This is the principal behind merging when a lane is closed. How often has one side of the zipper beaten the other side? Never right? So the only way this can happen in a merge scenario is if everyone does not take their turn, or people merge into the open lane early. Do the efficient thing, stay in whatever lane you were in to it’s end, and if you are in the open lane let one person (not three, courteous Pittsburgh drivers) in front of you, and one should go behind you. Same thing if you are in the closing lane, don’t try to sneak two at a time in, let the person in front of you go, then get in behind the person behind him.
The Pittsburgh Left is Taken, Not Given
I’ve been on the record that anytime you do a Pittsburgh left you are breaking the law, and in general ruining the flow of traffic that our civil engineers designed. But let’s accept the reality that it’s the custom here. The key is if someone is clearly aware of the situation and planning to take it, let them take it (but only one person, not three, courteous Pittsburgh driver). Do not, under any circumstances sit at the green light and wait for them (who may not understand this odd custom and not want to risk their life). If they don’t go right away, proceed straight and let them make the left on their own, like adults do every day around the world.
Look Before You Pittsburgh Left
The worst person alive is the guy that makes a Pittsburgh left only to realize there are pedestrians crossing after committing. Now he is stuck, and so is all of oncoming traffic. When people do this, it’s ok to give them the stare of death while they pretend they can’t see anything around them.
Don’t Slow Down In Tunnels
Another sad state of affairs is how PennDOT has to put signs in the tunnels reminding people to maintain speed. Scientists have studied the Squirrel Hill Tunnel syndrome, and it continues to be the greatest mystery of our day. Every day someone, maybe the same person, starts this vicious cycle. I try to do my part and not brake when people in front of me are. If you just let off your gas, it’s often enough to slow your car, but not enough to freak the people out behind you. One day we’ll identify the criminal that starts this every morning, but in the meantime, do you part and don’t use your brakes unless necessary.
If you are the person who slows down, ask yourself why? Are you afraid of hitting the walls? Do you drive something larger than an 18-wheeler? Because they can go through the tunnel without scraping the walls, so maybe there is more room than you think.
Don’t Wave People In When the Light Is Green
I see this all the time, someone wants to enter your lane from a side street, parking lot, etc… By all means you should let this person in. But not when the light is green. This causes a huge delay for everyone, and usually only two people will get through in this cycle. Let the traffic move, and then whoever is stopped in front of them when the light turns red again is responsible for letting them in. This also applies when people have a stop sign and you do not.
Don’t Stop In The Middle of The Road To Wave People In
This is the prime example of “courteous to a fault”. I can’t tell you how many times someone has stopped in the middle of the road to wave me in or let me go left. This extreme courteousness is dangerous because once you get used to the idea that people will let you go, you will be in for a world of trouble anywhere else. Plus the people behind you are not expecting you to stop, putting you, the left turner and the person behind you in danger.
Please Get Off Facebook
I often bike to work, and you get amazing insight into what people do during their commute since you see them up close. I’ve seen people creating Power Point slides, doing their makeup, eating elaborate meals, but the most common thing is using their phone. Honestly talking on the phone is distracting enough, but so often I see people on Facebook. Next time you are thinking about using your phone while driving, remember a few things:
1. By far, the most likely way you will die a premature death is in your car. Not terrorists, not Ebola, not random criminals, not tornados, sharks or the many other things you have worried about in your life. You have a 1 in 84 chance of dying in a car crash during your life. That means if you work at an office of 150 people, two of you will die behind the wheel. This does not include pedestrians, cyclists etc… you could kill.
2. So now we’re clear your operating a lethal weapon, would you fire an AK47 randomly into a crowded area while looking at your phone? Seems ridiculous right? But that’s what I see people doing every day. Driving a car feels like a passive, almost video game like activity, so we forget we are playing with people’s lives. I like to remind myself every time I start the car that if I’m not paying full attention, someone could die.
3. It’s habit to check the phone when it vibrates, so I put mine in the center console. There is nothing that can’t wait for you to arrive safely.
4. Do you want your final act on this earth to be updating your Facebook status?
If you’re bored during your commute, get yourself some new challenges. Buy a manual transmission car, a motorcycle, or a really good book on CD.
311 has been very responsive under Peduto, I’ve seen potholes repaired anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks. But if you don’t call, it’s not on anyones to-do list. The city doesn’t really have the money to fix the roads correctly, but at least we can do our part.
Take Mom/Dad’s Keys
Some of the most frightening driving I see out there are the Octogenerians driving their Buicks on our crazy roads, and Pittsburgh has quite a lot of elderly people.
Don’t think of it as taking away the ability for your parent to drive, instead ask yourself “How could I make my loving mother drive to get her own groceries? She deserves to be taken by someone else”.
I’d bet using an UberX or Lyft for the trips to the grocery store and church would not only cost less then they pay for a car/insurance/etc… but also make sure they’ll still be around to see the grandkids.
What tips would you add to this list?