People don’t think about the lines in the road very often. They are just there. They tell us where to go and that’s that.
There have been two separate road line brouhahas in my area lately though. Brouhahas that I failed to understand until earlier this week.
The first commotion surrounded construction in the region’s main shopping district, a section of road known for traffic backups, blocked stop lights and frazzled nerves.
During more than one holiday shopping season, I have witnessed cars overheating while sitting in traffic simply trying to get out of the plaza parking lot.
More than a year ago the city undertook a major construction project to reorganize and improve the traffic patterns.
Single lanes have turned into double lanes, turn lanes now go straight and, even though the stoplights are no longer blocked and cars no longer overheat, people aren’t pleased.
In addition to this construction, the city decided to re-line the park in front of city hall (and the performing arts center where I work.)
The traffic around the park has always been strange. It was sort of like a giant one way rotary with no yield signs, parking space all around it and randomly placed pedestrian crosswalks.
From my office window I’ve seen many cars going the wrong way and a few accidents.
Unfortunately, the new lines have caused even more confusion mostly due to an extremely wide bicycle lane that may or may not also be for use by cars.
Both of these projects have been the subject of whining, complaining and letters to the editor in the local newspaper.
I didn’t understand the angst the lines have caused until a few days ago when I headed out from the grocery store from home and found myself in the completely wrong lane and unable to switch.
It wasn’t a big deal. I have several routes to choose from and could have also simply turned into another store and started over.
But I felt like a complete idiot. I grew up in the area and learned to drive on these roads, but I had no idea where I was supposed to be. Feeling stupid makes me angry and I found myself swearing at the people who painted the lines. Or more accurately, they people who decided where the lines should go.
The same thing happened around the park one day on the way to work.
I pulled into the rotary and moved to the left, as I always have, when suddenly I realized I was in a turn only lane. After driving around that park for the eleven years I’ve been working at the performing arts center, I suddenly felt like I had never been there before.
I think that’s why a little bit of paint on pavement has caused so much ire. The lines take people from their comfort zone and into the unknown.
It’s one thing to need a navigation system or map app to travel into unfamiliar territory, but when you need it to find your way home from the grocery store, it pisses you off.