Thursday, May 31, 2007

Letters: Complaint dept.

In today's mailbag, Henry Wamboldt doesn't get why Commodore Springer needs a westside highway to feed customers to her developer pals -- come on Hank, get a clue -- Jack McGowan will fight to preserve his right to a high-speed T-boning, and Phyllis Meyers thinks the rodeo is icky.

Cartoon: Estados Unidos

Oh, fer chrissake! What's wrong with you people?

Editorial: "Sometimes people must bend the rules"

This piece is so incoherent I'm having a hard time parsing it, but I think the unnamed Courier editor may be trying to find a way to sympathize with Van Bateman's deflection of guilt for burning up over 400,000 acres of forest and a couple of small towns. Following the law here is "acting against common sense"!? Someone in the editor's office is smokin' crack.

Talk of the Town: "Drivers must get used to photo radar"

Shorter Margaret Brown: If you don't like photo radar, you must be a criminal.

I get the argument. It's the same one the Current Resident uses to justify warrantless wiretaps. But let's not get all slippery-slopey, now.

I'd rather set this in context next to the roundabout debate. Here we have two quite different approaches to the same problem, that of reducing injuries at intersections. One maintains the 'traditional' method for handling the traffic while threatening more uniform enforcement -- in fact enforcement by machine. The other alters the traffic pattern and maintains the 'traditional' enforcement regime.

Based on the numbers we're seeing in the Courier, both seem to be working to reduce injuries, primarily because both systems are slowing traffic. In the first case drivers are reducing speed out of awareness of the higher probability of a fine, in the other because the configuration makes it impractical to do otherwise.

The Glassford Hill Gauntlet actually does nothing to prevent a high-speed T-boning, it rather relies on the effect on marginal drivers to produce a statistical reduction in injuries.

The roundabout, on the other hand, sets a physical barrier across the intersection, which is far more effective in changing the behavior of even the most impaired driver. I'm not saying a T-boning is impossible in a roundabout, but it is statistically negligible.

In a way this difference of approach can be framed as conservative vs. progressive. One preserves a system that doesn't work well and calls for tougher, depersonalized enforcement. The other studies the problem as a system and adjusts the system to work better, reducing the need for enforcement.

Both approaches are drawing huge amounts of criticism, probably from different kinds of people. For me it comes down to a question of what sort of community I want to live in.

A1: "The good and bad of roundabouts"

Mirsada Buric brings in some numbers to put beside the raft of complaints about the roundabout at Willow Lake and 89.

Which number do you think is more significant, the larger number of fender-benders because unqualified drivers are freaking out, or the fewer injuries (and no deaths) despite all the freaking out?

Update: 6:40am: The graphic page is up now, with a graph by Tim that adds some perspective we don't see in the story. Check that rising trend at the Prescott Lakes intersection.