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Thursday, July 14, 2011

What's the Hurry on the Upper Great Highway?

The Upper Great Highway, a place where driving is easy, gets closed on occasion due to flooding and sand from the beach piling up on the road, and very little traffic to fight over. It's been my normal route when I have to drive to work because driving on Sunset can be a little stressful, especially worrying about pedestrian right-of-way and traffic cops waiting to nab you.

Just today on my regular drive on Upper Great Highway going southbound, I was driving along and noticed a car pass me on my right going 45, and the one behind me deciding to tailgate me, get upset, and pass me too (I was driving the 35 MPH speed limit). The first car that passed me also decided to cut-off other cars so it could be in front of the convoy (I'll explain about the convoy in a moment), but because of the driver's speeding, had to slam his/her brakes upon reaching the red light.

In other instances when I drive on that stretch of road, especially in the evenings, I find a lot of arrogant drivers who feels it's absolutely A-OK to run all the red lights and speed the hell out of the stretch.


My dad told me a long time ago, the Upper Great Highway never had signals, and that became a hot spot for drivers to drag race their cars. But once the signals was installed, things changed.

These days, the traffic signals are all timed so drivers who drive about 33-35 MPH gets green lights with no need to hit the brake, those who go slower may eventually get a red light, while others who drives too fast will eventually have to hit their brake to stop at a red light and wait for a moment to turn green.

Unfortunately, there's a lot of people who just feels the need to speed; what's your damn hurry? For those who wants to drive super fast and cut cars off, they will eventually get caught with a red light. Those who wants to be the leader of the convoy (cars driving within the signal cycle) also realizes that speeding means using their brakes more often for red lights, while other cars who are in the other lane driving the speed limit zooms by because they can time the signals just by driving a certain speed, or if going a little fast before the signal turns green, can just adjust their speed very slightly and won't need to hit the brake at the next signal.

There are days when I wish the police was keeping a better eye on that stretch of road. The worst drivers decides to break all the rules by speeding and blowing through red lights. Others decide to stop at a red light and just proceed through while it's still red. I've only seen a couple of occasions when police officers pulled over a driver for running the red, including once instance where I was in the left lane and in the right was a red light runner that blew a signal while a US Park Police officer's patrol car was right behind the driver (that driver definitely got nabbed!).

Even if cops can't patrol the stretch, it would be nice if the city could re-install the missing 35 MPH speed limit signs to remind drivers that going 45 is unacceptable.


Ryan G said...

A speed limit sign is a big help, but I also think it would help on roads like the Great Highway and Sunset to have a sign indicating the lights are timed to the speed limit. Something flashy but simple: "TIMED LIGHTS DRIVE 35" would get the point across to those who just don't know. Most often I see the speeders who have to slow or stop at each red light, which then messes me up because they're in front of me (I use cruise control at 35 the whole way).

The ones who just blow through the lights won't be fixed without red light cameras or other visible enforcement. There isn't really any room for a cop to sit and monitor in the middle of the stretch, unless he's on a motorbike at one of the crosswalks.

Anonymous said...

Agreed on both the original post and with Ryan G. For someone who doesn't drive it daily, I never would have even knows the speed limit was 35, nor that the lights were timed for it. I don't think I remember seeing a single speed sign on that entire stretch and, although I was in no hurry, was hitting every light on red. Maybe that means that 35 isn't the most realistic choice for the speed limit, but that's another topic for another day...

The speed limit signs and "lights timed" signs would help (I don't know how they could expect to ticket anyone for speeding when there's no signs), but what should *really* be done is have each light activated by a push-button or infrared pedestrian detector. It's a simple fix that would save a lot of gas and frustration, and probably make things quicker and safer for pedestrians too, because a red light would always mean that there was pedestrian nearby.

In Tucson they have pedestrian lights that actually go totally dark until they're activated. And when they're activated you can't miss them. Those would be excellent here.

Push buttons would be such an easy and cheap fix that it should be a no-brainer, and they could still time the lights to allow for 35 mph flow.

Thanks for letting me vent...

Anonymous said...

My uncle used to drag race his '55 Chevy here way back in the day. He has pictures of the great highway and the beach from those days and it looks a lot "rosier" than it is now. The traffic lights definitely "ugly" the view a bit. I drive there all the time and my dad laughs when he sees people going over 35 mph. Never seen anyone just blow through it, though.