Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde on 156th Avenue NE

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/03/30 21:19 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2005/03/30/403977.aspx

(Nothing technical in this post)

I'm gonna rant for a moment.

Since I live right across the street from the main campus of where I work, I used to run here, and then eventually walk. I think I mentioned before that I drive a scooter to work these days because of the whole MS thing. This appeals to me since driving such a short distance seems so wasteful.

There are two streets I have to cross to get there -- 40th Street and 36th Street. Now 40th Street is a big intersection so they have a nice "mother may I please cross?" button, and right turners who usually do not block the ramps from the sidewalk to the street. This is important because the scooter weighs several hundred pounds so it is not so easy to lift it onto the curb, you know? It is great that people usually stop so I can get by and do not run over me when I am crossing on my WALK sign when they have a red light.

This is in marked contrast to 36th Street. Here, people who are turning right constantly move forward all the way, blocking the ramp. They really do not even look to see if someone is trying to cross, whether they have a red light or not. I usually end up having to glare at someone for blocking me in until they back up (assuming the next thoughtless person has not already driven up behind them and boxed them in). After they back up and let me through, I usually give them a warm smile and a nod/wave, unless they are a repeat offender from a prior day (which is often), in which case I am usually not smiling as warmly at the jerk (a term I reserve for people who have done it more than three times -- and there are several of those.

I usually try to avoid the whole problem, going a block west to Microsoft Way, where everyone is really nice. They always let me through, they wait even when they probably do not have to (the laws of Washington do not require a car to stay stopped when I am four lanes away from them, but they usually stop anyway). People seldom look annoyed about it, and are usually quite alright to let me go through. There are times when the intersection is busy that I feel guilty blocking the way and I actually ride down one block to where people tend to be more like jerks.

Wanna know the weird part of all this?

The people with the biggest potential to be a problem in all three cases are the same folks leaving Microsoft from their day at work!

It is the same people, literally a block away in all three cases.

So what makes a person a kind and considerate person at one intersection, and complete jerk-of-the-earth a block later?

Is there such a huge difference between (a) being on or off the Microsoft campus and (b) being on the intersection where you enter or leave campus? Is there some kind of zone of jerk-dom that just affects people when they cross that border?

Is it not mildly ironic that my desire to avoid inconveniencing the nice people on one intersection causes me to run into the same people driving like assholes the next block over?

I guess the only good part is that one day, if one of them actuals hit me, they won't be going fast enough to kill me, but since I only cross on the WALK sign and their light is red it will be clearly and completely their fault. And since they work for a living they will have insurance and enough money that they will be able to cover settling whatever lawsuit comes of the whole mess. You can't count on that kind of guarantee in every neighborhood, so at the very least it's good to know that they will be able to make up for their insensitive and dangerous antisocial behavior....


Okay, I feel better now.

I'll have a technical post a little later.... :-)

# Dean Harding on 30 Mar 2005 8:34 PM:

That was a strange thing I found when I was in the US. In Australia, we're not allowed to turn left (since we drive on the left) on a red light, unless it explicitly says "left turn on red permitted after stopping". Usually that sign is on intersections with plenty of visibility and so on.

But it's a "you can turn right on a red light by default" in the US. It took me a while to wonder why everyone was beeping me when I dutifully stopped at the red light...

I was also totally mistified by the four-way stop signs you guys have. Who the heck gets right of way if you both arrive at the same time?

# mdolenga on 30 Mar 2005 8:41 PM:

When I bike to work, I swear the last mile is the most dangerous because of all the bozo drivers we seem to employ. Maybe it's time to add driving skills to our interviewing process?

# Dean Harding on 30 Mar 2005 9:19 PM:

Sorry Michael, I seem to have a habit of getting horribly side-tracked when commenting on your posts :)

But to take my four-way-stop sign dilemma even further, I found this site: http://www.deimel.org/commentary/four_way.htm

Don't you guys have round-a-bouts in the US? I don't remember seeing any, but they solve the problem of "intersections with significant traffic, but not significant enough for traffic lights" without the myriad of ambiguities that four-way-stop signs seem to have.

# Mike Williams on 30 Mar 2005 9:42 PM:

There are certainly roundabouts in the US, but few people in Seattle know how to negotiate them or who has right of way. Similarly, you'll find that a pedestrian on a cross-walk apparently does not have right-of-way over large expensive SUVs with a Baby On Board sticker and a driver who is talking on their cell phone and checking their stock on a Blackberry at the time. An ex-colleague of mine was nearly killed (just thrown through the air quite a distance) on a 148th Ave NE crossing near campus, and I came close a number of times while trying to get across there. Usually your assassin-to-be has Microsoft stickers or towels or license-plate-holders festooning their vehicle.

As far as the intersection that Michael mentioned goes, that is a complete nightmare. It does not matter how many signs Redmond City puts up there to control turning traffic, an inordinate number of (regular) drivers there believe they are exempt.

So next time you are wondering why you are having trouble with a Microsoft product, remember that it may have been built by a group of people who would cheerfully run over you at a crosswalk so they can get to a meeting about that product :-).

# Scott on 30 Mar 2005 10:41 PM:

It's a little different in Seattle. They have places where pedestrians rule. You have to wait stop your car and wait for them to cross the street even if they aren't crossing at the corner or in a crosswalk. It's not unusual for people to stop for me on a busy street near my house when they see me waiting to cross the street.

# Mike Williams on 31 Mar 2005 6:22 AM:

Scott: Which street is that? I'll have to get a photograph next time I'm in Seattle ;-). Or are you carrying a submachine gun with you? I don't think I have ever felt less safe on a crosswalk anywhere than in the 10yrs I lived in or visited Seattle.

# Scott on 31 Mar 2005 8:55 PM:

hehehehe, 15th ave NE. It's fairly busy most of the time.

Downtown it's almost impossible to drive anywhere with all the pedestrians. If you block a crosswalk, you suddenly have an angry mob surrounding you. They don't always wait for the "Walk" signal either. hehehehe

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