Life · traffic

An Argument For the Idaho Stop

As many drivers will tell you, usually in angrily posted internet comments, roads were built for cars. This factoid comes from the latest New York Times bestseller, The Big Book of Thank You Letters to Doctor Obvious. The lanes are car-width. The speed limits are car-powered. The loop-induction traffic signals are car-weighted. Yes, it’s all very obvious that roads were made for cars.

Also made for cars are traffic-calming devices. Traffic-calming is the concept of creating a safer environment for all road users. It mainly consists of narrowing lanes and putting obstructions like speed humps (“sleeping policeman” for you Brits), islands, and curves into the traffic flow. The intended result is to slow the speed of cars and make drivers aware of other road users. Note that pedestrians and cyclist have no need for speed-reducing devices because they are rarely traveling above the speed limit.

Here in The States, we haven’t fully embraces the roundabout. We have opted for right-angle intersections with light or sign control. This makes the stop sign a ubiquitous fixture on American streets. For example, my neighborhood, which has only one connection to the highway, consists of four longish streets and seven cul-du-sacs. There are fewer than 300 houses. All traffic is local since it is essentially a dead-end. The speed limit is 25 mph as are most residential areas. There are 15 stop signs, not including the one at the main highway. Every single traffic sign in my neighborhood is a stop sign. I have to ask, “Why”

The only conclusion is, the stop signs are there to interrupt cars so they don’t build up speed past the 25 mph limit. If there was some other device, say a computer controlled car, that ensured the cars never got over 25 mph, every intersection could be controlled with a simple yield sign. The fact is, most drivers treat the stop signs as if they were yield signs because it makes no damned sense to come to a full stop to turn right when the only possible cross traffic is coming from two houses that have driveways to the left, on a dead-end street. The rolling or “California” stop for cars is alive and well. It’s normally a perfectly safe exercise and the only penalty is if a cop sees it.

The Idaho Stop
The name derives from a recent change to the Idaho traffic code that allows cyclist to treat stop signs as yield signs with the caveat that if another vehicle is already stopped at the intersection, they have the right-of-way. It’s not as crazy as it first sounds. Since bicycles are moving at a car-relative slow speed, the cyclist has more time to assess the intersection and continue without stopping if the assessment is “all clear.” Idaho recognizes that stop signs are traffic-calming devices designed for cars. The Idaho Stop doesn’t give cyclist carte-blanche to run every stop sign. It doesn’t give them the right-of-way at all intersections. It simply puts the responsibility for their safety in their hands and allows them to continue unimpeded if they can do so safely.

The next time you see a cyclist cautiously run a stop sign, remember that most stop signs are simply traffic-calming devices for cars. The next time you see a cyclist jump a red light, consider that they have probably waited through 3 cycles without a green light because they can’t trigger the loop-induction sensor. Indeed, roads were built for cars and what quickly followed were devices to make drivers behave. These devices don’t always apply to non-car traffic.

Share the road and keep chasing the odd, little happy.

Cycling · drivers · driving · internet · law · Life · traffic

Common Comments on The Topic of Cycling

These are the most common comments made on the internet when the topic of cyclist sharing the road is brought up. I’ve tried to provide some decent responses you can give if confronted with these ridiculous suggestions.

When cyclist have insurance, registration, and tags, they might have some rights on the road.
Maybe pedestrian crossings should have a coin slot so people crossing the road on foot pay a fee to press the crosswalk button, too. Speaking of pedestrians, they’re in the car’s way. They are holding up traffic by crossing the road. If cars were the most important thing on the road, should they be allowed to mow down those pokey pedestrians so they can turn right?

Still, that’s not how freedom to travel works. You aren’t granted rights by the government because you paid a fee. Rights, like the right to travel on public roads, is just that…a right. Your car registration and tag doesn’t buy you the right to the road.

Furthermore, having a tiny metal plate on a bike, isn’t going to guarantee the respect of other travelers. That respect either comes from a mutual need to travel safely together with other members of the community or it is lacking in a person’s character. No amount of signage is going to make the raging driver respect the rights of other road users. Having a plate on your car doesn’t stop you from being cut-off or honked at. Why would it change how bad drivers treat cyclist?

Stay off the road if you can’t do the speed limit. You’re impeding traffic.
I fail to see how a small object like a bicycle moving 25-45 KPH in the same direction as traffic, tucked neatly on the edge of the lane, and easily passed, impedes traffic. Here are a few things that slow or stop cars completely:

  • Pedestrians (we’ve cover them)
  • Traffic lights
  • Trains
  • School buses
  • Mail trucks
  • Delivery trucks
  • Farm equipment
  • Construction zones
  • (and frankly) other motorist

Those impede traffic, but drivers would misplace their anger on cyclist. Cyclists are part of the traffic flow. In congested cities, cyclist often out-pace cars. As a driver, if you are unable to safely pass a bicycle, please don’t drive while school buses are loading and unloading, and for God’s sake, stay away from train crossing.

Speed limits are just that: the maximum safe limit on a road under perfect conditions. They aren’t a minimum speed that the traffic must travel. And while we’re on the subject, what’s with speed humps? Are they there to slow down the speeding cyclist? No. They are there because motorist fail to observe the set speed limit and need a little reminder now and again.

Cyclist run stop signs and red lights.
Surveys show that lights and signs are run in about equal amounts by both cars and bicycles (6.8% and 7.2% respectively). If any argument for removing cyclist from the roadway is to be made based on this, cars would necessarily need to be removed, too. It’s just ridiculous to ban a particular mode of transportation based on the lawlessness of a few. Police don’t give speeding tickets to all cars in the area just because one driver is speeding.

That being said, there are often good reasons cyclist run lights. Very often the sensors built into the road that trigger the light to change are not sensitive enough to detect a bicycle. Prudent cyclist often treat those lights as stop signs because the light will never change for them.

Bikes are toys for children.
Indeed, they are. They are also the main means of transportation for more than 4 billion adults worldwide. Anyone making this observation hasn’t been on a bicycle since they were nine and needs to experience the sheer joy of a bike again. If you don’t cycle, don’t tell people who do how they need to act. You are, by definition, not an experienced expert on the topic.

Bikes should only ride on bicycle paths or roads with wide shoulders.
That would be preferred by all, cyclist included. Sadly, there isn’t the infrastructure for bicycles in all areas. If politicians and bureaucrats are to be believed, widening shoulders by a couple of feet would put an undue financial burden on their budgets. Bike lanes seem to be out of the question in all, but the most densely packed cities. When bike paths do exist in smaller cities and towns, they are often relegated to parks. That’s fine for a weekend outing, but if the bike paths don’t go where you need them to go, they are functionally useless. If bike paths existed between neighborhoods, commercial zones, and place of work, cyclist would happily stick to them. Cyclist have no more desire to mix with motorized traffic than the driver’s desire them to be on the roads.

humor · NPR · sarcasm · scam · stupidity · traffic · wisdom

The Fall and Further Fall of Local Talk Radio

I’ve reached the stage in life where my parents have become pretty smart. One lesson they taught me was “take care of the small things and the big things take care of themselves.” It seems true. They lived their lives that way and retired well. My father (peace be upon him) just didn’t get to enjoy it for as long as he deserved.

Yesterday, I felt the need to share this valuable lesson with someone who happens to be a local disc jockey. He prefers “talk show host,” but we’ll compromise on disc jockey because I know he hates that. It’s also a much milder term than “ass hat” which, though more fitting for his pompous personality, just isn’t polite. Bless his heart.

It all started innocently enough. I tuned my car radio to my local news/talk station in hopes of catching the morning traffic report. You see, during the morning drive-time, the biggest draw on WVNN is the traffic report. In fact, the reasons to tune-in to WVNN’s morning line-up in descending order of usefulness and importance are:

  1. the traffic report
  2. the weather report
  3. the news
  4. the commercials
  5. the emergency alert test squelch
  6. any accidental dead air
  7. the Dale Jackson show

Having just missed the traffic report, I was forced to sit through Mr. Jackson blathering joyously about his first show of the new decade. His comments rang my fact-checker bell. When I reached the office, I sent the following email to

Subject: Please stop with the New Decade stuff

Dear Mr. Jackson,

Please stop perpetuating the myth that we are in the second decade of the 21st century. Decades, centuries, and millennia start in year one. Note, there is no year zero on the Gregorian calendar. The 21st century and new decade began on January 1, 2001. The first decade of the 21st century still has a almost a year left. It ends on Dec 31, 2010.

I know your show is an opinion show, but some facts are simply facts. Calendars are squarely in the facts category.

I followed the email with this tweet to @TheDaleJackson: Stop with the “new decade” stuff. The 1st decade of the 21st c. doesn’t end until 31 Dec 2010. Knock it off!

I figured even though Mr. Jackson’s show bears the disclaimer “opinion,” some things are not open to interpretation. The fact the Gregorian calendar starts with year 1 (there is no year zero) is a small, but important thing. I figured if someone was going to talk about weighty topics like politics, my wasted tax dollars, the state education budget, or the joys of owning a pet ferret, he’d want to get the little facts right. This would increase his credibility when he began pontificating on the flammability of his own farts. I figured wrongly.

My first clue that things were not going well was Mr. Jackson’s reply to my first tweet where he simply makes fun of my name. Even before kindergarten I learned that name calling served only one purpose – to deflect attention from the real problem. My less-than-common and slightly unusual name is a perfect springboard for those who have no other defense, especially wit.

Here’s how the Twitter exchange spiraled out of control after the initial contact.
@theRealBarefoot: Indeed. I am the real and genuine Barefoot and the decade still doesn’t end until 31 Dec 2010. Get a calendar. Get a clue.

@theDaleJackson: you seem very serious about this decade stuff. Doesn’t seem like a good way to start the new decade.

@theRealBarefoot: If you can’t get the small things right, people question the big things like thinking Doc Griffith ain’t all that bad. (Doc Griffith is a reference to Congressman Parker Griffith (R) 5th District, AL for whom Mr. Jackson has a real bad boner.)

@theDaleJackson: You were the guy that was screamin “THIS ISN’T THE NEW MILLENIUM”in 2000 weren’t you? Aren’t you special. (I think that was meant to be a question though it lacked proper punctuation.)

@theRealBarefoot: It’s useless to argue with someone like yourself who just wants to argue and belittle. What’s this on my radio, NPR? *click*

@theDaleJackson: Sure thing pal. You are listening right now just liek [sic] you were yesterday. Welcome to the new decade.

@theRealBarefoot: No. Not listening, but I did look at your website long enough to notice the giant ego that is your tag cloud. (“Dale Jackson” is by far the most dominant phrase in his site’s tag cloud, lower right of the site. Oh, and I honestly was not listening to his radio show at this point.)
@theRealBarefoot: Next time you have someone on your show who brings up education in AL, ask them how to read a calendar.

@theDaleJackson: You are really irrationally upset about this decade thing. Huge ego on a talk show host? That is a phenomenal observation. (I would have gone with the classic “Dr. Obvious” quip here, but no one claimed Mr. Jackson came armed to what is turning into a battle of wits.)

@theRealBarefoot: The calendar doesn’t upset me. Your response to a simple fact check does. Is “can’t be wrong” in your contract?

@theDaleJackson: Actually it does. It also says I must put up with idiots and crybabies. Keep in mind you are mad I said it was a new decade (To clear your confusion here “Actually it does” would have been the proper response if I had said “Does it say in your contract, “You can’t be wrong?” He seems to be reading his own thoughts into my tweets.)

@theRealBarefoot: If I’m mad about anything, it’s chowder heads who perpetuate any type of error even when faced with simple facts.
@theRealBarefoot: Thank you for your correspondence. It’s been your pleasure to have someone pay attention to you for more than 6 minutes. (The “6 minutes” quip refers to the need for morning drive-time radio to repeat itself about every 12-15 minutes due to its revolving audience.)

@theDaleJackson: If only I had an outlet to talk to people and tell them what I thought. Don’t think your [sic] important because I engaged you.

Here I let Mr. Jackson have the last moronic word in our Twitter exchange. It was obvious to me that he was no longer reading my tweets. Apparently, 140 characters is a bit too much information for him to ingest in one sitting. Anyway, the response necessary to such a malicious salvo requires more than 140 characters.

No, Mr. Jackson my brief sullied encounter with you does not make me important. My worth as a human being is not measured by your warped yardstick. I’m important because I’m a loving husband and father. I matter because I have a brain and think rationally. I count because I provide for my family and am a faithful friend. I’m important because I’m a productive member of society who produces tangible goods and services and not just something slightly more distinct than arrogant belching for sleepy coffee swillers.

I started this post with what I feel is one of life’s important lessons. Being a man who hates stagnation, I like to find something new in whatever life sends my way. I’ve struggled to find something lasting and good from this brush with Dale Jackson. These are the diamonds I’ve squeezed from this rough patch of coal.

Lessons Learned
Having a microphone and 50,000 watts does not increase one’s intelligence. Mr. Jackson is the self-proclaimed “smartest of the dumb.” Having a radio show only ensures that his ignorance is heard by slightly more people than the crazy homeless man who shouts at traffic.

Some people have a face for radio. Not only does Mr. Jackson typify this old adage, he also has a voice for newspaper. His abrasive, caustic bark, some say the result of undescended testicles, is only over shadowed by his striking resemblance to a 5 foot 4 inch penis with a barely distinguishable human face.

If you expect the worst from people they will live down to your expectations. When I asked, “Is ‘can’t be wrong’ in your contract?” Mr. Jackson’s reply was, “It also says I must put up with idiots and crybabies.” It takes only a few minutes of listening to his show to hear Mr. Jackson’s opinion of me extends to his entire audience. This speaks volumes about Mr. Jackson lack of real character and maybe just a little bit about his audience.

I liken this attitude to the cop who, after dealing with criminals all day, begins to see only the criminal in everyone. This is a sad outlook on life. I’ve always found when you expect and encourage the best from someone, more often than not, you get just that. However, the very existence of this blog posts proves the converse is true, too.

Take comfort in your radio. There are dozens of stations from which to choose. I shall thank the most benevolent God daily for NPR, classic rock, and even the CD player in my car. Any alternative to the befuddle bemoaning dripping out of WVNN every weekday morning is welcomed. If by some weird twist of karma, my radio becomes locked on WVNN, I pray my windows still roll down so I can drown out the sniveling, whining and erroneous prattling of Mr. Dale Jackson with the rushing drone of the wind.

cars · chevelle · chevelle SS · clash · drivers · driving · mini-vans · music · stop signs · the clash · traffic

Head to Head at the 4-Way Stop

Yield to the right is the rule when you arrive simultaneously. Yield to the cool is more like it when the guy on your right is in a matte-black, home restored Chevelle SS. Sweet ride if you can get it. With the window down and the shades on, he appeared to have the coolness factor sewn up. But I was in my mini-van.

We were at an impasse, but he knew he had the mojo of the redneck go-faster and my Korean van just didn’t impress him. That was the part that made me cooler. I let “shades” go first. He was Sparaticus after all. The things that made me cooler were that I knew I was cooler and I had my CD rockin’

Yielding the right-of-way to Shades’ SS….5 seconds.
Knowing The Clash is cranking…priceless.
Shades is not the Stig, but my mini-van will rollover in a tight turn so I must be careful. You decide which is best. I’m of the opinion that rolling around in something tight is the best thing that can possibly happen to you. Yield or don’t, just get home safely.

Advice · anniversary · Associated Content · coffee · comedy · doctor · family · Life · rant · tips · traffic · vacation · writing

That was a long dry spell

Between work and a much needed mini-vacation, I haven’t put anything on AC in quite a while. Now that things are returning to something close to normality, I was able to punch this out over coffee this morning.

Tonight we shall dine in finery at Ruth’s Chris. I’m treating my 25-years-tomorrow partner and the 1-year newlyweds to dinner.

What to get for the big silver anniversary? Eyewear of course. She hasn’t had her eyes checked in over 3 years. I don’t think she’d have gone if she hadn’t slept in her glasses and bent them. All the gentle badgering in the world didn’t seem to work, but blindness is a great motivation.

The newlyweds are having their own life-building struggles. Jenn’s doctor didn’t fill out a form correctly and Public Safety suspended her license. It’s good that her husband adores her so much. He’s having to tote her everywhere now. I hope they are using the togetherness to build a stronger relationship.

Jenn isn’t as upset about not driving as she is about the doctor filling out the form incorrectly not once, but twice. Now the doctor has reversed her decision on the matter and refuses to sign off. That makes the first form a fraud. Jenn is hopping mad and plans to file complaints with the state medical board. Damn, I raise a spitfire.

Enjoy the new article. It’s sort of rantish, but you’ll find it true.

driving · fog · Life · traffic

The 15th Commandment

“And as to traffic and the idiocy of thine fellow road occupants, thou shalt not rant; for this is the 15th commandment. I am good. Thus sayeth the Lord.” Isaya 9:12-14.

Because of this, I shall not rant on the drivers that I saw today. I will simply say that when they go, I pray that they don’t take me with them.

It was foggy this morning. Fog is not something we get often around these parts. I wouldn’t blame a motorist or two for not turning on their headlights. Only thing is, it was every fourth car! There were the two that had the presence of mind to turn on their parking lights. That brilliant yellow beam that scared the hell out of me at the last second is much appreciated.

I’m sorry that your daddy didn’t raise you right. He wasn’t around to show you the importance of not dying because you have no common sense. I learned the rules of the road, including the fog-low-beam-headlight rule before I even knew what a driver’s license was. I guess your daddy didn’t love you enough. Now I have to run off in the shoulder and be honked at because of it.

Well at least the drive home was quite. The congestion was expected. The radio played some forgotten song at a comfortable level. Mine works fine, jackass. I don’t need to hear yours! All is clear; all is well, until the road widened.

Ever drive the scary three-lane road? The middle lane is used for “left turn only,” but we all use it to get a jump out of the side street and merge. I’ve got no problem with that. I do it too. Only I drive slowly, turn on my signal and merge when safe.

They lady in the big white van hadn’t read the third-lane rule. She paced me, MPH for MPH (KPH for any Canadians reading this) until we reached the speed limit. Ignoring the 8-car-length gap behind me, she proceeded to pass me, after she drove 3/4 mile in the “left-turn-only lane” and wedge herself in between me and the braking car in front. Thanks for the signal as you hit your brakes.

The best part of the day? The fog was quite lovely when I took the dog out and the evening quite pleasant after I got the mail. Everything in between blew chunks.