Monday, September 30, 2013

Small City Big Traffic Changes

Tomorrow's the day many have feared for months.  "It will never work" they said.  Others add "It will slow down the system."  Most worry about their neighbors "They will never figure it out, there isn't enough information."  Despite the months of preparation, the signs and public information and the small changes that have occurred to get us ready for this date, people still are not prepared for the change.  Yet tomorrow, October 1st, 2013 the change comes.  No, I'm not talking about "Obamacare." What we have here is far more serious than that.  Tomorrow, our Small City with a Big Heart becomes a Small City with 2 Way Streets. 

This post started as a pep talk to my fellow Amsterdamians.  Around here we tend to think we can't until we do and then we still aren't sure if we can. But driving around town the other day I realized we manage to get around town safely against all odds.  If a person can zoom across Church Street from Widow Susan to Clizbe Ave  at rush hour and not share the same fate as Susan's husband, then surely a change to a two way traffic system in the center of town shouldn't be a problem.  If one of the safest intersections in the city contains 5 corners, 6 entrances and 4 stop signs and 2 gas stations then I know we Amsterdamians can follow the signs, traffic signals and road paint in the area formerly known as "downtown."  

In fact, here in Amsterdam we have a traffic patterns only locals can understand.   And the problem with that is we want more than locals on our roads.  There are driving laws and then there are what I'd like to call Amsterdam's "Driving Mores" that are passed down from our grandparents to our parents to us.  Or from our High School Gym/Drivers Ed Teacher if you are transplant.  The best example I can think of has to with the fact that here in Amsterdam, you can walk up hill to school both ways.

Traffic More #1 - When it comes to hills, all bets are off. 
Take Locust Ave and Lyon St.  This harmless 4 way intersection has a traffic light during nice weather, but once winter comes and cars need a running start up Lyon Street hill, the light turns to a 3 way red and 1 way yellow blinking light.  There is no sign that depicts this, no mass facebook message or public alert.  But everyone who lives around there just "knows." Just like they "know" Kreisel Terrace hill is closed in winter and that the seemingly pointless stop signs on Major Lane (between Northampton and Brandt on your way to the Middle School) will in fact keep you from getting T-Boned by the cars that need a running start in the best of weather to get up those hills.

Traffic More #2 - No matter how long you've lived here, you will get lost in your own town.
When I moved to Rockton, it was like a whole new world.  I searched for the Rockton Y for a while until I found out it was not a building but an intersection.  I am still not sure how to tell an out of town friend how to get through it and still stay on Clizbe, I usually just ask them to describe their surroundings when they call completely lost.  Then there is the fact that you cannot enter and leave the South Side in the same spot and still get back from where you came. At best, you'll  have to turn around at the Amsterdam Recorder, at worse, you'll end up on the Thruway.

Traffic More #3 - Things just don't make logical sense.
The Golf Course is not on Golf Course Road and you can't get to The Mall by taking The Mall.  But you can drive through the Tecler Elementary School Parking lot to get to Hagaman and St. John Street does cut through a Church Parking Lot, but that church is not called St. John's but Mt Carmel, and if its Sunday, watch out for old people.  

So yes, we understand traffic a little differently here in Amsterdam. Many of our rules are not set in stone, just passed down through stories or trial and error.  But we can survive and even thrive during this traffic change.  We know more about state traffic laws than we give ourselves credit for.  After all, how many out-of-towners would confidently turn left on red from a one way to a one way right in front of a police station? On October 1st and beyond I challenge you to leave a little earlier, be a little more patient and drive a bit more defensively.  Show those two way streets whose boss and make these changes.  And if all else fails, listen to the advice of your Gym/Driver's Ed Teachers Mr. Mee and Ms. Nev: always leave yourself an out and stay out of the no zone.  

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