One of these days I’ll get mineBy Steve Estes
We are back into early-arrival snowbird season. Welcome back. We’re glad you’re here.
Of course, you could have left the cold weather where you found it and not brought it down to us, but thanks anyway for being here.
But if this piece is about any of you, take heart.
It has been several years since the Florida Department of Transportation completed the road widening project through Big Pine Key, and just a couple of years since the Overseas Heritage Trail completed the majority of bike lanes on Big Pine Key.
Both were needed improvements.
But I’ve never been a big fan of the scrambled egg lane now running through the middle of our island nearly the full length of the business district.
A turn lane that serves both southbound and northbound traffic has always, to me, been a recipe for disaster.
Even if you rule out the folks who start the left hand turn 500 yards in advance of the actual turn and force cars to duck into and out of the lane for their own turns on a regular basis, you still have to account for the folks who forget about the left-hand turn until the last possible second. They jump into the lane, sometimes partially obstructing the travel lane, and then wait long, long, long seconds to make their turn.
But even that doesn’t bug me near as bad as the folks who use the turn lanes for an acceleration lane to get into traffic.
We’ve all seen those folks. They whip out of a side street or business driveway, can’t make it all the way across due to oncoming traffic, so they take up residence in the scrambled egg lane and accelerate to the speed of traffic and merge in that way.
It’s a smart move most of the time, but then there are the other times when someone else actually needs to use that lane for a proper left-hand turn.
That’s when it gets interesting.
So I have decided to take the matter into my own hands.
Of late I have taken to watching for these acceleration junkies. They’re easy to spot. They jackrabbit out from the side street or driveway, slam on the brakes, sit in the lane for a second or two and then hit the gas pedal trying to line themselves up with that tiny opening in traffic they see in the rearview mirror a few hundred yards behind them.
I hate left-hand turns during any portion of snowbird season. I try and line up my errands or sales calls to travel northbound from our office in the old Marshall Building to the end of town, make one left-hand turn into the access road and return to all the southbound stops, making the final left-hand turn somewhere around the post office, usually through a parking lot on the northbound side, and hit those I might have missed from there back to the office. That puts me only once in the position to have to cross three lanes, or four, of traffic to get back into the southernmost northbound lane to hit the turn to the office.
But then I spot the accelerator junkies.
So I give up on my own route, toss on the left turn signal and pull into the scrambled egg lane so the acceleration junkie can’t use that lane as his personal runway to get up to speed.
Somehow that seems fair to me.
A few days ago, I cut off a Wisconsin pick up truck using the turn lane for acceleration. I wasn’t paying much attention to where I was on the road at the time. In fact I didn’t even look at where I was until the guy gave me the spread-arm motion as if to say, “What are you doing?”
Then I realized that any left hand turn I made from that point would wind up with me driving into an empty lot full of trees.
I was caught just being a butt head, and I know it, but that didn’t alleviate my need to be a butt head.
I was in no hurry to jump back into the travel lane, so I just sat there with my signal on and gave him the next move.
I could see the wheels turning behind his eyes. Should he jump back into traffic and hope the oncoming cars would slow? Should he go ahead and accelerate and just dare me to stay put? Whose fault would it be if he smashed into me?
I didn’t know the answer to the latter question. But I was sure neither of us wanted to find out.
But this time, I must admit, I put myself in a hole.
He got an opening, jammed on the gas pedal and made it out into traffic as a nice motorist hit the brakes to let him in. I was stuck. I had to wait another long minute for another break in traffic so I could accelerate myself into traffic headed in the proper direction.
Did this teach me a lesson?
I’m sure I’ll do it again.