As that noted traffic engineer Jimi Hendrix used to say: “You’re just like crosstown traffic/So hard to get through to you/Crosstown traffic/I don’t need to run over you.”
As spring days turn lovelier in Sacramento, there are a few unlovely corollary events having to do with traffic flow. As Caltrans prepares to complicate our lives by, um, improving the W-X freeway, we felt it important to go over a few basic rules. Too often, the streets of Sacramento can resemble downtown Rome, filled with selfish drivers in too much of a rush, and cyclists pedaling to their own drummers, generally with earbuds firmly implanted to make sure they are oblivious to oncoming cars.
It’s not quite chaos. But it can get downright dangerous out there. Consider these easily observable events:
• Any given intersection is a T-bone free-fire zone. Drivers nervously crawl through, heads spinning like Linda Blair’s in “The Exorcist” to make sure they won’t get pasted, while offending motorists blithely cruise through stoplights. Stop signs and lights are not pleasantly phrased suggestions, loose guidelines, or crimson-accent street art.
• Helmetless, unlighted cyclists wearing colors suitable for night guerrilla ops weave in and out of traffic, often going the wrong way, or perpendicular to car flow, viewing bike lines as the mad doodlings of urban planners with too many master’s degrees. Many drivers similarly are discourteous toward the rare cyclists who do obey rules of the road. Bikers are not pylons.
• One trepidatious foot stuck in a crosswalk runs at least a chance of not belonging to you, as cars blast through marked crosswalks. Remember your driver’s ed. Pedestrians have the right of way. Always. Even if you don’t like it. As for pedestrians who ignore the reality that cars are aiming for them, they ought to remember they could use that foot the next time they get in their cars and put the pedal to the metal, no doubt blasting through a crosswalk.
• Motorists evidently see the flashing lights and sirens of squad cars and fire engines as some cool laser light and sound show. We’ve seen cops try to pull people over to the side and feel like we’ve stumbled into a 1994 VHS tape of the O.J. Simpson white Bronco police chase. Pull over, please, before things turn ugly.
We dislike the nanny state as much as the next person. But traffic rules are useful tools to make sure we don’t get mangled and killed as we make it home to our families, or, as Jimi might say, we got better things on the other side of town. If we all observe the traffic laws, we can get there without tire tracks across our backs.
Now, s’cuse us while we skim the DMV manual.