Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I Hate Michigan Lefts

So, when my power went out it was sweltering here in Sausland. The temperature had shot up overnight. And with no electricity there was no hope of any fan or air conditioning. The only way I had to beat the heat was a nice cold shower. But I can only take so many of those.

Since I was headed that way for a relatives birthday anyway, and my diet has been depressingly free of passive aggressiveness lately, I decided to cut out early and head towards the old homestead and spend some time at my mother's house. She still lives near where I grew up. Right near downtown Detroit, in the first ring of suburbs. Real nice neighborhood although it's one that's graying rapidly – not quite as many kids running around as I remember when I was growing up, anyway.

While there I encountered something really annoying – the dreaded Michigan left. It's something that's fairly common in my home state but doesn't seem to have caught on much anywhere else. Still the basic idea is that in any street with a median, you can cut a U-turn that drivers can use to turn from going one way to the other. And that can be used to replace the left turn at an intersection. There's apparently all sorts of reasons both to and not to do that sort of thing.

But I'm not really interested. What I am interested in is how they've torn up the streets near my mother's. Replacing what were two-way cut-throughs between the sidestreets along Mack Ave. with a handful of Michigan lefts. Now, instead of being able to zip right across Mack you've got to make a right turn, find the nearest U-turn and then drive back to whatever street you were at to get wherever you were going. It's a hassle. And, apparently, they've been tearing up Mack for months to do so.

Now, this wouldn't be such a big problem but the thing is, you have have to take those sidestreets to get to my mother's. She lives on another ubiquitous feature of the Pointes recognizable by the hefty tree of streetsigns hanging on a corner – a street hidden from the main arteries by a twisty, turny maze of streets, culdesaqs, and deadends. Seriously, some streets have as many as ten names hanging on the post to signify just how many places you can get to by heading down that road and making the right turns. Coming from any direction, to get to the street you either have to cut across those sidestreets or you have to go out of your way to Vernier, the main intersection with Mack in the area, or Jefferson, the main road that runs parallel to Mack. It's out of the way to begin with and the path to get there just got a few more kinks in it.

Now, I can see why the city might have made such a change because the people living on those sidestreets, especially the ones between Kelly and Mack have never been happy with the traffic volume traveling through them. I'm not the only one to find them a convenient shortcut (South of Vernier, too, but those don't have many M-lefts yet.). The worst one is Brys and that's because, getting off the I-94 freeway headed East towards downtown (which is actually South, which is yet another quirk of the area, but if you stay on, eventually, you start heading for Chicago.) you don't exit where you can enter the freeway down off of Vernier. No, you exit on old 8-mile. Which a lot of people think is Vernier, but it's not because of the mile road system I'm not even going to get into (Though if you go far enough west on Vernier you will merge into the infamous 8-Mile.). No, you get off right on Brys. And you can cut through that sidestreet, past a wicked dog leg, and across Mack to get to my mother's house (And to every other house on the side of Mack towards the river.). Or you could. The residents on that street have been complaining about it for years, of course. Because not only do you get the traffic racing off the highway – and this is Michigan we're talking about so people are shifting from a speed of “whatever the fuck I feel like” (70, 80+ usually, if you've got someplace to go.) to the residential 25mph at all hours of the night. You've also got that dog leg which involves snapping your car around and can't be taken at anything over 10mph without skidding off or tipping over. Centrifugal force is nature's sobriety test. I say those people should have known what their realtors were getting them into but, you know, I can see why they wouldn't like the circumstances. It does lead to some sights, however, like the crotchety old woman who parks along the side of the road – opposite side parking, of course – by her house and props up her trunk with a sign saying “SLOW DOWN PLEASE!”.

And once you get past there you have to dash across both flows of traffic on Mack, which is a busy street depending on the time of day. The accident rate there is significantly higher than other places along the road.

Still, I have no doubt this is some nefarious scheme to reduce traffic on those streets rather than something to do with increasing safety the way the literature they sent to my mother says. And I'm going to grumble about it every time I have to go that fraction of a mile out of my way to make that damn Michigan left.

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