Monday, June 18, 2007

My Mom Hates Michigan Lefts, Too

If you'll recall, the other day I railed against the indignity of the Michigan Left. Especially the ones that were newly installed by my mother's house. I don't actually mind them on busy roads as they make turning around or making a left turn into traffic much easier. But on smaller roads they're a lot more trouble than they're worth.

I realize, though, that this kind of turn is a peculiar institution of Michigan that folks from elsewhere might not have ever encountered. Here's a picture from the Wikipedia Commons:

If for some reason you're unable to view pictures, imagine a two way street. You have lanes going in both directions. Now picture between those two lanes that instead of a lane to make turns you have a median which, in the metro area, tend to be landscaped islands of green in the concrete seas. This, effectively, separates the traffic into two one-way streets, one going one direction, the other headed the opposite way. In order to turn from one direction to the other, you need to make a U-turn and to that end, channels are cut into the medians. Typically, these are small two-lane avenues that allow cars from both directions to enter and either head straight down a side-street or turn left and into the opposite traffic lane. For a Michigan Left, what you do is, first, to remove the ability to turn left at an intersection, then you convert these avenues from two-way lanes into something like a freeway ramp. The road curves gently into the media and the makes a sharp, curling channel allowing cars to make a turn without having to slow down in the middle of traffic. The key thing to remember is that everything is one-way. Cars coming from the opposite direction have their own turnaround to use somewhere in the distance behind you so there's no conflict for turning around and traffic is unimpeded except for stoplights. No two lanes abutting anywhere. Just straight, open, one-directional traffic.

Okay, got that?

Anyhow, I was talking to my mother today trying to see if she could pick up some Tigers tickets for me and she reported that the other day, when she was driving across the street and attempting to use the M-lefts I mentioned, she encountered the following: She was driving along minding her own business in the left hand lane and pulled in to the turnaround so she could get to a sidestreet. Just as she was starting to round the curve, a confused woman in what my mother described as “her damn tank car” (Which, uh, means a hummer or something my mother considers ridiculously oversized) roars in from the opposite direction to use the wrong turnaround to make a left. Going the wrong way down what's basically a short, curvy one-way street.

Which, when I saw those Michigan Lefts is a pretty good accomplishment since they were pretty well barricaded off by construction barrels to make a left turn into the wrong one more than a little difficult. You only get a very small angle on it. Plus the road is still chewed up since they're repaving the concrete – the turnaround lanes were the first poured and they're a good foot or so higher than the surrounding road, only a steep ashvault ramp lets you get up to them. But I guess this woman was so used to doing things the old way when those cutouts were two-way lanes that she felt she had, too.

She and my mother stared at each other incredulously as their bumpers were nearly touching until they managed to jockey around and get past each other. This being Grosse Pointe, the lanes of the turnaround are wide and spacious. So there was more than enough room for the two cars to be side to side and it wasn't like anything happened to either car. But, still, had to have been a hell of a sight. And, something tells me not exactly the only time something like that's going to happen.

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