Thursday, February 14, 2008

Who controls the intersection?

My commuting route passes through several pedestrian/cyclist controlled intersections. These are the intersections with flashing green traffic lights that confuse visitors from Ontario. I grew up in Ontario, and whoah the flashing green light means something completely different there.

If there is no traffic then I just go across without pressing the button, of course. And if there is traffic, but I can see that there will be a chance to cross within half a minute or so, I'll wait and scoot across. Unless I am in a particularly bad mood I see no reason to unnecessarily bring four lanes of car traffic to an idling stop.

The usual situation though is that there is lots of car traffic (I am commuting during rush hour after all) and any gaps that exist are frustratingly arranged so that it is impossible to scoot. What to do? I think most people would just press the button immediately. But I have developed a more discerning system. Some would call it discriminatory; to them I nod in agreement.

If I see a particular type of vehicle approaching the intersection, I will let it pass through before pressing the button. Conversely, if I see another particular type of vehicle approaching the intersection, I will madly press the button as fast as I can to force it to stop so that I can sloooooooooowly roll across in front of it, scratching my backside as I go.

Here is a short list of the vehicles in each category:

Vehicles which I will let pass through before pressing the button:

  • Fire trucks
  • Ambulances
  • Buses and community shuttles
  • Taxis with passengers
  • Co-op cars (although this is purely theoretical, since it is difficult to identify co-op cars from any distance)
  • Food delivery or courier vehicles
Vehicles which simply must be inconvenienced at every opportunity:
  • SUVs of any kind
  • Pick-up trucks that are very shiny and clean and obviously are not working trucks
  • Mini-vans
  • Police cars (unless the sirens and lights are going, of course)
  • Zip-cars (these are hard to spot, too)
  • Any vehicle whose driver my telepathic powers tell me is an a**hole
  • Basically any vehicle which is not in the list of vehicles that I let through
Also, if I know there is a cyclist half a minute or so behind me, I will wait until he or she is near the intersection before pressing the button, so that he or she will not suffer the frustration of racing toward a stale green light and having to stop.

There are two ways that my attempts to inconvenience particular subsets of vehicles can be thwarted:

  • The light does not turn yellow immediately after I press the button, thus letting through the vehicles I have selected for time-out. There is nothing to be done in this situation but watch those arseholes cruise through. Pressing the button is merely a suggestion to the electronic brain that controls the traffic lights; if the lights were red a short while ago then the timing mechanism will make you wait.
  • The light turns yellow right after I press the button, but everybody just runs the yellow light, then more people run the red light. Running red lights is routine in Vancouver. If I'm in the right mood I'll roll slightly into the intersection and spit, trying to time it so that they'll drive right into it and it'll splatter on the windshield. Juvenile, I know, but any reasonable person must agree that there has got to be some kind of consequence to running red lights, right?
So the answer to the question that is the title of this post (Who controls the intersection?) is: I control the intersection. And if you defy my will I shall spit on your car.

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Blogger Chris said...

Glad to hear I'm not the only one who spits on cars that piss me off. Sometimes, if I'm in a bad mood biking to work, I'll spit on parked SUVs too.

13 March, 2008 13:38  
Blogger sgt.turmeric said...

Heck yeah, parked cars are acceptable targets.

I consider spitting to be a form of emissions. I am trying to reduce my emissions -- I even have aspirational reduction targets.

14 March, 2008 16:19  

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