Friday, August 18, 2017

I'll Take My Chances: Dyin' To Cross the Street In Palm Springs


Gives new meaning to "In a hurry."
Two miles from where I live

I moved to Palm Springs in January of 2016. A friend had me visit several times before I made that decision. I came on MetroLink to San Bernardino and he would pick me up and drive back to Palm Springs. I didn't get my truck back until December of 2015 and I made several trips here, first to look at a condo rental and then, a month later to move here.
    Let me say, first off, I have enjoyed living here. I have new friends, can be involved as much or as little as I want, and heat aside, love the ambiance and activities that seem now to be non-stop year around. What I don't like is the terrible driving from the multitudes ... residents and tourists. Too many seem to be learning drivers.
    Of course I arrived at the height of the snowbird season and noticed that the driving was, how can I be politically correct here, "different." Those that came from the arctic would often be more numerous that the locals. Oregon, Washington, Ontario and British Columbia, Canada, New York, Maine, even Alaska ... the grey haired set driving often too big and too powerful cars. And their driving was atrocious. Maybe the worst I have ever seen and I have been in 28 countries.
   My dog likes to eat early, 4 am, and we often walk early right after breakfast that on a good day takes 60 seconds. So we walk usually in the dark. Even at that hour, more often than not, I see the tell tale lights of a police light bar somewhere on our walk. Driving during the day, I see more accidents in a month than I saw in years in the San Gabriel Valley.
    My truck was stolen in the complex where I live. It was the perfect gardeners truck. Even at 13 years old, it only had 113,000 miles on it, 5.3 liter V-8 and built in tow hitch. When the policeman came to take the report he asked if I had left my keys in it. No, they were clearly hanging by the front door. Was it unlocked? No, it was a reflex to lock the door as I left. When I described it he noted that I probably would never see it again ... and I haven't.
     This could have been me. Car pulling into you, losing

     control and spinning off the freeway!
    I searched far and wide to find a replacement. I ended up buying my Mazda CX-5 in Temecula as in the Coachella Valley, dealers seem to think MSRP is the discounted price. It isn't. It is so red it nearly blinds you in the parking lot. Coming home after picking it up, just as I pulled astride the Morongo Casino on the freeway, a little old lady in the fast lane pulled in front of me. I found out the brakes were excellent and slamming on them and the horn missed her by inches. She never looked back and drove sedately on. I was stunned. I moved over to the slowest lane and passed her from there and got away from her as fast as I could. She couldn't see a red car ... really? She did have to look of course. She didn't.
    A few days later as I was heading to Ramon Road I passed the strip mall with a grocery store, pharmacy and assorted shops. As I was passing the driveway an old man in a huge old Cadillac pulled out of the driveway (he had a red light) missing me again by inches. Again ... you can't see a RED car? He never looked and never slowed down. He was peering between the dashboard and the steering wheel. I admired his Alberta, Canada plates.
    Yesterday, coming back from a meeting, as I was starting to cross the intersection in front of the airport on a green light, a car that started to turn right, suddenly swung left across 4 lanes of traffic right in front of me. We all sat still, he was gone before we could even honk or move! What made it worse was there was a cop there and he didn't do a thing. So much for traffic enforcement.
Need a push? 
    This Coachella Valley has accidents, serious accidents daily. Every night on the news you see one, two, three, some days the ones I have seen driving about. Why? I don't know. We have a large number of tourists. Maybe they get lost. But cutting across a missed turn is not a solution. This isn't Los Angeles where it is impossible to turn around. Use your cars GPS, your cell phone. I do. My cars navigation is impossible so Siri guides me to new places amazingly well.
    There are also daily accidents along the I-10 freeway that crosses our valley. Many are spectacular in fact. A commission to study this last year so far hasn't seemed to come up with any explanation except the wind. However, just as many accidents occur on normal days. Why? No one seems to know. Going too fast, highway hypnosis or?
You win some, you lose some.
   Motorcycle accidents are also a common sight. You really don't see them until they are alongside or whoosh by you! Don't get me started on the State of California allowing motorcycles to ride the white line on streets and freeways. You see them weaving around cars trying to avoid rearview mirrors going at speeds a car would be ticketed for. I don't know what the statistics here are but I remember seeing a freeway sign in Memphis years ago that in April already had 39 motorcycle fatalities. They urged drivers to be careful. What about the motorcyclists?
    Many of these valley street accidents are caused, I'm convinced, by the impossibly long signal lights. I have waited 4 minutes, once 5 minutes to cross a major street. Everyone knows this and so, they literally take their chances. I have seen cars a mile away make a turn signal while all four lanes wait and the traffic builds up blocks long. They are so long in fact I have seen drivers fall asleep at the wheel. Getting honked at get's them out of their reverie. More often they are looking at their phones texting or ? and the light is green and they are distracted lost in the cellar world ... maybe placing that last order on Amazon. It's that bad.
    Years ago, as the digital age was happening, there was a fear telephone lines couldn't handle this increasingly volume. An article in the paper pointed out that AT&T and then GTE had learned to send everything in packets. We don't realize it but all signals were packaged in blocks of signals and that allowed much more information to be sent without adding new ones. Of course there came a time when they reached their limits. Fiber optics arrived allowing for thousands of times more volume but the same kind of packet made it easy to send ... just more at a time.
Making, or in this case, NOT making the light. This happens too often.
    What definitely needs to happen is a study of signal lights in the valley. Too many times you wait for the signal to change and there is no opposing traffic. Many other cities in the nation, led by Milan, Italy back I believe in the 1970's, have replaced their standard signals with "smart" signals that measure the traffic flow, changing lights according to what is actually driving on the streets. In the first year, in I'm sure in the analog age, traffic flow improved 20%!
    Side streets here they seem to have mastered, except downtown for the walkers. A car pulls up and instantly the light changes ... no accounting for the rhythm of the main thoroughfare. For a small town, it seems there is always someone wanting to cross on these side streets. So traffic bunches up. So while it says you can go 45 or 50 m.p.h. you really can't. There is always a car waiting on an instant signal side street.
    Again, it is design. We can design streets to flow traffic better or we cannot. Maybe, just maybe self-driving cars will finally do what traffic engineers today can't. Make the traffic flow. Hopefully they will also make driving safer no matter how old you are or what you are doing on your phone. It's going to happen and if what I read is any indication, sooner, far sooner, than any of us realize. In fact you may not even own a car at all!

P. S. August 23, 2017

In the space of three minutes this morning I witnessed 3 near misses going to the clinic:
  •  The first near accident was a car turning right into the airport, stops and suddenly veers left across 6 lanes of the traffic in the intersection crossing green light traffic. California driver.
  • Next, one block further, a pickup trucks turns left in front of a fire truck sirens blaring and lights flashing. Again, California driver
  • Last, a car coming out of the airport pulls in front of a car crossing the intersection who had a green light. Could have been a rental car. Still, no excuse to run a red light into incoming traffic.
P.S. August 25, 2017
  • On Baristo Road, at the corner of Compadre Road, at 7:30 this morning, a woman driving a Tahoe SUV, did a California stop and then pulled in front of an oncoming car barely making her turn. My dog and I were a second away from being collateral damage from that crash.

My advice to visitors? Be careful, VERY careful when you visit and drive in Palm Springs. They are out there and care nothing for you. The pictures I've shown are a daily occurrence on the local news.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!

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