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The Villages
Thursday, July 29, 2021

Traffic control

Barry Evans
Barry Evans

I saw a photo of Rebun Island.  It is a visually pleasing island with some mountains as well as a nice shore line.  Oh, it belongs to Japan and is so far north that it is close to Russian islands.  However, what I like best about it is that there do not appear to be any traffic lights. I looked very carefully and did not see a one.  True, I had a hard time finding any roads, but I am certain that there are at least two roads there that intersect.  Intersections are the biggest cause of traffic jams around according to the latest studies.  OK, I do not know who did the studies, but it doesn’t make any difference.  We all read enough in the media to know that studies are proving all sorts of things.  The one that may be listed in an article is naturally the one that proves the writer’s points.  If you question this, just read any political commentary.

It is intersections that lead to the invention of one of the most damnable objects around – namely the traffic light.  Before there were many cars people would go through an intersection without a thought in the world.  If they did think about it, they might look at least one way and if they saw another car coming, they would speed up to get through the intersection.  Naturally, the other car did too, which led to a few unfortunate occurrences.  This had the even more unfortunate event of bringing government into the matter.  Governments just can not live without coming up with a solution to everything.  This despite the fact that in upstate Pennsylvania there was an elected official who ran his county and whose name was Homer Stop.  He put up signs at intersections with his last name on them.  People knew Homer so when they saw his last name on signs, they would stop to look at them.  They soon found that so doing prevented crashes from cars speeding through intersections – and all was good.

Unfortunately, an elected official from a large city in New York saw the signs, thought it was a good idea and had them installed in his city.  The folks there did not know Homer Stop so they just figured the signs were an advertisement for a new beer.  Consequently, they didn’t stop and the carnage increased despite notices as to what the signs meant.  This went on for a number of years throughout the country (except in Stop’s county until he got run over by a runaway Amish cart and people forgot who he was).  Thus, governments decided that something must be done.  They formed an Inter-City Committee which naturally delayed a solution by at least a year.  Luckily, they had a young lad bring them coffee every morning.  He got tired of listening to them, so one day he said, “Why don’t you just install posts with lamps on top in three different colors.  One could mean go, one caution and one stop”.  The committee members thought that was a great idea.  They tipped the lad a dime and decided to call a press conference.

Actually, they didn’t call it right away as they had arguments about what color the lenses should be.  It ended up with half wanting red for go and half wanting green.  They couldn’t come to a majority so they called the lad back in and asked him.  He said green for go, yellow for caution (the committee had wanted blue) and red for stop.  They gave him a 15-cent tip and called their press conference.

All the committee members posed for photos, received praise from their constituents and were re-elected.  Of course, once folks started being stopped by congestion caused by the traffic lights, they threw the bums out of office.  However, by then it was too late and traffic lights had become the norm.  It is amazing what can be become the norm when governments get involved.

I might ask considering the above if anyone can explain to me why the traffic engineers in Sumter County are so left-turn oriented. The lights at Morse and 466 are great examples of left turns being prioritized over straight head traffic which is where the majority of traffic goes. That doesn’t count making traffic headed north on Morse being stopped at San Marino for a significant period even though there is no traffic to turn left in front of them.

I wonder what Homer Stop would think?

Barry Evans writes about “Life in The Villages” for Villages-News.com.

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