Tuesday, September 22, 2009

If the Roadway Were Designed Like a Bike Lane

Once upon a time, the Merchants of Ennis complained
that their revenue would not be sustained.
The speeding cars wouldn't come to a stop.
This was causing city commerce to flop.

"Our hamlet is small, but it would mean better pay,
if only more folks would stop and stay.
To swing to the right and parallel park,
it is hard for our customers, even when it's not dark.

"I agree"; said then Mayor, "Parallel parking's a curse."
As he watched merchants money placed in his purse.
"Angled parking is needed to bring customers down,
and bring prosperity back to our town!"

So he called together city staff and his team,
and told them about his prosperity scheme.
Our future is bright,
(My re-election is in sight!)
and this was certainly the key.
He wanted the Engineers of Ennis to "make it be".

The Engineers of Ennis set out to fulfill the wishes of the city staff;
To not do so could cut a career in half.
(If you are a traffic engineer,
this point is very clear:
Take a principled stand-
in a basement you will land.
It sounds awfully callous,
but that's how it is done in Dallas.)

Armed with tape measures and fluorescent paint,
using historical methods now thought of as quaint,
the Ernest Engineers sought out a plan to produce
parking at angles and high sales juice.
They measured the height of the curbs and the width of the street.
They wished West Ennis Avenue had a just few more feet.

"Oh, dear!", exclaimed the Engineers, "Angled parking won't work in this town,
the Customers will be in peril when they back out with traffic around.
Keeping parallel parking is what will keep their cars sound."

"We are doomed!" Shouted the Merchants of Ennis; "Our future is bleak!
Without parking lanes, the customer will stay in his home all week,
for he is afraid to parallel park on the busy West Ennis street!"

"We need more autos at angles!
It must be finagled.
When our customers don't stop
for a bite or a pop,
our books won't balance and they end up in tangles!"

So the City Fathers told the Ernest Engineers,
to make a new plan to avoid any tears.

"I know!' said one of the Ernest Engineers, who thought European ways were neat,
"We can make the portion of West Ennis Avenue that needs angled parking a two lane street."

With new inspiration held firmly in mind,
they set out to make the street a European kind.
The Engineers worked through the day and late into the night.
Alas, they still had no plan when the dawn was in sight.

"It can't be done!" Moaned one. And so it seemed.
Each plan in its turn got creamed.
For every time they moved a line, say from A to B,
another problem would pop up, over at C.

"Over to the east where the railroad tracks sit,
it is too close to downtown, I am at the end of my wit!
Try as I might I can't make it fit."

"There are rules and standards and such.
I have been trained to know that much!
They need us to start many blocks to the east
should we want to comply with State Law, at the least.
But it will cause traffic jams beyond all reason,
even when it is not high shopping season!"

"In Europe, you know", said the first; "they have more reasonable notions when it comes to parking and traffic and such. Let's just erase the right lane and let the drivers do what they want. That's how it works for the Dutch."

"We like it." Said the City Fathers. "For now we can have more autos at angles, which is a good thing.
Our Merchants of Ennis will be so happy they will sing!
(And into our campaign coffers their coin will ring!)"

The Mayor of Ennis pulled aside the chief of police the next day.
"I have a request of you, if I may?
Should a Coveted Customer the law not obey,
would you do us a favor and look away?
It is needed for prosperity, what do you say?"

"The signs will say 'merge left'," said the city DA,
"but we will be silent if drivers of autos do not obey.
Should some poor sap get his car in a wreck,
it will be his fault, his neck.
We shall say "We warned you my dear!"
and so we will always be in the clear."

And so it came to be that both parking at angles and contempt for the law came to downtown Ennis Texas.

The above tale is how I imagine the horrible traffic engineering came about in Ennis Texas. I look at its present configuration, and this is how I assume it had to come about. I have no idea as to the various people who were actually the animating forces, nor their role in it. I doubt I could find out, would you want to be associated with this?

Very few operators of vehicles are able to navigate through westbound West Ennis Avenue without making multiple violations of state traffic laws, but I have never seen them enforced. I am sure that any case brought against a traveler through there would result in a return to parallel parking, for without local knowledge of the situation, breaking the law cannot be avoided if you approach the area in the right lane.

First, between I-45 about a mile to the east, and Waxahachi, ten miles to the west, this street is a four lane boulevard, sometimes with a fifth suicide left turn only center lane. It is choked down to a two lane for these four blocks in all that way. This was done to shoe-horn angled parking into this section. Blatant lawlessness is tolerated to avoid inevitable traffic snarls if both angled parking and obedience to traffic laws were to exist at the same time.

I have blogged about an encounter I had going east through here, and I posted pictures as well. I often changed lanes across a solid white line within a few feet of railroad tracks, and I know now that I shouldn't do so. It is strongly discouraged in Texas to change lanes within 200 feet of a railroad crossing, an intersection or within an intersection. Which is why the newly formed lane begins with a solid white line. Shown here going east:

But it is really fouled up beyond all recognition in the westbound lanes. There is a short series of signaled intersections, an at grade railroad crossing and poor sight-lines caused by the terrain that make the situation unworkable- not that that made any difference!

The sign telling vehicle operators to merge left is beyond the point that they can lawfully do so. The instruction comes after one has already entered the 200 foot railroad zone. Further, the operator cannot see the single lane ahead because of the railroad tracks.

Once you cross the railroad tracks and it is clear your lane ends, you are forced to either merge across a solid wide line, merge in the intersection, or merge after you have entered the angled parking zone.

As you can see. most motorists continue on as if there were two travel lanes available. However, if a vehicle who is parked in a marked parking space edges out and hits you, it is the fault of the person in the "right lane", not the parked operator, because it is often impossible to observe folks driving on the right, as you can also see.

How could a traffic engineer sign off on such monstrosity in good conscience? It is inevitable that injury and property damage will be the result of this attractive nuisance. It seems to me that we could have any two of the three competing interests, at the detriment to the third.

Angled parking and lawful engineering and enforcement, to the detriment of high traffic flow.

Angled parking and high traffic flow at the expense of holding lawful behavior in contempt.

High traffic flow and compliance with the law, without angled parking.

Obviously, this is no big deal for the locals around here. But how is one to lawfully and safely traverse this section of the public road on a bicycle?

If the "wink wink" two lane section is supposed to really be an extra wide lane, where does the cyclist ride in light of our far-to-right laws? In the formerly right lane where parked vehicles can pull out on him? In the "left" lane, the escape route of vehicles passing him on the right?

This section of West Ennis Avenue is what all streets would look like if they were built like most bike lanes are.


  1. Unfortunately, I think Ennis fired their traffic engineers, who then went to work in Colleyville, where they designed Glade Road.

    Wouldn't Belknap or Baylor solve the problem of dealing with traffic chaos? Seems to me there's no way to really ride safely down Ennis since the rules are confused and everybody does their own thing - NOT a good situation to be in. I'm not a big fan of riding where they have angle parking even WITH a sensible road to go with it.

  2. I do want to make it clear, I have no real knowledge of how this came about, other than angled parking must be central to it's genesis. Any application of my fiction to persons who are real is equally spurious.

    Steve, Stop signs and driveways. Poorly maintained surface. I won't use Belknap or Baylor unless it is wet and I want to use the underpass under the railroad tracks.

    I normally come down East Main so traverse this portion of West Ennis Ave only occasionally. But I do it differently now than I did in the past.

  3. ...and why do you live in Ennis exactly?....

  4. To pursue my dream to be a published poet, I reckon!