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Circular Logic



All right Richmond, let's talk traffic circles.

Without intending to insult, I can't help pondering how it is so many Richmonders managed to secure driver's licenses despite their debilitating lack of common sense when it comes to slight departures from the norm.

Take traffic circles, for example.

Even the trumpet heraldry from a chorus of car horns failed to enlighten the two live specimens of brain death who took it on themselves to clog the intersection during a recent morning rush hour at the intersection of Boulevard and Laburnum.

Who am I to criticize, you may ask?

Some of you may grind your teeth remembering me as the original "Street Beat" guy, the former traffic columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. That was years ago, in the days when most Richmond streets were unpaved -- and when I thought I was funny. Then there was my stint playing the role of Tracy Lynn, NBC12 traffic babe. Or at least that's what people thought.

But what disturbs me even more than being mistaken for a perky blonde is Richmond's apparent inability to wrap its mind around traffic circles. Please understand — I'm not talking about roundabouts. Richmond has only two of these, and my gripe regarding this other traffic headache I'll save for another day.

Traffic circles are something Richmonders have dealt with for years — ever since our forefathers began plopping down idol-worship statues of the Civil War's losing top brass. Take, for instance, Gen. A.P. Hill, once brave protector of Richmond, now relegated to disrupting the natural traffic pattern at Boulevard and Laburnum.

The problem is this: Drivers turning left in a traffic circle controlled by a traffic light simply can't grasp that this traffic pattern is identical to any intersection where they are permitted to make their turn on the same green light that allows them to enter the intersection in the first place — and to ignore the red light that's supposed to keep cross traffic from T-boning them.

In other words, what right-minded traffic planner would want cars turning left to wait for the opposing light to turn green before completing their turn?

Let's look at this another way. Let's pretend Mr. Hill hadn't been buried at this major intersection by his admiring troops lo those many years ago. Let's pretend this was simply a four-way intersection controlled by a stoplight.

Would drivers turning left stop in the intersection? The hope would be only if they're waiting for oncoming traffic to clear. But they sure wouldn't wait for a green light for the cross traffic before moving their bumpers.

And drivers attempting to fill the void left by A.P. Hill's absence likely would learn quickly from the cacophony of car horns blasting at them both from stalled traffic behind them and from stalled oncoming traffic. Fewer of them might need the hard lesson of 2,000 pounds of oncoming sheet metal, plastic and squealing rubber connecting with their passenger-side door.

Either way, they'd learn right quick. S

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