Sunday, October 17, 2010

Drive You Crazy

This one goes out to all my friends who either just recently moved to the Cities or have been away so long, they will need a refresher course. How to drive in the Twin Cities. And to those of you who argue that I’m not that good a driver, I just say: Have I gotten in an accident yet?
            The biggest key to driving in the Cities, I think, is knowing when to use certain roads.  Everyone has those roads they trust all the time- whether because of a lack of traffic or lights or high throughput.  For me, one of those roads in Cedar Avenue/Highway 77.  It is one of the most underrated roads, because it is vastly overshadowed by 35W.  But it can get you to a lot of places in the southern ‘burbs that are worth going to, and faster than 35.  It has more convenient exits, such as to Crosstown, and, as I just recently realized, fantastic connection to 35E.
            For those in the northeast, the equivalent road has to be 61, which is gets a bad rap as the slower equivalent of 35E.  But in actuality, it, too, can get you where you need to go with better throughput and more frequent exits (which is to say, crossroads).  Nonetheless, it is still a highway and a rather fast one at that.
            Finally, I have to give some love to 36, or as I like to call it, 35W Eastbound.  The connection from that interstate just makes it really easy to get to any of the northeast suburbs (or further) from just about anywhere in Minneapolis.  No need to get on to 694 or travel all the way to 35E.  And most of the time it is not too busy, even during rush hour.
            The funny thing I’ve noticed about the parkways, though, is that they’ve given rise to these drivers I like to call Turtles. Turtles are the opposite of Rabbits: People who drive fast enough that you can tail at a reasonable distance because they will be the first ones pulled over. Turtles are those people that hold everything up.  The speed limit on the parkways says 25, but you can very safely meander most of it going above thirty, which is to say, Over the normal Speed Limit cushion of other roads.  Just like you can go forty over the Ford Bridge without attracting too much attention either.  But Turtles are just a symptom of the problem with the Parkways, which is that everyone on them is either going too slow or too fast.  You go thirty five and people are going to think you’re a speed demon; you go a little under thirty and you become a Turtle.  The key is to just keep it reasonable.  Know the road and drive for the conditions.
            Now it’s time to share a little secret I picked up in my Senior year AP Physics class.  Our teacher, Mr. Brown, always loved to talk about practical uses of Physics that were really interesting, but would never be on any final test.  They spiced up the class and were some of the most useful things I learned at the school.  This tidbit is probably the best, if it turns out to be true.  He was hypothesizing with another student that at intersections where there are magnetic coils under the street to influence when the traffic lights sense a car and change due to the amount of traffic, you could actually manipulate them to your advantage.  If you were to stop the car several car lengths behind the crosswalk and then move up one and stop, and repeat until the crosswalk, you could get it to change quicker because it would think there are more cars.  I have tried to test this theory (but only at night or when there is significantly less traffic).  I’m pretty sure this theory proves true, except you only have to stop once.  I still can’t prove it positively, and it definitely doesn’t work at the busiest of intersections, but it has proved useful.  Whether or not I’m imagining it, it seems I get where I’m going much faster when I employ this method.

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