Smart Scale Funded Projects in the West Piedmont Planning District

Last week’s blog was about Smart Scale applications submitted in 2018, which have been recommended for funding.  This week’s blog will cover those Smart Scale projects within the West Piedmont Planning District which have been funded during past rounds and are currently scheduled for funding via the State’s Six Year Improvement Program.  As noted last week, Smart Scale is a relatively recent data-driven funding mechanism which ranks projects based on factors including safety, economic development, accessibility, congestion mitigation, and environmental impact; land use is another more

Don’t be Nice, Be Predictable

Talk to any cyclist or cycling advocate about safety and you’re bound to hear the word predictable, as in, “Cyclists are safest when they are predictable and behave like any other vehicle on the road.”  This is true, but so is the reverse:  the road in general is safest when drivers behave predictably as well.

In my case, this is particularly true as a pedestrian.  Specifically:  in the mornings, I walk my daughter the block or so down to her elementary school.  The streets around that block are crowded with a combination of morning commuters, parents dropping their kids off at school, and (a satisfying number of) parents walking their kids to school.  I cross one of the main thoroughfares that cut through the neighborhood – still a two-lane road, but just wide enough with few enough stop signs that cars tend to zip down the street pretty fast as they head to, from, or past the school.

Increasingly, while my daughter and I have waited to cross the street at the end of my block, I’ve had cars stop at the intersection (which does not have a crosswalk or a stop sign) to kindly wave me across.  Most of the time, I can’t actually see the driver doing this past the glare on the windshield.  Since it’s a school zone, I’m also not sure if I’m being waved across or if a kid is about to jump out a side door.  In the meantime, cars coming from the other direction aren’t necessarily stopping, nor are the vehicles turning onto the street from side streets, none of whom may even have seen the first driver pause to let me cross, or have even noticed me yet.  In the meantime, other cars start to back up behind the first.  I’m not sure if these even have a view of me, and I have seen many occasions where impatient drivers decide to whip around vehicles that are stopped for no apparent reason, which makes me hesitant to take the invitation to step into the street.  Since there’s no crosswalk on the street or pedestrian signs along the side of the road, it’s not clear how many of the cars at the intersection might be looking out for me if I make a run to the other side.

The effect is a few heartbeats of complete confusion on the part of almost everyone at the intersection as we’re all waiting to figure out what to do next.  Add into the mix that the majority of these cars are giant SUVs (a topic for another time and, probably, another blog), and there are multiple visibility and predictability issues at play all working to make the situation completely unsafe.

I understand the driver is trying to be polite.  I appreciate it.  But because they’re behaving unpredictably, there is confusion, and therefore danger.  Do I take advantage of the moment to cross, risking that other drivers – who are only following the rules – may not be looking for me?  Do I wait while cars back up and the polite driver gets increasingly annoyed at my inaction?  Do I wave the driver on with a smile?  Or do I start talking to my daughter and pretend I didn’t notice any of this happening until the next break in traffic?

In this case, behaving predictably is a lot more appreciated, and a lot safer, than being nice.  As long as we’re all following the rules, we know what to expect.