Slaves to the Traffic Light

I did it again this morning: pointless stop lighting. You know what I mean, sitting at a stoplight from which you can see all intersecting points for hundreds of feet and there is no one coming from either direction and no one to use the lights that are now green. But you have to wait. I want to run them secretly and stealthily, yet I can’t. We are all bound to this same fate: slaves to the whims of the intersection engineers.

The word almost sends shivers down my mental spine: stop…lights. Stopping and lighting. More like stopping and heavying, for I feel heavy every now and then when I move block-to-block, stopping and starting, over and over again. Getting nowhere in a hurry is the phrase brought to mind. Not to mention the gas we are all losing, and the money everyone’s wasting, due to these poorly designed machines for the modern age.

You know what hit me recently? Square in the face it nailed me: stoplights cost money…all the time. Twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year, these things are running, costing our tax money, whether anyone is there or not. I wonder if anyone has calculated the power used by all the stoplights in the country and the related coal burned to generate electricity for them? If you do not already know this, coal ain’t pretty folks. It is a seriously nasty way to produce energy.

Now in no way am I knocking the incredible invention of 1923 by Garrett Augustus Morgan of Cleveland, Ohio. Traffic lights have saved countless lives and offered a safe way to move about a congested area, whether walking, driving or riding. What I am saying is that it was a great creation in 1923, not 2009. Can we not choose to build something better now, instead of re-creating the inadequacies of the past?

Instead, take the roundabout, or traffic circle, at Western’s entrance off highway 107-now that is a well functioning traffic-tool. Rarely am I forced to stop, usually just coasting into the roundabout and then accelerating out of it. I love it! We need more of them around campus, don’t you think? Personally I would like one at every intersection, but especially at the back entrance off Old Cullowhee. What a fantastic invention the roundabout is, and I imagine equally as safe as the trusty stoplight.

Why can’t we have more and more roundabouts built instead of new stoplights? They have to be cheaper to construct, and the traffic circle uses no electricity. I can hear the jingle for it now: “Power out folks? Forget about it! You’ve still got a functioning intersection with the 21st century modern roundabout!”

Of course the roundabout is also a 20th century invention. The first one was built in 1901 in France, and according to the BBC the first “recognizable modern roundabout” was New York’s Columbus Circle. So we have claim to both roundabouts and traffic lights as Americans, yet for some reason we were forced into only one option. This began our enslavement by the stoplights, and now it continues every time I drive, or rather, stop.

Maybe what we need is a referendum on the ballot next voting day. This would allow us as a people to decide how the next crossroads will function, instead of some bureaucrat in a square, white hole in some other place, who will never see the area. Maybe I am the only one who is interested in having more of them and less hanging-energy-hogs, but maybe not. What do you think?