NO LEFT TURN
Collier writes for the Ottawa Citizen. For more of
his articles and insights, he's on the web at http://www.rogercollier.com
congestion is the bane of urban existence. Every city suffers
from it. Every city dweller abhors it. Nobody knows what to
do about it.
smart people, and some politicians, do their best to unclog
their cities. Some enjoy moderate success. Most fail miserably.
there is a solution -- a solution so simple, so inexpensive
and easy to implement, that municipal governments would be foolish
not to consider it. I'm surprised more haven't considered it
already. To cure traffic congestion, cities must forbid drivers
to turn left.
left turn is the plaque in a city's arteries, the hair in its
drain. Wherever two main routes meet, left turns necessitate
advanced green lights. Commuters who are considerate enough
to be travelling straight must wait as left-turners lollygag
through the intersection. On smaller roads, it's even worse.
this: You're driving home after a 10-hour day of memo writing
and handshaking and PowerPointing and whatever else people who
work in tall buildings do. After escaping from the city's core,
you find yourself on a two-lane road. Traffic is heavy, but
moving, and you're making good time. Then, minutes from your
house, it happens -- the left-turn signal on the car ahead starts
stomp on the brakes. The oncoming lane is a river of sedans
and SUVs. The trail of headlights stretches into infinity with
no break in sight. The car ahead just sits there, spewing exhaust,
its turn signal taunting you: blink, blink, blink. Meanwhile,
vehicles are gathering on your rear like two-tonne hemorrhoids.
wait. The muscles in your neck tighten. You wait. Your blood
pressures rises. You wait. Finally, the left-turner sneaks through
a seam in traffic. You continue on, arriving home late -- to
a cold dinner, an angry spouse and children long gone to bed.
familiar? It shouldn't. Left-turners are choking our streets,
increasing air pollution, giving us hypertension and destroying
our families. They must be stopped.
left turns may seem like a crazy idea, impossible to implement.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The first step in eliminating
left turns is simple: Eliminate the need to turn left.
accomplish this, any facility that provides a vital service
- a school, a hospital, a Tim Hortons - would be relocated to
the right side of its street if not already so located. To the
left of roads, we can place institutions that people rarely
visit, such as gyms and libraries. People who need to cross
the street can do so via pedestrian overpasses or, as they do
in Europe, in hot air balloons.
trucks or other vehicles that require access to left-side buildings
could reach them through underground tunnels. Some might argue
that tunnelling beneath roads would be obscenely expensive.
I might argue that it wouldn't be. So there.
more businesses set up shop to the right of roads, the land
freed on the left could be converted into parks. The parks might
be difficult to access but would look lovely from across the
course, there are bound to be some who oppose a no-left-turn
road system. People more proficient at turning left (those who
wear right-eye patches, for example) would be unhappy. Companies
that make turn signals might eventually lose half their business
and would no doubt cry foul. And the NDP would be outraged if
citizens weren't permitted to go left.
the benefits would be too great to refute. According to my calculations,
which I performed twice, a ban on left turns would reduce commute
times by as much as 35.5 per cent. Or as little as 3.55 per
cent, depending on where you put the decimal point.
per cent of Canadians now live in cities, a percentage that
will only increase in coming decades. That means more traffic
congestion, which will extend commute times beyond the hour
or so Canadians already spend on the road each day.
cities have planned or completed projects intended to relieve
gridlock. Toronto poured millions into new expressways, to little
effect. Ottawa's plans to extend its light rail system never
got off the ground. And who could forget Vancouver's disastrous
public hovercraft system?
won't solve their traffic woes with trains or extra lanes or
a fleet of giant amphibious vehicles. The problem may be complex
but the solution is anything but. To make things right, we have
to stop going left.