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Monday, September 2, 2013

Engineering OK after all

Right turns explained

A few of the “constant commenters”* have criticized traffic engineering, particularly traffic calming measures.

Twists in the road and curb extensions seem to have caused the most distress. The winding road is designed to reduce speed; it’s easy to navigate at slow speed. And, people in a hurry avoid traffic calmed streets, and thus the schools and children’s play areas adjacent to them.

Watch out for that curb

The curb extension is an angled narrowing of the roadway and widening
of the sidewalk. It helps pedestrians and drivers see each other more easily.

Curbs, whether they are associated with extension-areas or not, pose problems to new, unskilled, and distracted drivers. That seems to be the basis for the criticism: the speaker(s) hit the curb with their rear wheels. The Mayor remarked that he hit curbs and parking bumpers from time to time as well.

We believe that the Mayor has sufficient understanding and skill to make safe and efficient right turns; his bumping the curbs is more likely to be a result of driving distracted. The only advice we can offer is to pay attention to driving and consider the daily drivel while your car isn't in motion.

How to miss curb 

Others concerned with curb bumping may find following that advice helps. However, if they are complaining about the traffic engineering because they are right-turn challenged, here’s a brief description of theory and practice.**

Note that the paths of the left front, left rear, and right rear wheels differ markedly when the vehicle turns right. This is because the car
rotates around the back wheels. (That makes it easier to back into a parking stall.)  

So to have the right rear wheel clear the curb the driver must either swing into the adjacent space on the left of the road being traveled; that is, swing left before starting the turn. Or, they can drive farther into the road they’re turning into before bending right

Best way is safest

If the driver swings left:

  • Bicyclists, motorcycles, small cars and pedestrians may be misled and enter the area on the right of the turning vehicle. This is dangerous.
  •  Further, encroaching on the next lane left can be a problem for a driver in that lane who continues forward not expecting the right-turning vehicle to lurch left into his lane.

Driving a little way into the destination road before completing the turn
allows everyone concerned to see what everyone else is doing and to respond accordingly. It’s safer and less stressful for all concerned.

Not an engineering problem

So, instead of castigating traffic engineers, learn to make a right turn.

It's better to delay turning a vehicle until the right rear wheel – the vehicle’s pivot point --  has passed or is about to pass, the edge of the curb.

Of course, if the driver doesn't know where their right rear wheel is, that’s a whole different problem.

This instruction illustrates problem-solving instead of complaining to government bodies when one's skill and understanding are presently inadequate to the task at hand.

*Many are members of CM4OE -- a fictional group called Costa Mesans for Opposing Everything 

*The pictures in this post are from a booklet from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, “Trucks and Recreational Vehicles.” Booklet


  1. It is ridiculous that every simple thing, such as these traffic calming measures, becomes such a big topic for the complainer group. Everyday city business seems to bring out the group hysteria, no matter how minor. In other cities such matters are routine. Here, our routine matters are just another chance to vilify the council. I think it is backfiring now. Without the TV feed we could cut back on a lot of their complaints which seem at times to be just another three minutes of fame to them. Rarely do you see large groups protesting their targeted items, just the same small group. Until I see 30 or more speaking with concern I just dismiss their babbling as routine A.

  2. Thanks for the driving lesson. Hope it helps many. Or, they could chose another street, anot
    her path of travel

  3. Yup, lots of complaints from "professional victims" who think they are entitled to a perfectly-smooth road through their lives.

    At Parks & Recreation meeting some were outraged at the suggestion that they move closer if they wanted to hear better. "I have a right to sit where I want." The implication was, "It's the government's job to ensure that I can hear well from wherever I want to be. Maybe they'll sue, too.