Sunday, February 28, 2010

Don't Be On The Roads At...

If you walk, ride, or are otherwise out, have you noted when it's safest to be on your local roads?

In my neighborhood, the roads I walk my dogs on give access to perhaps 75 houses in something like six miles.  In addition, they hold a winery and a church.  Over the years that we've been regularly walking our dogs I have tried to figure out when it is safest and most dangerous to walk.

I admit this is an entirely subjective assessment.  I am not taking notes or using a radar gun.  And besides, all it takes is one nitwit who is busy dialing his cell phone (which is illegal in CA now... hands free is the law) to kill someone, regardless of the time of day.  But it's still an interesting exercise.

The winery wants to expand its hours and open a tasting room on weekends.  That would, no doubt, add more cars to our twisty mountain roads.  I'm not in favor of that, but as I've already argued my point before the county (and apparently lost) I see no reason to waste time going to the next county meeting.  The supervisors will do whatever they damn well please and it doesn't matter what I think.

In any case, it turns out winery customers tend to be afternoon and evening people, on weekends.  I can mostly avoid them by walking the dogs in the morning those days.

Then we have rush hour.  It's easy to see why it would be bad to be on the roads when people are late for work.  And, in truth, I can see that in the traffic.  There are always a few people rocketing down these tiny little roads at 9:10am, trying to get to their office by 10, or whatever.  In general, it's best not to walk on week days before 10am, just to avoid them.  But - and this is important - rush hour folks are oddly spread out.  Late for one might be anytime after 9am.  Late for a software engineer might be "after lunch".  I see a few, but it's not like 8:45 - 9:15am turns our roads into a superhighway.  No, in fact, since we haven't got all that many homes here, it's not that many people who speed in the mornings.  A few, yes, but not many.

Other possible bad times are school related.  Opening more-or-less coincides with rush hour in the mornings, and I do see a few people scrambling to get their kid to school on time.  Correspondingly there's a rush around 3pm to see them picked up.  Usually those doing the pickup - mostly mothers - are in a horrible hurry to get to the school, but are less panicked on their way home.  So, avoiding the hour from 2:30-3:30pm seems intelligent, at least on week days.  Again, though, it turns out that we haven't got that many school age kids in the area I walk, so it's a limited problem to some degree.

There's another, more random class of individual that is a real menace, but is entirely unpredictable: the teenage visitor.  I usually hear these kids coming from miles away and get off the road well before they are anywhere nearby.  Occasionally, though, that isn't possible, and something low slung goes whizzing past me at a high rate of speed.  I've nearly been hit several times - we have no sidewalks here, of course - by teenagers driving way too fast.  In truth though, that's relatively rare.   Once every couple of weeks I hear them coming, and perhaps once every few months I am at risk.

The worst time to be on the roads, without a doubt, is when people on on their way to worship God.  Sunday mornings turn our little road into a race track for the devout.   Our local church has services at 10:30am, and sometimes the choir meets to practice an hour earlier.  Do NOT make the mistake of being on the local roads between 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after those times on a Sunday morning.  Doing so is asking for trouble.  Possibly death.

Those people are on a mission - the Lord's mission, apparently - and will not be delayed.  I am often waved at cheerily - as I try to reel my dogs in and leap off the road - but oddly no one ever slows down.  They drive as if their very life depends on getting to the church on time, even if they are already late, and perhaps it does.

Maybe God hates you more for being late to service than for killing someone on your way to that same service.

Just a thought.