Thursday, June 5, 2008

Greener Than Green

Ironically, the red arrow would have been greener than the green arrow.

Explanation: There is a traffic light near my house that was recently upgraded to include left turn arrows. Since a left turn is required at that light in order to get to my house, I was very excited when it was installed. In fact, because of the curve in the road beyond the light, you often see what you believe to be a distant gap in oncoming traffic and then when you are about to make your turn you realize that the gap has been filled by an SUV that would have done a wonderful job of flattening your Honda. But I digress.

The other day, I was cruising into this intersection and the light was red. I knew that if I got there in time, I would trigger the green arrow, allowing me to turn left before anybody else got a crack at the intersection. I was in no hurry to get home (which is only about a quarter mile from the light) but I was excited at the prospect of getting to go before everyone else. I reached the stop line and awaited my fate. As the arrow turned green, I pumped my fist to celebrate my victory and rolled happily through the intersection while the rest of the traffic waited for their green light. Suddenly I felt a bit guilty. Here I was, in my fuel efficient car, zipping through the intersection so I could get home 30 seconds earlier while at least ten cars had to wait an additional thirty seconds before they could continue on their respective travels. Ten cars idling for thirty seconds - that's five total minutes of car idle time so I could trim 30 seconds off of my trip.

It occurred to me that it actually would have been better for the environment had I waited a few car lengths behind the stop line so as not to trigger the green arrow. There were only five or so cars in the oncoming traffic lane, so I would have had no troubles making the left turn, and as I said, I was in no hurry to get home.

The moral of the story: Sometimes a red arrow is more "green" than a green arrow.


Willie Y said...

Left on red should be the new rule. Then everyone is doing their part to say the environment. Plus it sharpens the reflects of the turnee.

Jeremy said...

Assuming New Jersey still lets you turn left at a green light, perhaps the ideal solution for all parties involved would be the use of the Pittsburgh Left, thus saving you the 30-second wait time, and allowing the oncoming drivers to proceed almost immediately. The only downside is the risk to your life, of course.

Jeremy said...

Aha! What you don't know is that before the light was upgraded, the "Pittsburgh Left" was my normal strategy. It's practically foolproof at that intersection - with the angles at which the roads meet, they couldn't beat you through the intersection even if they wanted to. Of course, you have to look out for traffic on the crossroad running the red light, but that goes in Pittsburgh as well.