GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 15, 2013

Fishtown Local: Which side are you on?

Fishtown Local
Gordon Baird

---- — They say they’re going to take it away soon. But when?

The misguided speed control effort on Eastern Point has caused more chaos than it was designed to counter. And the unhelpful speed reader machine has been parked in the most ridiculous place for weeks now, continuing to cause near accidents and reveal exactly nothing to truculent speeders.

The Eastern Point Association and the Gloucester Police Department positioned the speed measuring machine right between the gates and the first speed bump. The silly thing was close enough to the bump that the cars were all doing under 10 mph by the time the lights lit up the speed stat. They were already slowing down, see?

But what did that matter, because only a third of the bulbs worked so you couldn’t read it even if you were speeding. It was also causing such a disruption by taking up a decent chunk of the lane that it caused a traffic jam by the gates when there was more than one car at a time — which is constant.

Try working two large trucks plus a bike and a dog walker in one lane and three small trucks and me in the other lane. We’re talking single-file cooperation here because there wasn’t enough room to pass two side-by-side. Trouble in paradise?

They addressed that. They moved it — to the other side of the bump!

Now it gets you just after you’ve rolled over the bump so you’re recorded at about 3 mph, that is, if more than three bulbs are working on the thing. I wanted to put a “Kick Me” sign on it’s back. But while it is still blocking its lane, there is a situation created where two opposing cars have to decide who has right-of-way when they approach each other with this obstruction in the way.

It is very illuminating to how much people don’t know the rules of the road. Many drivers in the “burdened lane”, the one with the speed machine, adopt an attitude of “hey, I have right-of-way because this thing is in my way, so I’m going into your lane to get around it.“

Just flat out wrong, dudes. The burden is on the car with the obstruction, not the other way around. In the regular Gloucester demolition derby of driving, many, many cars think that they are entitled to push you out of their lane if they have an obstruction. They also think they have a right to four to six feet of clearance on the right because they don’t like to get too close to the line of parked cars, thereby pushing you over to four inches of clearance on your side.

Again: wrong. If there is an obstruction, you can always stop or keep to your own lane with little side clearance but you don’t have the right-of-way to cross the center line if there’s another car there.

There’s no question that might makes right when it comes to Fishtown driving.

My advice is: if you’re honking your horn to protect yourself from yellow line crossers, start early. You can blow them back into their lane and not force you to have one inch of clearance from that light pole so they can have four luxurious feet of your lane for their comfort.

The right-of-way rules are there for a reason, too bad they don’t seem to apply in Glosta when it comes to those little yellow lines. Don’t let ‘em push you around . . . keep the “bleep” outta my lane, pal.

Gordon Baird is a local actor and musician, co-founder of Musician magazine, producer of the community access TV show “Gloucester Chicken Shack,” and member of Gloucester’s Unitarian Universalist congregation.