Saturday, April 07, 2012

Pet Peeves and Roundabouts

One of my pet peeves are self-styled traffic engineers who insist that roundabouts are God's-Gift-to-Man, and that everything would be fine and traffic so much better if only people took a minute to learn the rules of roundabouts and actually drive them properly.

I have two immediate reactions to this, one fair, and one not-so-fair

First, well-designed roundabouts where everyone follows the rules may indeed be great for traffic flow, but they're absolutely horrible for pedestrians.  Not only do they add distance by turning intersections into huge circles that have to be walked around, but they're also really difficult to cross.  After all, pedestrians need breaks in the flow of traffic to cross a street, and the whole point of roundabouts is that there's no break in traffic flow.  So they're actually designed to impede pedestrian traffic.  Now, on a heavy highway that's one thing, but in the middle of a walkable urban neighborhood it's kinda dumb.

Second (and this is the one that's kind of unfair), there really aren't very many well-designed roundabouts around Richmond.  For example, most of the roundabouts in the Museum District and Fan are on Monument Ave ... not because a traffic engineer thought that it would be good for traffic flow, but because there are giant monuments plopped down in the middle of the intersections that make traditional stoplight intersections somewhat unsightly.

Roundabouts are particularly bad at handling intersections where the two roads have different number of lanes.  For example, there's the "roundabout" at Monument and Allen, which is actually the closest thing to a true roundabout in the Fan.  And it's horrible.  The street sign for it (from Monument Ave's perspective) is to the right.  Monument is 2 lanes each way, and Allen is one lane each way.  And, if traffic only ever flowed from Monument to Allen, this would be a perfect roundabout.

But what if you happen to be traveling on Allen and want to keep traveling on Allen?  What then?

Well, below is the same sign, but from Allen's perspective.  See the problem?  There's literally no way to get across unless you break the rules of roundabout driving and cross over several lanes in the circle.  It's just dumb.  When people bemoan that roundabouts would be fine "if only people followed the rules", well, they have to take into consideration that you can't actually follow the rules on most roundabouts around here.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Boxwoods and Azaleas and Yards, Oh My!

One of my biggest regrets for this last year is that out of the whole 12 months, the only thing I really did as far as yard work goes was buy a weed whacker and mow down the side lot a few times.  And that's a shame, for a couple of reasons.  First, it kind of says to all my neighbors and all the passing cars "Here's a guy who doesn't take pride in his property", and that's not the guy I want to be known as.  Second, as a landlord (and direct competitor of the guy next door with an identical building) I need a way to set my property apart from the rest, and at the same time subtly influence the kind of tenants I want.  A well landscaped yard will do all of that and be kind of nice to live in at the same time :-)

So, earlier this spring, I decided that this year would be the year I really made something of the yard.  And while I'm very quickly learning to appreciate just how intense, time consuming, and exhausting this this will be, I'm also making very solid and visible progress:
  • 2 weeks ago I cleared out part of the side strip, planted some boxwood shrubs and mulched around them.
  • Last week I cleared out more of the strip and planted some azaleas, although I didn't get to mulch them until this afternoon.  I also buried a drip hose underneath the mulch that loops around each plant and finishes behind the fence, which makes it easy to connect to the backyard hose.
I'm kicking myself for not taking more before pictures, but here are some afters.  One of them has a good view of some yet-to-be-cleared brush, though, which is a good example of "before".
Azaleas along the back fence
Side of house that has yet to be cleared ... good example of "before"
Closeup of the boxwoods along the side of the house, towards the front

Bloggy Update

So, last week my sister (whose excellent blog you should read) reminded me that I hadn't updated my blog in quite a bit.  Quite true.  But even if I haven't actually updated the blog, it doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about updating the blog!  Here's the list of everything over the past few weeks that I've been meaning to blog about:

I kinda got complacent for a bit about Weight Watchers, with predictable results.  Last week I made a major effort to get back on track: eating right and having 50-minute cardio sessions each day, followed by yard-work.  My goal of 180 may not happen by my sister's wedding, but 190 could still happen.

Strauss-Kahn has been charged in France with "aggravated pimping".  I really wish the article explained what that was.

The allure of 90 minutes of a shirtless Taylor Kitsch notwithstanding; is Disney really that hard up for material that they're going with John Carter?

How on earth did we not know where South Carolina was 230 years?  You'd think that would be something we would've figured out by now.

This is the dumbest QR code I have ever seen.

I am continuously amazed at the raw natural beauty that this planet is capable of.  Glowing blue waves?  Totally awesome.

I've been doing a lot of yardwork lately, and it's starting to look good.  Still a lot of work, but definitely progress.  Unfortunately, no link to share, but soon there will be pictures!

Stay tuned....