Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rat-Running, and 18-Wheelers/Tractor Trailers

One aspect of daily life that has always bugged me is driving--or at least many aspects of it. That is a post all its own--heck, that's a BLOG all its own. Today, I will deal with 1 aspect, or 2 combined into one (sort-of)--"rat-running" (or "shortcutting") and tractor-trailers (or 18-wheelers).

First-off, tractor-trailers/18-wheelers. I have long disliked the presence of 18-wheelers and/or tractor-trailers on the roads. At best, they're a necessary evil; at worst, dangerous and noisy monsters that dramatically damage the quality of life of anyone or anything within range. They block traffic, they're loud, they make you cough (especially if you're bicycling), and--frankly--too many of their drivers take advantage of their vehicle's size to bully people.

Don't get me wrong, I realize that they're necessary for deliveries and the operation of commerce. Truckers have a hard job in providing the services they do. That said, this doesn't mean that their presence everywhere is appropriate.

The main behavior I take issue with, and 18-wheelers are not the only ones that do it either, is "rat-running." This Wikipedia article describes what rat-running is. Basically, it's short-cutting through roads that aren't meant to handle large volumes of traffic. More to the point, it's shortcutting down roads which were designed specifically to be quiet and--paradoxical as it may seem (as these are roads, after all)--which were designed for residents who want as little traffic as possible so as to have a quiet, peaceful environment around them.

I learned of this while living in Tucson, AZ. At first I didn't see it that way myself; when I'd read articles about residents complaining of traffic on a certain road close to where they live, I thought they were being a hypocrite. I mean, gee whiz, Tucson was a city of 500,000 people, who were they to think their road was special? Why was it okay for the road near the mall to be packed with cars, but not the road near their house?

Over time, I came to see that I was wrong.

Different streets have different intended uses. A narrow 2-lane road, well away from the main streets, with speed-humps and houses lining the sides, has a far different intended usage than a wide 8-lane highway next to the mall and car dealerships. The latter is meant to handle large volumes of the traffic of the entire city as they commute to work and shop etc. The former is not. The former is designed for the residents living in the nearby houses to be able to walk-around, bicycle, jog, etc--without large volumes of cars polluting the environment. By pollution, I don't just mean fumes, but also noise and even just the irritation of cars being in the way.

What happens in "rat running" is that people use these residential roads in large numbers rather than using the main roads which were designed for heavy traffic-usage. In Tucson, this meant that work commuters would travel on these small, residential roads commuting to work. These small roads weren't intended for large volumes of commuters to use in that manner, and the residents of those roads were right to be upset at people using those roads instead of the 8-lane highways.

Around here, the common form this takes involves, often-times, 18-wheelers/tractor trailers. Rather than, say, taking a 4 lane state highway to go from the Interstate to the ultimate destination, they will instead take some narrow country-road--sometimes 1-lane roads--as a shortcut, often-times to avoid road tolls. These small roads were never designed for that volume of traffic, and in fact persons living on such roads often-times made the choice to live there specifically to avoid such large trucks to begin with.

In some communities, people have complained and laws have been passed forbidding 18-wheeler from being allowed on such narrow country roads. I support this. I get sick & tired of hearing the truckers whine about how they're not appreciated. Again, as annoying as 18-wheelers are, they are a necessity, and on major 4/6-lane state highways and the Interstate, so be it. But they have absolutely no business whatsover on narrow county roads. We're talking about places with no businesses, no employers, dotted with quaint farm houses--these are places people move to in order to get away from traffic, including 18-wheelers/tractor trailers.

In my opinion, it is amorale behavior for someone to shortcut through minor roads that they don't live on, especially when it's large numbers of persons doing this to save 2-tenths of a mile n their work commute, and then large 4-6 lane highways are readily available for them to use.

Think of it this way--you realize that loud shouting is inevitable at a rock concert. Would you appreciate someone doing this while you're researching in the library? Of course not. Same thing here. It's out-of-place and completely inappropriate--and downright immoral.


1Tractor Trailers Not Allowed in Left-Hand Lane, Source: Wral.Com
2Tractor-trailer Ban on Local Roads - New Jersey, Source: NewRules.Org
3Damage, danger spur possible Oglethorpe ban on tractor-trailers, Source: OnlineAthens.Com
4SAVE proposes truck ban on local roads, Source: Save41.Org
5State Funds to Pave Way for Truck Ban, Source: La Times
6Rules banning truck traffic on Central New York roadways move closer to being final, Source: Syracuse.Com

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