There are a few local stories worth comment this week; the Suddenlink vandalism case is at the top of my list. As I write this, our cable service has just been restored after nearly 48 hours. It was a reminder how often we use the internet, for everything from email to research to checking on the latest news updates.
Several times during the outage, I caught myself saying “I’ll look that up,” followed by, “oops, I can’t.” I didn’t miss television much, as I don’t have time to watch it during the week anyway, but others in my house were very unhappy. We don’t have phone service through Suddenlink, precisely because AT&T is much more reliable.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the string of vandalism, but it’s a tough case. The department can’t possibly guard every utility vault in the county. If this case is solved, it will more than likely be by an alert citizen reporting suspicious activity, or by working from the other end.
Tens of thousands of Suddenlink customers have been inconvenienced by the outages; it’s probably not aimed directly at one or two of them. It seems more likely that the company itself is the target, and while the direct costs of repairing the damage are relatively modest – an estimated $50,000 as of last Friday – the customer outrage and bad publicity are much more expensive. A disgruntled former employee might easily be the perpetrator.
Traffic problems, long a simmering concern on the North Coast, are boiling over in the wake of another pedestrian fatality in Eureka. Just hours after the Times-Standard highlighted statistics showing Eureka and the county as a whole have much higher rates of collisions and deaths than comparable areas, the accident occurred near Eureka High School. A nearby intersection had recently been the scene of another serious collision which injured a student.
Locals are talking about what should be done. Better enforcement of traffic laws and better engineering are two popular suggestions, but they both cost money. We can all help right away, for free, starting the next time we leave the house.
Drivers: slow down. The vast majority of driving emergencies are exacerbated by speed. Pay close attention to your surroundings, expect the unexpected and watch out for bicycles and pedestrians. Drive sober, redwood trees don’t move over.
Bicyclists and pedestrians: my late aunt used to say the cemetery was full of people who had the right of way. Be alert, and be visible. I passed a pedestrian the other night on a dark section of Central Avenue who was almost in the traffic lane, wearing dark clothing, and invisible until the last moment.
Speaking of Central Avenue, I don’t understand why so many local residents were adamantly opposed to the county’s plan to improve it by reducing and controlling left turn opportunities. I’ve thought since I moved here from Eureka 19 years ago that Central Avenue has too many driveways directly on the arterial. And the two-way left turn lane enables and encourages unsafe turning motions.
Many drivers will turn left out of a driveway across two lanes of traffic, bypass the left turn lane entirely and pull into the far lane in the opposite direction, all directly in front of cars they don’t even look for. Forcing them to turn right, drive a block or two and use a dedicated left turn lane at a traffic signal would increase safety for everyone.
Many people cited big delivery trucks as a reason not to limit left turns, but the companies which own them should already be doing that. Fuel efficiency and safety considerations moved UPS to route its trucks with minimal left turns and the program is saving Brown billions. Driving a few extra blocks will usually save fuel over idling waiting for a big enough break in traffic for a truck to safely turn left across two lanes of traffic.
I live in northwest McKinleyville, and often use the northbound exit to Murray Road, then turn left. There are some metal posts studded with reflectors outlining a pedestrian pathway between the right turn area and the left turn area at the end of the exit. I don’t know if they actually protect pedestrians, but they definitely block my view of oncoming vehicles.
The safety corridor between Eureka and Arcata, once alleged to be impossible by CalTrans, has proven to be an effective and low cost measure to reduce collisions and deaths on that section of 101. We never would have known that without trying it. And the 50-mile-an-hour speed limit turned out not to be the precursor to Apocalypse that many persons predicted it would be.
Change is hard, but it’s often worth the sacrifice. It’s not a bad thing to occasionally be reminded that technology drives huge portions of our lifestyle. And it’s never a bad idea to slow down and drive more carefully.
(Elizabeth Alves notes that another subject which has locals talking is the new trash and curbside recycling program. Comments and suggestions are welcome care of the Press ot to firstname.lastname@example.org)