Tuesday, February 23, 2010


People have been complaining a lot about the road work that's going on near NC State's campus; it's inconvenient, ugly, and hurting a lot of businesses on Hillsborough St., but I would like to take a minute (just sit right there) and focus on what I think Hillsborough's real problem will be when this construction is all over and done with.

(Drum-roll please...)
Drivers are going to misuse the new roundabouts. Then people will freak out about how awful the roundabouts are. Result? General grumpiness over the new traffic pattern will run rampant.

No one likes grumpy drivers.*

My solution? To educate those who do not understand the purpose of the new roundabouts, thus reducing driver animosity.

First things first: There is a difference between a roundabout and a traffic circle. The roundabouts on Hillsborough and Pullen are not the same as the traffic circles you might encounter in DC or NYC. What's the difference, you ask? In a traffic circle, the cars inside the circle yield to those entering the circle. In a roundabout it's the opposite—cars entering the circle yield to those already inside. If you're thinking "Duh, Taylor, everyone knows that," then I'm glad you know how to use a roundabout, but far too many times have I come to the new roundabout on Hillsborough St. and witnessed some poor uninformed soul slow down to let me into the flow of cars. Thanks nice person, but you just made yourself look dumb, because that's not what you're supposed to do in a roundabout.

There are signs at the entrances to the roundabout.
They say YIELD.
That means wait to go until your route is clear.
So when you're outside the circle, yield.
When you're inside it, don't yield.
Really, it's quite simple.

Roundabouts are a great invention of modern motor vehicle transportation—they are a very effective means of alleviating traffic congestion and a great alternative to the traditional stoplight. Also, they make crossing the street much safer for pedestrians. Anyone who complains against roundabouts probably doesn't know how to use one correctly.

It's funny how quick some people are to complain about things that they don't understand. I interned with the NC Department of Transportation in the summer of 2008 and witnessed dozens of people attack the DOT for "ruining" their roads by constructing bypasses, updating interchanges, inserting traffic circles, or even just widening streets. I went to several public hearings that summer and there never failed to be a few lay-people who would offer their two-cents about what should be done to fix whatever problem the DOT was working on. Their ideas were easily shot down by the experts because, well, they weren't good. If the idea was any good, chances are that the DOT would have thought of it a long time ago.

Time and again, these people failed to see that the state employees who designed these new roads had put years and years of work into the project before presenting it to the public. Preliminary research had to be conducted, environmental analysis had to be done, surveys were sent out, and data was built up not just for the area where the construction would be done, but also for the area surrounding the project. Literally hundreds of experts were involved in the design process. (To all you haters: the DOT is not evil. It is made up of very nice people who get paid to make our roads safer and more efficient.) If the people who were complaining about the final plans understood this, I'm willing to bet that they would think twice before drawing up their own plans and presenting them at a public forum.

Now, I think I've just presented a pretty good illustration of why it is quite silly to question the ability experts have to do their job better than you could do it. I'm sure most of you are very bright people, but I hope you would never call your own design for a cloverleaf interchange better than a licensed engineer's plan.

But what about questioning the Great Engineer?
We do it all the time.

In Luke 12:22-34, Jesus commands us not to worry about anything. Why do you think Jesus commands that? At first it might seem like an odd thing to warn against. Why does it matter to God whether we worry or not? I mean, people worry all the time. If we didn't worry, we would never get anything done, right? Wrong.

When we worry, we take God's design into our own hands and reshape it into what we think works best for us. We abandon Christ; displacing our faith—putting it in ourselves. How foolish we are! We have as much control over our lives as we do over the weather. If you think otherwise, I'm sorry, but you are sorely mistaken. The only reason you're alive right now is because God wants you to be, and if He decides that you can best glorify Him by dying in your sleep, then He can end your life tonight. (Yes, it's a bit morbid, but it's also entirely true.)

How dare we assume that we know better than God? He has been forever. He can see everything. He has a plan. His will be done.

You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes... You ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."
James 4:14-15

Lord, give me the faith not to question you; to follow you in whatever direction you lead me.

*Speaking of grumpy drivers, I was flicked off while driving the other day. I thought for sure I was too cute to ever get flicked off by anyone, but I guess he couldn't see me because I was in my car. Oh well, I guess there's a first time for everything. Apparently merging into another lane before you run off the road is code for "Hey, I'm a jerk and deserve a look at your middle finger."