David Knopf - Devilish roundabouts seem designed to frustrate

10/02/2013 9:43 AM

10/02/2013 9:43 AM

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, what with the ranting I’ve done about the satanic engineers who designed the new roundabouts near us.

Apparently, life isn’t dizzying enough without these devilish devices controlling traffic flow while beating the tar out of you and laughing in the face of centrifugal force.

A little background serves us well:

There are roundabouts at either end of an overpass that recently opened after what must have been 37 years of debate, plan modifications, funding reversals, elected-official grandstanding and territorial infighting among two cities, a state, a school district, the Missouri Department of Transportation, Millworkers Local 37, the NRA and Bob’s Daylight Donuts.

OK, so I made up the part about the last three.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m for

anything

that reduces gridlock between us and the Wonders of Suburban Life: Starbucks, Culver’s, Texas Roadhouse, Olive Garden, Pizza Ranch, et al.

I continued to support the overpass project, even after political harrumphing and budget galumphing cut it from four lanes to two. If they’d made it a one-lane scooter path and

that

reduced traffic, I would’ve been for it.

Through it all, I’ve put up with the use of the term “flyover” as a substitute for the perfectly descriptive word “overpass.” No one listened, but I tried to explain that “flyover” described what happens when B-1 bombers fly over our stadiums on the Fourth of July and everyone cramps up with patriotic pride.

The word “flyover” made even less sense when it was cut from four lanes to two. All I could do was imagine a Piper Cub flying over some dusty church softball field near Gracemor.

Verbal pettiness aside, the thing was finally built and traffic has been reduced, at least until they build a Taco Bueno, Costco, Fazoli’s or Buca di Beppo.

The overpass is a smoothly surfaced convenience, at least until you reach the roundabouts at either end. At that point, the laws of nature are thrown out the window and gold fillings are jolted into orbit by the rough surface.

What I’ve been told is that in addition to sorting traffic and avoiding the stop-and-go inconvenience of boring old intersections, roundabouts are designed to control the speed of vehicles by bumping and bouncing drivers to within an inch of their lives.

I’m no NASCAR fan, but any idiot — and I consider myself well-qualified there — could see that instead of designing the circles with mild inclines dipping

inward, these Sons of Satan road scientists designed them to tilt outward

.

The resulting outcline forces drivers to either slow down or plummet into an adjacent drainage slough and not be found by archeologists until 2036.

I raced go-carts as a kid and learned to win inside position and lean into turns — even a properly designed banked turn — out of respect for centrifugal force.

But these outward-sloping, devil’s-workshop roundabouts not only violate the laws of nature, they are apparently paved with intentional bumps to discourage the Dale Earnhart Jrs. among us from fantasizing about sliding through turns.

The bottom line is that after years of delay, budget cuts and political posturing, we got a perfectly delightful overpass —

flyover

, quote-unquote, if you must — with no way to enter or exit without being beaten to a pulp and talking to yourself.

I hope I’ve been frank. Beating round about the bush just wouldn’t do.

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