Sure signs of summer in Troy, Ohio: Hot, humid weather. Strawberry Festival hangover. A new traffic pattern for the Public Square.
Yes, we are trying once again to change the way people drive around the square. You probably are expecting me to be a crotchety old guy and say how I think it’s a dumb idea.
But you know what? I kind of like it.
First of all, you have to understand I have lived in Troy almost my entire life. I learned to drive back in the 1970s (yes, there were cars then) when the right of way belonged to the people who were entering the square. That’s right, if you were in the square you were supposed to wait for the guy who was entering the square. At least, I think that was how it was supposed to work.
At any rate, it pretty much was like bumper cars on a larger scale. I remember a lot of accidents around the square back in those days. It was like playing a giant game of chicken.
Then, somewhere along the line, someone noticed that everywhere else in the world the people going around the roundabout had the right of way and you had to wait to pull in. So Troy changed its pattern, and you know what? It was an improvement.
Not that long ago, someone mentioned that the real reason to have traffic circles is to avoid needing stop lights or stop signs and why did Troy have one of the few traffic circles in the universe with four sets of traffic lights? So they went to work and came up with the current traffic “diet,” which eliminates the lights and makes some other adjustments.
So I decided to go up there and try it out. I drove around and around, in and out, and it sure seemed to me like traffic moved through the square better. It’s a lot better parking situation, too, in the block leading up to the square.
The planters in the middle of the road look a little odd, but I guess they’re there to save pedestrians who get confused trying to sprint across the road. It looks like that could develop into a real-life game of Frogger for pedestrians.
To test it out, I went up to the square the other day and crossed the road a bunch of times. I imagine if anyone was watching they must have thought either I was a very indecisive guy or I was just plain out of mind running back and forth across the street.
As it turns out, I didn’t have any problems. The drivers stopped and let me cross without any trouble and without me having to stand on the corner for three days waiting for the light to change.
One other benefit of the current set-up seems to be that it does slow traffic down a little bit. No one is rushing to make a light and drivers seem to be a little more cautious, probably because they’re having trouble figuring out what they’re supposed to do.
Troy’s square has been a topic of debate for as long as I can remember. There have been suggestions to close it to traffic all together and make it kind of a pedestrian mall, which sounds cool until you try to figure out what to do with all the traffic. It sure won’t all fit onto Water Street.
It could be worse. We could have a traffic circle like the one at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Supposedly, if you rent a car in Paris, they won’t insure you if you plan to drive around the roundabout there. No lanes are not marked and it’s pretty much every man and woman for him or herself. There are 12 streets that enter into the roundabout and they’re all full of crazy French drivers. See, our square really isn’t so bad.
If you don’t like the changes, I have two suggestions for you: Just be patient. If history is any indicator, the Troy square is likely to be changed again soon and maybe you’ll like the next incarnation.
Or, you can do what I’ve been doing ever since the first time I drove my VW bug around the square at age 16: just avoid it. Use one of the side streets where normal traffic rules apply and you’ll lead a safer, though not nearly as exciting, life.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.