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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, March 6, 2018
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

U Turns


Pop quiz hotshot: Are U-Turns allowed along the main thoroughfares of our cities?

There are two answers to this question.

The first is if we base it on our daily driving experiences, the answer would be a resounding yes. In the case of the Metro Bacolod area, we have seen that anybody can perform a U-Turn anywhere and anytime they want and/or feel it is necessary to do so.

It doesn’t matter if the vehicle is public or private, if it has two wheels or sixteen. It doesn’t matter if the U-Turn is performed on a pedestrian lane, in the middle of an intersection, on a bridge, or in the midst of ultra-heavy two-way traffic. It is done at the foot of flyovers and I bet that if our flyovers were wide enough, there would be drivers who would do it on the flyover as well.

Those who would take the time to notice how often U-Turns are performed will see that nobody thinks it is wrong and everyone assumes it is allowed. Drivers do it all the time either because I am wrong and it is actually legal or it is because the authorities have done nothing about it for years.

The second answer to this question is a little bit complicated because it involves a fairly comprehensive understanding of the rules and markings of the road and that is something most of us bothered to study for the written portion of our driver’s license that turned out to be a waste of time because it turned out to be pre-answered.

But if my memory serves me right, a single solid white line usually means U-Turns are not allowed on those roads and that would mean we shouldn’t be able to perform that particular maneuver willy-nilly and anywhere we please along most of our city’s thoroughfares. Wouldn’t it be terribly inconvenient for the people who have been used to doing U-Turns anywhere they please if that were the case?

If there were no traffic and inconvenience caused to others by this driving maneuver, it wouldn’t have to be an issue. But if you agree with me that any driving move that makes others brake unnecessarily is a dick move, then most U-Turns would be qualify as such. Worst are the U-Turners who do it in heavy traffic and areas that are prone to heavy traffic, executing excruciating 3-5 point turns while traffic piles up on both directions as they wait for the road to be cleared when the move is completed.

People who U-Turn without thinking would probably ask me how they are supposed to go in the opposite direction if U-Turns along our main streets are really illegal. The bad news is that while it is inconsiderate to others, there is no faster way for a driver to do it than a U-Turn. The good news is that there is a way.

Did you know that UPS trucks almost never turn left as a matter of efficiency and safety? Their engineers have mapped out the routes of their delivery trucks and aim to provide right-turn only directions to drivers and this seemingly silly strategy has saved millions of miles while diminishing CO2 emissions. A left turn is half a U-Turn so if you come to think that delivery trucks can do it, so should regular folk.

Imagine wanting to U-Turn along Bacolod’s Lacson Street but deciding not to instead. How difficult would that be? Southbound vehicles have it easy because they can turn right into any of the streets perpendicular to it and the right again into Aguinaldo Street. They can then get back to Lacson Street by turning right again from Aguinaldo and then execute a less-hassle left turn back into Lacson. Opting not to U-turn will require a bit more planning and knowledge of the road network but shouldn’t those skills be basic requisites for any driver?

The next time you or your driver thinks about making a U-Turn on any main road, try thinking about the inconvenience your single vehicle will cause upon everyone else using the same road and consider the alternatives that can cause less hassle. I know that turning on the hazards and making a U-Turn is the fastest and easiest way to reverse directions but it is also a major inconvenience and a cause of slowdowns which eventually lead to traffic that negatively affects everybody else using the same road.

Once we start thinking of U-Turns on major roads as a move that causes inconvenience to others, those of us who consider themselves decent and well-bred may try to avoiding it. However I must warn those well-meaning people that that seeing others U-Turning with impunity and abandon will only start to become an irritating sight.

Of course, because the authorities do not bother themselves with U-Turns, any decision to abide by a No U-Turn rule along major streets will be a personal decision that causes additional inconvenience upon yourself so others will not be unnecessarily inconvenienced. Those who agree with me will have to subject themselves to that inconvenience while everybody else does whatever they want whenever they want.

Deciding to avoid U-Turns on busy streets is a thankless advocacy. Even if the personal inconvenience is significant, nobody will notice the effort because those who make the effort will not impede traffic but simply turn right or turn left at a proper intersection. As long as the authorities don’t bother, I don’t expect most of us to bother. But don’t you think it is worth trying, even just as a social experiment?*


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