Having recently had new ball joints installed on my vehicle, (the technician said they wore out prematurely because I live in Winnipeg), I decided to be especially conscientious about protecting my investment. When Brian Barkley recently vented on air about potholes and the state of our roads, I took that warning to heart and made myself a promise that Winnipeg’s roads are not going to damage my new ball joints. In the last two weeks that promise has totally changed how I drive.
I used to drive with my eyes scanning the traffic a half a block ahead, now my eyes scan the twenty feet of road immediately ahead of my vehicle, as if it were a minefield. I sit on the edge of my seat, peering over the dashboard. I am wary of dark spots in the road, crevices between lanes, puddles that could be as deep as Loch Ness. Speaking of Ness, been down that road lately? Ralph Nader’s famous phrase “Unsafe at any speed” quickly comes to mind. Because of the construction it is one lane in each direction, so I end up weaving in and out of the pylons like a slalom racer to dodge the potholes, which on that street border on biblical. At night I have to reduce my speed to sometimes half the speed limit in order to ascertain whether or not the way ahead is safe to proceed through or around. That stretch of Portage Avenue just east of the Empress Overpass has three burnt out streetlights in a row so seeing the road is difficult at any speed over 20km per hour, which is the speed I was travelling there tonight. People were passing me for sure. I’m surprised no one honked at me. We Winnipeggers are so polite. So many people driving down that dark road at 60 km per hour oblivious to the peril their cars could face. Don’t they know these roads are unsafe at any speed?
So far I have managed to avoid all but the smallest of potholes, and my front end thanks me. But I hate driving now, something I used to enjoy. I hate the driver I’ve become. I’m the guy in front of you going 20 k under the speed limit, weaving from side to side, braking for no apparent reason. Maybe I’m proving a point. Maybe I want the police to stop me so I can vent. For now I prefer to just stay home.
We’re all too complacent in this city. We just grumble and nothing changes. What would happen if we had a big demonstration and shut down intersections. I can think of a few that should be shut down for safety reasons, like Ness and St. James.
Maybe everyone should drive like I’m driving.