We’ve all cursed out that guy weaving through lanes on the Beltway, brimming with self-importance in his stupid Lexus. On a good day, we relish the smug satisfaction of later pulling up right next to that sunglasses-wearing, Bluetooth-chatting hot shot at the exit ramp.
“See buddy, all that extra work DIDN’T pay off!” We think. For a few moments, all is right in the world.
Three minutes later, we are doing the same thing, not realizing we are doing whatever to gain an edge, any edge in our depressing commutes. And someone else is cursing us out. The cycle continues.
Without further ado, I give you the “left turn by way of right turn.” It is a ridiculous move that myself and many other commuters have taken to rocking, and until I stopped and thought about it, I didn’t realize how foolish it must appear to onlookers.
The “left turn huh?” Let me explain. Take a look at this soul-crushing intersection of Muirkirk Road at Laurel Bowie Road (Maryland Route 197) in Laurel. This is near where the B-W Parkway dumps traffic onto Rt. 197.
When traveling to my office I have to take a left from Rt. 197 heading North, as the white car next to the “A” on this map is doing. Trouble is, depending on what time of day it is, this light can stack up with 20-30 cars if it is in a short cycle. And then keep stacking up as just a handful of cars can complete their U-turns or left-hand turns.
One day, an impatient fellow honked me out after I failed to blatantly run the red light to make the turn, thereby forcing us both into about three minutes of not moving. Actually, just one of us.
I observed him take a right instead, into the shopping center located on the right side of this photo. Then, at the small grass island, he did a U-turn, now setting himself up to go straight through the intersection and onto Muirkirk Road when that light turned green. And it immediately did, pushing his ’94 Chevrolet Lumina many furlongs ahead of my Japanese race car in the great American pastime, the solo auto commute.
After a few more left-turn frustrations at this intersection, I repeated what I had observed and started doing the “left turn by way of right turn” if it would benefit me. I am not alone; it is a popular strategy. So much so the move is no longer always viable: Too many people clog the traffic island during rush hour, trying to gain the inside position on the green light.
Isn’t this insane? I have no idea how fix this; this intersection has likely been studied carefully and is the way it is for a reason. This new special move probably isn’t illegal, but it certainly looks stupid and ego-fueled. It is also indicative of the classic D.C. driver entitlement we all make fun of one moment, then embody the next.
Now get outta my way! I’m in a hurry!