To the Editor:
While we are all going roundabout, it may be time for a bit of history. Back in another century, Henry Hough and I shared our views on many environmental issues. At one point I suggested an op-ed that predicted the issues to which town meetings will be directed in a decade or so. Henry modestly suggested that it would better if it came as a letter-to-the-editor.
I do not remember all of my proposed votes, but one of them was “whether to tear down the fire tower – or to leave it as a memorial to the forests that once surrounded it.”
Another questioned how to use the grant for Menemsha to train students dressed as fishermen to let visitors know what once supported this and other villages on the Island. There was also something about whether to continue building the tunnel to Woods Hole or join in double-decking the bridge from Gay Head, via Cuttyhunk to Padanaram. The letter got printed, but not much changed.
We are now looking at the edge of a situation that has already been solved by other Islands. For instance, Monomoy accepts few or no automobiles; Bermuda has its own vehicular code that in no way resembles that which keeps London trucks and autos well behaved. But our revolutionary colonies somehow did not inherit the necessary wisdom to pace domestic growth with temporal necessities and the glacier of mechanical devices created to support them. Our Island already bears scars of this failure – dangerous intersections unprotected by simple signals available to control abject human behavior collectively blamed on traffic. Roadway designations (State Road, etc.) take precedence over local usage — a phenomenon that has as much to do with ancient geology, Mother Nature, and getting children safely to school.
There is hope. Both the crossing at the Oak Bluffs fire station as well as the current blacktop battleground show that a democratically based ritual of patience and politeness works at important intersections. It also asks us to consider the impact of a wider application of this brand of intelligence that would begin to tame the burgeoning traffic clogging our roadways.
For instance,were the intersection of State Road with the Edgartown Road, as it begins leaving Vineyard Haven, to become a one-at-a-time gavotte, the pressure at sequentially troubled locations can benefit from the resultant pacing. This could include (in addition to intersections) the entries and exits to businesses along State Road going west out of town. And please don’t get me started on Five Corners.
Friends that have been to other, more creative, islands in the world tell me that in time visitors and services become aware of the special nature of each Island and prepare their minds and schedules for it. If state laws and federal formats do not accomplish these purposes, they can be changed.
What, then, is missing? Two things: 1) Enough of us, including purveyors of goods and services, as well as bureaucrats beginning to understand that the problem here is not just one unhappy crossroad, and 2) The courage and creativity to begin solving our vehicular future now, while there is time.