Sep 12, 201210:03 AM
Nola Newbie

Dispatches from a New Orleans Newcomer

Traffic Troubles

My car is a gold Honda Accord named Goldie Honda, inspired by the great Goldie Hawn. I inherited Goldie from my grandmother who passed away in the summer of 2010. I was sad to lose my grandmother, a woman who spoiled her grandchildren, never forgot to send a thank you note and was known to leave a glass of ice water in the mailbox for the mailman on summer days.

 

My grandmother’s car means a lot to me, and since it has been my main form of transportation since graduating from college, Goldie Honda made the move to New Orleans, too. She has been my partner in crime in my adventures around my new city, and it's a good thing because driving in New Orleans has been an interesting adventure.

 

Driving in a new city, especially a large one, is always a bit challenging, but I have found the streets of New Orleans to be especially difficult. A main problem has been turning left. It’s a simple task that NASCAR careers are based on, but I have found it to be tricky in the Big Easy.

 

These photos help explain my example. On my way to work every day, I drive down Paris Avenue, then turn left on to Robert E. Lee Boulevard at this light. (top photo)

As my left blinker clicks away, I wait for the green light, then turn to encounter the next light. (bottom photo)

When I turn, this light is red. Usually a red light means stop, but in New Orleans, I have learned it’s okay to drive through a red light in intersections like this one. From my observation of other cars, including two police cars, this red light is merely a yield sign in which a driver slows down to make sure no one is coming. Since there is a small bit of space between this red light and a previous red light, the car completing the left turn from the other direction is okay to go through as long as the driver yields to oncoming traffic.

 

This makes sense now, but about two weeks ago, it made none. I was making the same left turn and stopped at the red light. The car was honking at me, which always makes me nervous and frazzled. The next time I was at this light, I noticed the car in front of me stopped for a second or two to make sure no one was coming to his right, then glided through the light before it turned green. I kept noticing it, but didn’t decide it was okay until a police car did the same thing. Now I know what to do when I come to this red light, even though I get a "breaking the rules” rush of adrenaline every time I do it. I have learned that turning left and going through the next red is allowed at some intersections and not others, but I have learned this all through observation, which has been stressful.

 

To be fair, my driving trouble might not be a New Orleans thing; it might be the difference between the roads of a big city verses the college town I where I used to live. However, the streets of New Orleans and its surrounding areas set the Big Easy apart from other U.S. cities. For instance, I've driven through the cities and suburbs of St. Louis, Chicago and more, and I've never seen as many U-turns in my life as I have on Veterans Memorial Boulevard.

 

To longtime New Orleans residents, these traffic patterns are the norm. They are part of everyone's daily routine. To outsiders, however, different traffic patterns are another part of New Orleans to which we have to adjust. I find myself planning what lane I need to be in long before I need to be in it. I find myself driving past my destination before I turn to get there. I find myself questioning whether I should stop or not.

 

I'm not complaining, but figuring out the difference between stop and go wasn't something I thought I would have to worry about. Like all big moves, stress happens and I know I will get used to it eventually. I only wish that the Red Light Green Light games I played in preschool came with a New Orleans edition, so Goldie Honda and I wouldn’t feel like our lives are at risk, and my grandmother could look down on us in peace.

Reader Comments:
Sep 12, 2012 11:09 am
 Posted by  jaygeebee

FYI,there is a "left on red" statute in the state of LA. I used to carry a copy in my glovebox to show to the police , but most are now aware of this rule of the road.LA RS 32:232(c):
(c) Except when a sign prohibits a turn, vehicular traffic facing any steady red signal may cautiously enter the intersection to turn right, or to turn left from a one-way street into a one-way street, after stopping as required by Subparagraph (a) or Subparagraph (b) of this Paragraph. Such vehicular traffic shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection.

(d) Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian-control signal as provided in R.S. 32:233, a pedestrian facing a steady circular red or red arrow signal shall not enter the roadway.

(4) In the event an official traffic-control signal is erected and maintained at a place other than an intersection, the provisions of this Section shall be applicable except as to those provisions which by their nature can have no application. Any stop required shall be made at a sign or marking on the pavement indicating where the stop shall be made, but in the absence of any such sign or marking, the stop shall be made at the signal.

Acts 1962, No. 310, §1. Amended by Acts 1976, No. 152, §1; Acts 1978, No. 551, §1; Acts 2011, No. 244, §1.

Sep 12, 2012 01:40 pm
 Posted by  BRBob

As a Baton Rouge resident who occasionally travels to New Orleans, I empathize with you. What really disconcerts me is crossing Canal Street. If you just make it through the first traffic light before it changes to red, your natural inclination is to continue through the intersection. But there is another light on the other side of the street which is probably red by then, so you have to stop in the middle of Canal, an action which does not seem normal(or safe).

Also, be aware of the side streets in the city. Some of them are of third-world quality. I actually had to back out of a one-way street that runs by Parkway Restaurant because it had an impassible pothole in it. Even some of the streets in the Garden District have holes that will swallow your vehicle.

On the positive side, St. Charles and Carrollton are much better than they used to be.

Sep 12, 2012 04:12 pm
 Posted by  nmccarth

Your Grammy references made me feel a little teary. I am sure she would enjoy hearing about your adventures with Goldie Honda!

Sep 12, 2012 04:51 pm
 Posted by  Ann

Grammy would love to read about Goldie Honda and she would be proud to be referenced so charmingly in your Blog. Your "Yankee Aunt" is enjoying every detail too.

Dec 18, 2012 09:23 pm
 Posted by  Cacherdude

We were vacationing in the Big Easy last week, our first visit, and was amazed at how few drivers use their turn signals and how many drivers are in love with their horns. Most of of exploring was done on foot and the thing that struck me the most was the deplorable condition the pedestrian signals were in. Signals that didn't work at all, signals that displayed both the walk and don't walk signal at the same time, signals that would only show the walk or don't walk signal, ie: the signal would show walk but when the signal changed it would show nothing and visa-verse. If you were in the crosswalk cars would just make "free" right turns while honking their horns like they had the right of way. And God forbid a driver should stop for someone in the crosswalk lest they face the wrath (blowing horns) of the first 5 cars behind them, saw this a lot at the market in the French Quarter.

Jan 17, 2013 02:03 pm
 Posted by  Texasgirl

I am also a recent transplant to la, baton rouge actually, so it was wonderful to find your blog the other day. I moved here last august from austin, tx with my husband since this is where his family is from. The traffic is very different here compared to other cities in the us. Even driving in huge cities hasn't prepared me for driving in la. Traffic rules you normally encounter don't seem to apply here. It is very confusing, so I am learning as well! Lol I'm looking forward to the rest of your carnival posts. (this is my first true carnival) I had no idea how much there is to the celebration. So exciting though =) I fell in love with new Orleans the first time we visited and I'm so glad I have the opportunity to live in this area. There's so much history and culture here, and the food and music are amazing!

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Nola Newbie

Dispatches from a New Orleans Newcomer

about

Haley AdamsHaley Adams has lived in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Missouri, Indiana and France, but she now calls Louisiana home. After graduating from Indiana University in December 2010, Haley moved back to her home, Columbia, Mo., to work for Inside Columbia magazine and mooch off her parents. After a year and a half at the small city magazine, Haley moved to the South to be the web editor at Renaissance Publishing in August 2012.

In addition to managing MyNewOrleans.com and Renaissance Publishing's social media, Haley is the editor of New Orleans Bride, as well as an associate editor for Renaissance Publishing's other publications.

When Haley is not at the office, she is probably trying a new restaurant, looking for places to shop or exploring the South with her boyfriend, Chris, and their dog, Leila. You can reach Haley at (504) 830-7259 or haley@myneworleans.com.

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