Don’t block the box

FILLERS

BY JOHN CULLEN

You may not know what “Don’t block the box” means unless you live in a major city, particularly New York City.

It means if you’re stuck in traffic, don’t stop your car in the intersection. Leave it open so cross traffic can move. The idea is to reduce gridlock.

They take this really seriously in New York City. Cops there stand in the intersection and ticket cars that stop “in the box.” Fines range from $150 in New York City to $200 in Virginia Beach, Va.

I found out first-hand in 2007 about blocking the box. Our family was going to visit New York City and our intention was to stop in New Jersey and take a bus into Manhattan. But I missed an exit and landed on the George Washington Bridge, headed straight into the city and traffic hell.

As we rolled down Broadway like the Beverly Hillbillies, I was attempting to drive across a cross street when traffic backed up and I got stuck in the middle of the intersection. A cop standing in the middle of the street gave me holy hell and ordered me out of there now! She didn’t write me a ticket, but I resolved then and there to get off the street pronto. We pulled into the first parking garage we could find — the rates required taking out a second mortgage on the house and uncertainty whether we’d ever see our belongings again. The car stayed there safe and secure the rest of the day until we left town in the evening, after the traffic had cleared and we had toured Manhattan. (Advice to readers: Do NOT drive in Manhattan at all costs!)

You wouldn’t think traffic would be that bad in our growing little burg, but we do have a problem after school at the intersection of West Fifth and Michigan. Between about 3:30 and 4 p.m., after parents have picked up their kids from school, eastbound traffic on West Fifth Street can back up a couple of blocks when the light turns red at the bank corners, blocking northbound traffic on Michigan Street. It shouldn’t be annoying, but it is. After being stuck there for several minutes on several occasions, I now cross West Fifth at Geneseo Street a block west and everything’s just fine.

It’s obviously not a big deal, but it would be courteous for drivers not to block intersections when they are waiting for traffic ahead. In New York it will get you a ticket from a cop, a finger from a cabbie and a cursing from a pedestrian. Not so much in The City Beautiful.

Happy Valentines Day!

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