In my last column, I suggested that we stagger the lanes on Osborne Street so that we have four lanes going south during rush hour and two heading north.
I did so because right now we have three lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic heading home with the other three lanes almost empty during that rush hour. I was told by City of Winnipeg officials that the confusion caused by the re-orientation drivers would have to go through would cause too many accidents.
Obviously these people are not familiar with how drivers in section of the city served by The Sou’wester have shown extraordinary abilities to adapt to the weirdest system of streets and traffic signals in the world.
First of all, we have been dealing with Confusion Corner for decades. The intersection at which Osborne Street, Corydon Avenue, Pembina Highway and Donald Street all meet is a combination of straight lines and circles and curves that would drive any driver over the curb.
For example, somebody travelling north down Osborne who wants to go south on Pembina has to turn right down Pembina/Donald and then cross three lanes of traffic to turn left into a parking lot which spills into Donald/Pembina and then bear right to avoid careening down Corydon.
Most people just keeping heading north, pull a U-turn and try to find Pembina from the other side (a pretty straightforward right turn, but not too right).
It’s the same sort of plan for most every other manoeuvre one tries to make at Confusion Corner. The City has erected a 5 x 7 metre sign (on Osborne just before the overpass) which is so confusing and comical that it has become more of a tourist attraction than anything else;
"Hey Ethel! Take a picture of me beside this crazy sign the people who live here put up!"
However, we sou’westers figured CC out long ago and now it’s no problem.
We did that even while we were coming from the deep south (Southdale, for example) and the street names kept changing while our cars never changed direction.
Imagine a tourist entering Winnipeg from Highway No. 1 East who wants to find his relatives in the North End. They roll along down the road as Fermor Avenue becomes Osborne Street, which becomes Memorial Boulevard, then Colony, Balmoral, Isabel and finally Salter Street, yet they have not turned their steering wheel more than three inches.
This happened because our city’s great-great grandfathers complied with businesses and residents who didn’t want to change their addresses when parcels of land disappeared through development, connecting streets which had been apart but going in the same direction. So, when Isabel crosses the big tracks and hooks up with Salter, the old names stayed the same.
And let’s not forget the red lights and green arrows that went on at the same time on Fermor Avenue. Originally designed to get people to slow down, all they did was to confuse tourists, who would slam on their brakes at the last second when they decided the red light must take precedence over the green.
South enders found it was a good way to make new friends who were humbled and apologetic upon first greeting because their front bumpers were parked in the trunks of our cars.
So, figuring out staggered lanes? I think it’s easy peasy to a sou’wester.
Don Marks is a community correspondent for Osborne Village.