Have you tested your driving skills lately in the city of Amsterdam? I invite those familiar with Amsterdam's traffic pattern to hop on board for a magical, exciting and unpredictable journey into the future of what many believe should have been done years ago. It's the new reconfiguration of our traffic pattern. Yes, folks, come join us in a journey filled with orange striped cones, barrels and numerous signs, along with some crazy drivers through a fun-filled maze. All this is yours (and mine) for only a short period of time so enjoy the ride. For those unfamiliar with Amsterdam's traffic pattern I suggest double checking your seat belt, horn and brakes while preparing for your adventure. Amsterdam is now in full swing of major road construction which we are hoping will encourage people to drive through our city and just maybe stop for a brief visit.
Let's face it, folks, the present system has never really worked well for those trying to get from point A to point B. Have you ever offered to direct an out-of-towner on how to get into or out of our town? It's definitely quite a challenge where you really have to put on your thinking cap in order to direct them in the right direction.
Just recently an elderly gentleman stopped me asking for directions. He was planning a trip to Ballston Spa and looking for Route 67east. Now keep in mind our location of point A is the Stewart's Shop on the South Side. Point B is where this gentleman needed to go which is Ballston Spa. My job was to direct him through the city in the safest manner and without confusion. So on goes my thinking cap to pre-plan his magical journey through our city. I was pretty confident in directing him over the river bridge. However there are some little glitches along the way I thought could happen if I didn't direct him in the right direction. For sure I didn't want to misdirect this gentleman into a mess of cones, barrels and signs.
I began thinking about the "what ifs," as in, what if he makes a wrong turn? Where will he end up and how will he get out? Depending which lane on the bridge the gentleman takes will be crucial. For example, the far left lane heading north on the bridge will offer him no other choice but to go downtown. At that point he would have to deal with diagonally parked cars backing out into the direction of his oncoming vehicle. Not such a great idea. In fact, sometimes it can get a little tricky when a vehicle's backside is protruding outward a little more than it should, thus creating another obstacle. He would then have to somehow find his way back around onto Church Street. If the gentleman ended up in the far right lane heading north on the bridge there's a good chance he would end up in Scotia. His other option might be to circle the mall a few hundred times before he finds the right path. This is what I like to call the "Dizzy Loop."
OK, so now we have the gentleman over the bridge (and through the woods). What's next? I think it's pretty smooth sailing until he hits ... the dreaded five corners. This special piece of road work continues to amaze me. It's sort of like the archaic version of our modern day roundabouts. Here we five points of entrance into an open area without any lines, arrows or directions. For some reason it seems to still work well in Amsterdam. Go figure. I thought it best not to mention the five corners to the gentleman.
As with the orange striped cones, barrels, signs, construction vehicles and an ever increasing traffic flow, driving has been quite interesting lately. It was while driving south on Route 30 in Amsterdam just before the intersection where Division Street (one way) crosses over where I witnessed the unexpected. Two vehicles following each other decide to both take a righthand turn on Division Street, placing their vehicles in the wrong direction. This incident occurred later in the evening which might be the reason why the two misguided vehicles did not encounter a head-on collision with any oncoming vehicle. My guess is one vehicle was relying on the other for directions. My second guess is that both are not from this area ... I think.
I'm sure some of you out there have seen this sort of thing happen in our city where one-way streets suddenly change to running both ways. But to see two vehicles doing the same thing is a first for me. Living here my whole life I have learned to go with the flow of traffic flow in Amsterdam. It has always been mind boggling to most city residents of our quirky roadway system but with change coming we can only cross our fingers while holding on to the steering wheel and hope it works. I will say that driving is no longer a pleasure but instead that of a full-time job. Are we ready for the challenge and change in our driving directions? My only advice to you when it comes to driving in Amsterdam is from the Yankee legend Yogi Berra: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
Until next time -- hold that thought.
MIKE LAZAROU is an Amsterdam native and a regular
columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.