The third Monday of the month is reserved to talk about Mental Riches. In my opinion, the best way to become mentally rich is to learn something. Past weeks, we have talked about reading and taking classes. Hopefully I will be able to teach you about something new: the Pittsburgh Left.
Pittsburgh is a very old city, so the streets and buildings were designed before cars were even thought about. Due to cars parked along the curb, many streets are only wide enough for a single lane of traffic in each direction.
If a car pulls up to an intersection and needs to turn left, it is often difficult to do so because of opposing traffic. Of course, the cars behind the turning car have no place to go, so they must also wait until that front car is able to turn and get out of their way. At a traffic signaled intersection, the vehicle turning left often has to wait through an entire cycle from green to amber before finally being able to turn as the opposing traffic comes to a stop for the red light. This means that all the cars behind that first car also had to wait through a cycle for the first car to turn, and then another cycle until they actually get to move. If there are several cars in a row that need to turn left and only one can turn at the end of each cycle, traffic can crawl to a standstill very quickly.
Enter the Pittsburgh Left. At a red light, the first two cars in each direction are facing each other. One of the cars wants to turn left and has used their turn signal to indicate their desire. The opposite car has no turn signal on and is intending to go straight. As the light turns green, the vehicle turning left does so first, then the opposite vehicle going straight proceeds through the intersection. By allowing the first vehicle to turn left first, the cars behind don’t have to wait through multiple cycles to go straight.
Lets look at this scenario through the eyes of both front drivers.
For the driver that needs to turn left, if he or she waits until the cycle almost finishes and finally gets to turn on the yellow, that driver gets delayed by the light and has a line of upset people behind them trying to go straight. Instead, they anticipate the light turning green and floor it in order to make the left before the opposing traffic starts into the intersection. This is very dangerous and illegal in Pennsylvania (turning traffic always has to yield to traffic going straight). I do not recommend initiating this at all for any reason. Wait it out. Upset the people behind you. They will survive, and so will you.
The other driver is first in line, has the intention of going straight, has the right of way when the light turns green, and sees the opposing driver’s turn signal indicating that they want to turn left. Although this driver has the right of way, he or she could certainly yield the right of way to the other driver (usually by flashing their headlights or using hand signals to the other driver). By yielding the right of way, they are delaying themselves and the people behind, but only by a few seconds. In addition, they are allowing the vehicles behind the left-hand turner to progress in a timely manner by not making them wait an additional cycle.
Although I do not live in Pittsburgh, I try to yield to the Pittsburgh Left as the situation arises. There are really only two cases where I won’t yield in that scenario. If I am going straight and the first opposing vehicle is turning left, I will not yield if there is more than one lane of traffic in my direction. If I yield, but the driver next to me does not, now I am really impeding traffic. The other case would be when there are no vehicles behind me, so the driver can easily turn left after I has passed through the intersection (although I still yield in this situation on occasion).
In my opinion, a two second delay for myself is a price I am willing to pay to help out a fellow human being. And the riches I receive from helping others are priceless.
Have you ever yielded (or considered yielding) to a Pittsburgh Left? What are other acts you do—random acts of kindness, so to speak—to help others? I look forward to hearing your ideas in the comments.