Driving in any city can be a bit of a nightmare. This reality serves as an argument in favor of public transportation, but we all know Charlotteans love their cars. So if we’re going to be navigating the streets together, we may as well do so as efficiently (and politely) as possible.
In 7 years of Charlotte driving, I’ve learned that there are lots of places around town where a seemingly minor move on my part (executing a left turn without a turn lane, for example) can have a major impact on the flow of traffic behind me.
In some cases, making these moves will be unavoidable. I’m not suggesting you reroute your entire life to avoid ever inconveniencing another driver. But there are some places where a small change to your driving pattern can create a smoother commute for you and the people around you.
Here are 8 such places I’ve noticed on my regular routes around Charlotte.
Turning left on E. 3rd outbound between Charlottetowne and Queens
Tip: Go up a block to Baldwin so you have a left turn lane
Why: If you’re trying to cut over from 3rd Street to 4th Street, doing so at S. Torrence Street means rolling the dice without a turn lane and risking a line of frustrated drivers behind you. They just made it through the light at Charlottetowne. Don’t do this to them.
Assuming it doesn’t entirely wreck your navigation plan (and it shouldn’t), waiting one more block to execute your left turn at Baldwin will open up a left turn lane so the cars behind you are free and clear to keep on rolling.
Turning left on Charlottetowne from E. Stonewall
Tip: If the left turn lane is backed up, move ahead to the next light at Pearl Park Way
Why: This left turn is A MESS with its short lane and painfully short left arrow. Blink and you’ll miss it, which means cars get horribly backed up at peak hours. When it looks like that, go up to the next light at Pearl Park Way where there is a much longer left turn lane to accommodate the flow of traffic.
You may not save yourself that much time but you’ll help redistribute the backed up left turners so they’re not spilling into the through traffic and forcing the whole outbound Uptown flow to screech to a halt.
Merging I-85S at I-77S heading inbound
Tip: Stay in the right lane of the two left exit lanes and you’ll never have to merge
Why: If you’re not the most confident interstate driver and will be erratically slamming on your brakes and then accelerating like a NASCAR driver to merge over, cutting down on your number of necessary merges will make all our lives a little better.
At this exchange, there are two left exit lanes to take you from 85S to 77S. To avoid ever having to merge, stay in the right of these two lanes. That lane will feed straight through and become the fourth lane of traffic on I-77 while the left exit lane will end and have to merge over. From the right lane, you won’t have to do a thing aside from being courteous and allowing left laners (who didn’t have the foresight to stay in this lane from the start) to merge in.
Turning left on Thomas from Central Avenue outbound
Why: It’s not allowed. There’s a sign and everything. Just go up a block to The Plaza to make your turn in an actual turn lane so you don’t create a line of irate drivers behind you flailing their arms and pointing at the NO LEFT TURN sign on Thomas.
Turning left on Pecan from E. 7th outbound
Why: This isn’t allowed either. To get over to Central (which is probably where you’re going) from 7th, you should have made your left turn at Hawthorne. All other side streets will dead end into US-74. I still forget this sometimes, which results in having to wind through residential side streets in Elizabeth to backtrack to one of the streets that passes above or below 74/Independence to connect to Plaza Midwood.
NOTE: The Hawthorne bridge over 74 will be closed for construction from Monday, July 24 through March of 2019. Details. In that case, your best bet will be to access Central Avenue from its intersection with 7th Street near the Grady Cole Center.
Turning left on Randolph from Cotswold Shopping Center
Tip: Execute this move from the back of Harris Teeter where there’s a traffic light in front of Smashburger
Why: You do have a left turn lane to exit the shopping center by Starbucks but going to the light instead means you won’t have to battle four lanes of traffic, a very busy turn lane into the shopping center and the 50,000 people exiting that Chic-fil-A across the street on your own. The green light will guide you.
Common courtesy on Commonwealth between Pecan and The Plaza
Tip: Allow ample space between you and the driver in front of you.
Why: This is a reverse-angle parking block, which means if someone wants to get into a spot, they’re going to have to back in and won’t be able to do so with you riding their tail.
Turning right on Graham Street from 12th
Tip: Hug the right side to allow left turns
Why: There usually appear to be far more people turning right than left at this intersection. (Everybody heading to the Music Factory? Who knows.) Although painted lines for the left turn lane don’t appear until you’re basically on top of Graham Street, the W. 12th Street lane is just wide enough to allow left turners to scoot through and bypass the backed up right turn lane so long as right turners hug their side of the road to make room.
I hate when I want to turn left here but get stuck at the back of one line of traffic waiting through multiple light cycles for everyone to turn right before I can get up to the light.
Merely existing on I-485
Tip: Good luck.
Why: You’re gonna need it.