Ever tried driving around Dallas? We assume you have, as otherwise you'd have been stuck in the same quarter-mile or so for your whole life. We're not a city that likes to build anything that would be easily accessible by non-cars. Sidewalks are an afterthought. Pedestrians are treated with suspicion. Cyclists are reviled by both drivers and pedestrians. Also, it's balls hot.
You will, however, need to survive somehow. The daily commute in Dallas is less a drive and more a fun-filled obstacle course of terror, as every pickup truck in the known universe conspires to cut you up while you're trying to avoid the pothole cunningly disguised as a road. And unless your job offers you the hours of 11 a.m.-2 p.m., forget about actually using the freeways, because everyone else got there first, and none of them can drive.
Here then, are your best hopes for surviving the traffic-choked concrete bowl that we call home. Tape them to your windscreen, and consult them as often as you consult your phone while driving, which anecdotal evidence suggests is all of the available times.
1. Surviving the Mixmaster
Negotiating a path through the Mixmaster can be tricky, particularly during periods of heavy congestion, typically found during hours between 5 a.m. and 4:59 a.m. the following day.
Let's let the folks behind Project Pegasus, the longstanding plan to improve the Stemmons Corridor, explain:
"The traffic problems in the Canyon/Mixmaster are worsened by the outdated, geometric layout of the main travel lanes, service roads, ramps, and surface streets in the area, all of which fail to properly provide for the routes and destinations of current-day travelers. Secondary problems include forced lane changes, abrupt and unexpected merges, weaves and exits, and poor access for emergency vehicle response. Additionally, the Mixmaster is missing direct connections from eastbound IH30 to southbound IH35E and from northbound IH 35E to westbound IH30."
So complex is the geometry of off-ramps, on-ramps, between-ramps, etc., that the Mixmaster distorts time and space, opening up a portal to a hellish dimension where demons dwell, which we suspect is in Waco.
And they all drive BMWs.
What this means practically for the traveler is that no matter which direction you're traveling in the Mixmaster, only one lane will get you to your desired destination, and that lane will be two lanes to your right or left and moving in the opposite direction. Also, traffic in the lanes you'll need to cross to get to the ramp to your desired path will be moving at least 60 mph faster than lane you're currently in until you enter it, when it will slow by 45 mph for no apparent reason.
It sounds awful, but following some simple rules you can survive the Mixmaster.
-- Always maintain proper following distance to the vehicle ahead of you, which in the Mixmaster is 9.25 inches, no matter how fast you're moving. This makes the fullest use of available pavement and weeds out the weak, indecisive and sane, who have no business driving on Dallas freeways.
-- Never use turn signals before attempting a lane change, as this indicates weakness and will cause alpha drivers to close ranks and force you to drive all the way to Waco as punishment.
-- Thanks to the Mixmaster's unique design, it's virtually impossible for any traffic cop who wishes to collect a pension to pull you over. Feel free to ignore any traffic laws and drive as fast as you can, which in most cases will be about 7 mph in the lane you're in, or 85 mph in the lanes to your right or left.
-- Remember that aggression, fearlessness, quick reflexes and a total disregard for common decency are the hallmarks of successful motoring in Dallas, and if you survive your trip through the Mixmaster you'll have much to brag about. Via Twitter, say. While driving. It's the Dallas way.
2. Assume Pedestrians Are Idiots
Look, I fully acknowledge there need to be more pedestrians, and that criticizing them is not the best way to encourage them. However, no one in Dallas has had any practice at being a pedestrian, and as such you are the most wild-eyed, crazy bunch of roadside goofs I have ever had the misfortune to meet. If it was even vaguely normal to walk around here, then pedestrians might have the necessary skills to not be a danger. Alas, here we are. When I first moved here, I found it curious that cars would slow down and look at me funny when I was on the sidewalk. Now I do the exact same thing.
It's because y'all are simply terrible pedestrians. My tips to drivers encountering actual people not in a car are these.
-- Always assume that a pedestrian is going to make the most bone-headed move possible. Is there a crosswalk? They'll probably run across the street, arms flailing, 10 feet from said crosswalk. Why go out of your way when you can cross right now?
-- If you can't see around a corner, assume a person is standing there, because they probably are. If they can't see you, they assume they're safe, despite the fact they're standing in the middle of an actual road. Where the cars go.
--Don't honk your horn or try to shout at women walking by themselves. Just don't. It's never worked for anyone. They may not be able to afford a car, but they're still better than you, because you considered doing this.
--In parking lots, it is very, very annoying when pedestrians walk diagonally across a road, seemingly unaware of their surroundings and almost certainly looking at their phone. Simply drive to within a foot of them, and follow them while matching their speed. They'll soon get the message, unless there's some Jay Z/Beyoncé/Solange news on their phone, in which case you're here for the duration.
3. Be Prepared For Complexity
Dallas' streets were actually created by a madman with no peripheral vision, a very large tin of paint, and some cement. There is no other possible explanation for the insanity that is the thousand different variations of intersections and lane structures. You should always be on the lookout for problems, and by problems we mean all of the roads. Especially around Uptown. Good luck with that left turn.
-- ALWAYS ASSUME THE STREET YOU'RE ABOUT TO TURN ONTO IS ONE-WAY. Search for extremely subtle one-way signs. If in doubt, wait for someone else to commit and copy them.
-- The intersection on the right side of Ascension Coffee, between the residential street by the parking lot and Oak Lawn Avenue, makes absolutely no sense. Avoid that shit. Congress and Oak Lawn avenues doesn't make sense either. Were these the best solutions planners could possibly come up with? Or were they getting a backhander from collision repairers?
-- Be really careful when you turn onto the lower part of Greenville Avenue from the side streets, because the sidewalks are big here and it's easy to drive over them. If someone behind you honks at you for being careful, hit your brakes and wait a full 30 seconds to force them to reflect on how they're a huge asshole.
-- Always avoid the farthest right and furthest left lane because before you know it, they will turn into "YOU MUST TURN IMMEDIATELY YOU CANNOT LEAVE THIS LANE" situations. Unless, of course, you are about to turn, then stay as close to the side you're turning on as possible, because the intersection will probably toss 12 more lanes on your side just as you're ready to go.
4. Texting & Driving
You know you're not supposed to text while driving, but no public service announcement is going to stop you, because you're an asshole. You'll stop when they pry your phone from your cold, dead fingers, shortly after prying your corpse from your car's hot, burning wreckage.
So if you're going to text and drive, don't try to hide it. We know what you're doing when we see you gaze into your lap and drift across three lanes of highway or ignore a green light for 30 seconds. Hold your phone up high so you can at least keep one eye on your surroundings and so we know to stay the hell away from your vehicle.
-- While that poorly packed flatbed truck in front of you might be swerving a little bit and threatening to discharge several massive tires into the road, have you considered what might be happening on Twitter right now? What if someone's made an embarrassing mistake? You might be three minutes late to join in with the outrage.
-- You only need one eye to merge onto a 70 mph tollroad, so you're free to shop for that important gift for your loved one despite the apparent dangers. Can't direct both your eyes in different directions? Well, just look up once, point the vehicle and accelerate. Done.
-- At a red light? You have eons before that thing turns green. Break out Clash of Clans or something, because those bonuses aren't going to earn themselves. The guy behind you will tell you when to move.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.