All this talk about metal plates has gotten the Department of Burnt Ends riled up about another street-related pet peeve: narrow traffic lanes. Thanks to our fat cars, skinny lanes, metal plates and sunken sewer covers, driving through midtown during rush hour is usually a festival of near scrapes and heart-stopping, Frogger-style swerving action. Only without the lady frog to jump on. To prove our point, we took a road trip last week through midtown's lean streets.
5:15 p.m.: QuikTrip
Like a pothead at 4:20, road trips require munchies. After entering the QuikTrip at 43rd Street and Main, we eye the hot buffet — a sneeze-guard-covered display of hot dogs and sausages on rolling trays and egg rolls in warming pans — before stocking up on Cool Ranch Doritos, waxy chocolate mini doughnuts and behemoth fountain drinks. Burnt Ends friend Scott bravely tries a corn dog, which he deems "mushy."
5:30 p.m.: Main from 35th Street to the Plaza
"This isn't as skinny," Scott comments about the road conditions near 37th Street and Main. "It's like Kirstie Alley skinny, not Heidi Klum skinny." However, the lanes tighten up as we pass 39th Street, and some lane-lapping action takes place near Westport Road. Another danger is the oncoming traffic, which veers toward us. We also eye the bus lane and wonder if we're allowed to use it — as well as wonder why it reads "LANE BUS."
Verdict: Bus lanes must go. No one knows what they're for, anyway.
5:40 p.m.: South on Ward Parkway, from the Plaza to 75th Street
After hazarding the split of Ward Parkway and Shawnee Mission Parkway, we head up the hill, where the three-lane road becomes a nerve-racking raceway of SUVs and luxury cars — usually driven by people on cell phones. Concentration and sweaty-hands factor: high.
Verdict: Lanes should be abolished on Ward Parkway. It would be like those European towns that banned traffic lights and signs — people would be hyper-aware of their surroundings and therefore more cautious. Theoretically.
6 p.m.: North on Southwest Trafficway, from the Plaza to Valentine
The worst spot is north of Westport Road, where the sudden curve causes drivers in the far-right lane to blanch and brake. The occasional parked cars in the right lane add to the stress, as do the neighborhoods just north of the Plaza — which a friend says were "designed for the horse-and-buggy days and haven't been widened since."
Verdict: Ban those parked cars!
6:10 p.m.: Westport
After all this driving, we needed a drink. We pull into a congested Westport, manage to find a spot in front of McCoy's, and ended the trip with a pint.
Verdict: Westport also needs to limit street parking, thus eliminating the congestion at Broadway and Westport roads. Now, if only the city could work on synchronizing the traffic lights.