I was reminded by an email from the city that the often maligned triathlon was to take place yesterday. The email was actually a traffic advisory, and cautioned:
Portions of the land routes go through downtown Annapolis and the area of the Navy Marine Corp Stadium. It is not anticipated that any roads or egresses will at any time be shut down completely, but there may be brief delays and re-directions of traffic as participants pass by certain points. Traffic is expected to be heavy due to the Triathlon,along with normal weekend visitor traffic.
You don't send out a traffic advisory for a "brief delay", you send it out for a day-changing traffic phenomenon, and that is what I envisioned would happen. AP had neither the time, nor the disposition, to go anywhere near downtown yesterday. But I imagined there were citizens with horror stories. And just as I was writing this post, I was vindicated by an emailer, who, despite my best creative writing efforts, probably says it better than I ever could:
(Note: anonymous source. Possible, though unlikely, credibility concerns.)
Never in my 59 years in this city.
Not from Boat Shows, Stadium events, nothing compares to this. On Sunday, Sept 9th, 2007 8:15 A.M. I innocently pulled out of Dubois Road at North Bestgate and took a right to go to Caffe Pronto at "Festival at Riva" what should have been (including the stop in the coffee shop) a 15 minute round trip; (Bestgate to Medical Parkway, to West Street to Riva Road to Festival shopping center).
When I got as far as the Bestgate / North Bestgate intersection there was traffic already backing up and I assumed an accident, (a frequent occurrence at that stoplight). As I turned onto westbound Bestgate I realized that some portion of the Triathlon was being held on the road. I had no convenient way to turn around so I decided to press on.
Within a block, traffic (now confined to an outside lane in each direction) slowed to a crawl. As I would be stopped next to a County Police officer, I would inquire of what was going on and for how long. The first officer I talked to said "they've known about this thing now for 3 years and haven't done any planning. We were told a couple of days ago what our assignments were ... I'd rather be in church with my family -sigh-". The shopkeepers on Bestgate were sitting on the curbs with their parking lots empty. The only traffic that could get to them were the unfortunates who happened to be on their side of the road, The Westfield Mall was a ghost town, the number of cars burning gas in stalled traffic for this 'charity' event had to number in the thousands. Since this was hailed as an 'inaugural' event one could assume they intend to repeat it. I suspect that if all of the business's that lost money, and all of the residents that got blocked from returning to their homes could be contacted with the threat of a repeat performance? That the charitable contributions would be far exceeded out of sheer fear of experiencing it again. I got no less than three different and conflicting stories as to turn possibilities from three different County Officers in the length of Bestgate road. While I was trapped on Bestgate for an hour? My wife went up on the Triathlon website which proclaimed 'minimal delays' on Bestgate road.
An SUV in front of me three cars up decided he had to bail out and do a "U" turn in the absence of cyclists impeding his turn. One of the ersatz rah rah cheerleader types started screaming at him "no! No!" and shaking his fist whilst he leaned over to get the guy's tag number. By this time I concluded a detour down Admiral drive to Jennifer road was the only sane alternative ... after all I could see some cars making the left turn there. After 30 minutes for less than a mile, I was ready to bail out myself. Imagine my surprise when I got to the intersection and was waved through and forbidden to take the left. This was compounded by being forbidden to take a left on Medical Parkway, or at any of the Mall entrances as well. I asked another officer where I would be able to turn around and he told me "at West Street / Generals Highway". Wasn't I shocked when in fact I was not permitted to go left in front of the Mall, nor was I allowed to go straight across to Housley road but forced to go right out General's Highway towards Crownsville, Millersville, ... all the way to Honeysuckle Lane at the Golf Course where an officer capriciously was letting some of us turn. I should point out that my neighbor, caught in the same traffic funnel was NOT permitted to turn there and in fact had to go out to rt. 97 in Millersville to escape.
I then went left from Honeysuckle lane to Crownsville road past the Renaissance Festival to a left on Defense highway where I made it with no more problems to Festival at Riva. I concluded that I'd better not try returning on Bestgate so I went down to the new circle and took Taylor avenue, figuring to be beyond the fracas at that point.and in fact I saw the cyclist pulling into the stadium entrance. To my relief I headed out Taylor to the Rowe intersection, figuring to go beyond Rowe and go the back way home through West Annapolis. To my horror I was flagged at Rowe blvd., to go in towards the city and forbidden to go towards West Annapolis. In front of the Courthouse complex I pulled off beside an APD officer and asking him how I was going to get to West Annapolis. His suggestion was that I 'pull off over in town and park and wait for it to be over'. When I got to the Arundel Center I was flagged again to the right so I decided to go back down West Street to the top of the stadium and wend my way home through Admiral Heights to Admiral drive. I was told by City Officers that I could not take a left at the head of the stadium so I did a "U" turn and went back out to West Street outbound and went to Admiral Drive from there.
By the time I got to Admiral, the traffic had begun to move and only as small number of cyclists were in evidence.but when I approached the North Bestgate turn where I started? The Triathlon 'officials' were trying to wave me into town on Rowe. I slowed up more and told the individual that I had been trying to get home from most of three hours now and I had medication two blocks away that I had to take an hour before now. She stammered and said 'oh well tell the policeman that up there' (at the intersection of North Bestgate). Fortunately I didn't have to because the County Officer (unlike the Triathlon herder who would have been perfectly happy to see me go back into town) allowed me to take my left onto North Bestgate and get home.
This an an awful story. I have about as much patience as a 2-year old when you take his pacifier away, and I can't imagine how I would have reacted if I were in a similar situation.
Remember, folks, the city originally wanted to sell the right for this triathlon to take place for...get ready....$1. I hope the athletes had a good time.