Broken light poles just one example of poor driving

On my daily afternoon dog walk around the Monroe School neighborhood on South Bend’s near south side, I generally take the stretch of Michigan Street between Donmoyer Avenue and Chippewa Avenue. I would like to nominate that patch of pavement as the most dangerous half mile of road in South Bend … for light poles. 

In the past year and a half, at least one wooden light pole has been knocked down at all but one intersection (Jennings, Tasher, and Farneman). The substantial metal traffic light pole at the southeast corner of Donmoyer was felled by a vehicle a year or so ago. As a result, that busy intersection was regulated by a flashing red light for months before it was repaired. Mind you, Michigan Street is a well lit (except when light poles are felled) straight stretch of road (except for a roundabout).

One of the fancy decorative lights on the northeast corner of the Chippewa roundabout was demolished this winter, leaving a trail of car parts and tire tracks in the snow on the Palmer Funeral Home’s lawn. Since then, the concrete base and loose wires have been topped by an orange traffic cone. Or they were until this week, when I walked by only to discover the traffic cone up against a small tree further north on Michigan Street, but still on the funeral home property.

 I thought some prankster had moved it. But no, there were fresh tire tracks on the funeral home’s lawn, pieces of plastic car parts, and a big wedge gouged out of the base of the small tree. I guess it’s lucky the city has been so slow in replacing the decorative light pole.

An orange traffic cone marks the spot where a light pole once stood on South Michigan Street.

I grew up near Michigan Street. It was a two-way road back then. One of my best friends lived on the west side of Michigan Street. It was such a busy street that my friend’s older brother had to come out to help me cross it. Eventually, Michigan Street was converted to a one-way street with only northbound lanes.

Mayor “Smart Streets” returned it to two-way traffic and added the Chippewa roundabout. He claimed it would “calm” traffic. I invite anyone who believes that claim to travel in downtown South Bend at rush hour or any time there are more than four cars on a stretch of road. The frequent honking I hear on the Chippewa roundabout would wake the deceased at the funeral home.

I don’t do much driving, so it’s alarming how much bad driving I see on my short daily commute to and from work. Tailgaters, speeders, lane dodgers, and distracted cell phone addicts are everywhere. I see drivers using center turn lanes as passing lanes. The evidence of this deplorable driving is visible on so many vehicles: missing bumpers, hanging rear view mirrors, dented side panels, cracked or missing headlights and taillights. 

And today, I witnessed (or more correctly I heard, then saw the aftermath of) my first speed hump accident. One driver slowed for the hump, but the driver behind him did not. Car parts on the hump told the tale. After the rear-ender, drivers seemed to be slowing down more to dodge the debris than to mitigate the hump.

My wife has long since tired of my daily shout out of “Siren City!” Perhaps it’s because we live near a busy street and a nursing home in South Bend, but it seems that sirens are more prevalent now. The sirens do not seem to be the police responding to traffic accidents and violations, though.

Bad drivers are everywhere. They should be easy pickings. I think the police have given up on enforcing anything but the most egregious traffic violations, perhaps because of budget cuts or maybe because they have decided dangerous drivers are dangerous in other ways.

May I suggest though that the poles on Michigan Street, if they could talk, would ask South Bend’s finest to give a little extra attention to this endangered pole zone.