The Dumbest Traffic Light in the World


Do you notice something odd about the placement of this traffic light? That’s right. There’s no cross street.

The light resides in the middle of a standard, otherwise unremarkable, city block, in the Chinatown neighborhood of Oakland, California. You’ll notice the crosswalk markings in the street. The building I work in is on this street and I can tell you from experience that very few people cross the street there. There’s a garage entrance on the other side of the street, out of view, but it’s presence doesn’t warrant a traffic light.

Just so you know I haven’t gone crazy or succumbed to dementia, there’s a reason I’m writing about this. Have you ever driven a car in Oakland’s Chinatown? If not, I can share that traffic laws are not enforced there.

People double-park in Chinatown all the time. People jay-walk and even the city-provided walk signs are set up to allow people to cross the street diagonally. I have no problem with any of that. It’s well established that different cultures have different traffic practices. I live in a diverse region so I accept it.

Except that the dumbest traffic light in the world exists in the context of what is otherwise a traffic-law-free zone. My solution is to ignore the traffic light and pay attention to any stray pedestrians who happen to be in the crosswalk.

Running a red light on the way to work each day is a liberating experience.

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