The Hand Deceives

Thursday, December 30, 2004, at 12:29PM

By Eric Richardson

I drove over to Grand Rapids, MI, this evening to meet up with Shmuel and Brian Tol. It was a good time, hanging out talking about computer stuff at one of GR's numerous coffee shops with free wifi (It's a Grind/Urban Mill). Afterward, driving across town to go to World Market, I noticed something: Grand Rapids has some horrid lights.

Twice in a row I had to brake uncomfortably hard when a light suddenly changed to yellow. Now in Michigan everyone has to take driver's training. One of the things they taught me was that to know when a light is going to change, keep an eye on the pedestrian walk/don't walk signs. If the hand is blinking, expect the light to go yellow. Now, a corollary to this is that the hand turns solid at the same time the light turns yellow, if not earlier (usually earlier, though).

Grand Rapids' lights don't seem to do that. Twice in a row I saw blinking hands even as the light turned yellow. Neither time did the hand turn solid until exactly when the light turned red.

That's just poor pedestrian management, though I'll grant you that neither the auto or pedestrian traffics in this part of town were exactly heavy.