Local courtesy is coming under fire on the North Shore of Kauai.
Seems some folks are getting irked waiting at the one-lane bridges that have been carefully preserved all these years precisely to slow down traffic and support the region's rural character. The Hanalei Roads Committee began its work in 1976, and the historic Hanalei Bridge was placed on the state and national historic registers in 2004
|Photo from Ivy's Place website.|
But for some, the wait at the Hanalei Bridge is apparently unacceptable. Felicia Cowden, who resides in Kilauea, sent the Council this email:
A number of years ago helpful signs were placed at both sides of Hanalei bridge that states [sic] "local courtesy 5-7 cars" or something to that effect.
In the past few years, particularly in peak visitor season, the road can back up [sic] more than 100 cars in either direction, sometimes as far as into the center of Hanalei town. This 5-7 car number is part of the problem.
Community discussion is vivid on Facebook and casual dialog to remove this sign. An exception is Makaala Ka`aumoana likes the sign. Beyond that, I hear angry or frustrated discussion. It is my sense this would be easy to change and have suggested the county be contacted.
You may have heard from the community on this topic. I have copied the leaders of the community associations for Kilauea, Princeville and Hanalei on this e-mail so that they may weigh in.
Councilman Mason Chock was the first to respond:
Is there an alternative solution? Maybe between certain times of the day it should be a different count? We need to understand this better.
Mmm, it all seems pretty clear: There are too many fricking people and cars down there in the valley. Add up the daytrippers, Hanalei workers who can't find housing west of the bridge, TVRs equal to several large resorts and construction traffic, and what do you get? A traffic jam that bottlenecks at Hanalei Bridge.
It's yet another example of how Kauai has become a victim of poor planning and its own popularity.
Though Felicia seems to think “this 5-7 car number is part of the problem” and that only Makaala likes it, there's a reason why that number was picked. The Roads Committee, of which Felicia has never been a member, did a survey in 2008, asking residents how many cars should be allowed over the bridge before the other side gets a turn.
A solid majority wanted a small number, with 53 percent choosing 5-7 cars and 28 percent opting for 3-5 cars. Only 19 percent said 7-9 cars, with a very few opting for “drain the lane.”
The committee chose 5-7, as the majority desired, and it's worked pretty well, except between about 2-4 p.m. The problem seems to be primarily people driving out of, and not into, Hanalei.
So what do you do? Take down the signs and create a free-for-all, with fisticuffs and road rage at the bridge as a long stream of vehicles, many of them rental cars, fly past the folks who are patiently waiting?
Sacrifice yet another bit of “local courtesy?” Pound another hammer in the coffin of local culture? And for what? A band-aid solution?
This local courtesy has even become part of the visitor experience, with TVR owners like Brysone's Nishimoto counseling guests on his website:
When approaching the one-lane bridges, yield signs and white lines indicate where cars need to stop to allow on-coming traffic to pass safely. Driving beyond these white lines, without noticing if there are on-coming cars leads to traffic jams, accidents and locals giving you stink eye.
If you are in a short line of traffic and someone is waiting to cross from the other side, it is OK to go if you are the second or third car. However, somewhere after the fourth or fifth car it is polite to stop and allow those on the other side to proceed across. You’ll know you gauged this right if a local gives you the shaka sign for waiting.
Lastly, if you and another car appear to be approaching the bridges at the same time, it is better to stop than race to get over first. There’s “no hurries, no worries” here, besides its your vacation, relax and enjoy.
One thing's for certain: Hanalei Bridge is not going to become two lanes. Such a project would cost some $20 million, and no doubt folks at one of the island's other bottlenecks, like Kapaa town, would prefer to see the money spent there first.
So maybe chillax then? Remember:
There’s “no hurries, no worries” here.
Which is a good time to direct you to this charming little video. Enjoy!!