Monday, July 20, 2015

Musings: Local Courtesy

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!!


Anonymous said...

5 to 7 cars is fine.
Most Kauai drivers are patient and friendly. We have a shared frustration with traffic.
Traffic is part of life and getting your thong in a bunch won't solve a thing.
Your advice on chillaxin' is as good as it gets.

Manuahi said...

This idea may be boo'd but technology might help the situation. Put in traffic lights that are timed to let 5-7 cars go on one side then the other. Put in sensors to change the light immediately of there are no cars on the other side. It might cost a million but it preserves the bridge, helps to insure the 5-7 car tradition and hopefully reduces driver frustration. A traffic light would be followed by visitors.

Anonymous said...

people need to get over. does felicia have nothing to do now so she's harping about these historic one lane bridges? yea there's a wait, so what, you expect it going into Hanalei. we've been bitcing and moaning about kapaa town traffic and guess what, it'll never get more lanes so we all just deal with it and expect there to traffic. that simple. on to the next felicia.

Anonymous said...

Bye Felicia

Anonymous said...

The community voiced it's opinion in 2008. A lot has changed since then. Why not ask again? Perhaps 10-12 cars, local courtesy for the Hanalei Bridge only, keeping 5-7 cars for the other one lane bridges? I think some of it has to do with Hanalei School letting out at that time.

Anonymous said...

Imagine picking up your kid from Hanalei Elementary (in or out)!

Anonymous said...

@10:37 That sounds like Ross's rationale for term limits!

@ 10:38 What is wrong with having kids take the school bus?

Anonymous said...

Between 2-4 pm? That's afterschool traffic. Ever tried to go past Kauai High School on Lala Road during those hours? Or through the Puhi roundabout? Get used to it.

Anonymous said...

There's no need to change the protocol at the bridges. After 30 years of crossing the bridge in and out of Hanalei every day, I don't think I've ever seen a tourist drive around someone who is already stopped at the bridge. On the other hand, yes, I've seen some local cars do that a number of times. Still less than a hand full. I myself, since I drive a small-ish sedan, have actually been passed twice on the bridge by a local who just couldn't wait another 5 seconds for me to get to the far side. The double bridges in Wainiha are the worst, simply because the construction of the temporary bridges and lack of County diligence in keeping the vegetation under control can make it almost impossible to see what's coming.
One comment missing here. If we're complaining about traffic in and out of Hanalei, or at any of the bridges beyond - how about bringing back the shuttles, which were always full?
Kudos to Brysone. Not only does he post the Bridge etiquette on his website, he also reminds all of us to just take it easy.

Anonymous said...

11:34. Ross has been on target the most amongst the rest of the council in the past 3 years he's served. Whatever rationale he uses, good, better than Joanne, Mason, and Hooser passing stupid laws like 2491, the smoke bill, and the ridiculous barking dog law. Next election he'll be on top so just keep talking shit, that's all you're good for.

Auntie Maria said...


I've seen this done effectively worldwide. And now with solar panels to power them, traffic lights could be the answer on our one-lane bridges.

Anonymous said...

These county and state engineer dummies can't even fix the light in front of Big Save Kapaa, Safeway, and Foodland.

What makes you think they are real engineers?

The lights should be timed and traffic sensored so continuous ow of traffic without back ups would alleviate congestion and long waits.

You can sit at any one of these three lights for 10 minutes trying to turn left without a single car going through north or south bound.

These dummies can't get shit right. You don't even need an engineer to notice that it would be a plain and simple fix.

But knowing Kauai, a contractor would bid a couple million dollars to install a sensor and the county of Kauai would hire consultants to guesstimate an over bid price and then pay the inflated price afterwards.

No mo shame these crooked folks

Anonymous said...

Joan- Knowledge is power. And you somehow have a basis of knowledge that is unparalleled. And yet you still mix up you fine Blog with good everyday matters. Thank you.
But there are 2 points that gets me a wonderin'. 1- How do you organize your hundreds of Blog posts and keep still keep finding pertinent Headliner and
2- The oft asked, how many people read KE? Gotta be a secret, but in my small world, it seems everyone does.
Side note to Felicia- If you want to stay a realistic contender for Council DO NOT get involved in every issue. Pick your battles.

Anonymous said...

No lights!
No lights!!
No Lights!!!

We just need common sense and common courtesy. And a little patience.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I live in Hanalei. There are never 100 cars lined up... that is an exaggeration. 5-7 cars is a particularly good number because that is how many you can see ahead of you when they are crossing, to count, when coming from the Princeville side. But lately way more than 5-7 cars pass through at a time. Last week, I counted 11 and the last three were school buses. So it is not only the visitors who need patience, but the residents as well. 5-7 cars please, take your turn, no one gets angry, no traffic lights.

Anonymous said...

"Drain the lane" would allow the most cars to pass the most efficiently. I always wondered where 5-7 came from. In retrospect it's not surprising it came from what makes people feel good rather than what makes the most sense. Thanks for sharing the history.

Anonymous said...

Just put a 1 in front of both numbers. Problem soved.

Anonymous said...

5-7 would work better if the signs were easier for tourists to see. Lot of them are on the road for the first time, gawking at the loʻi, mountains and nene. Get them ready. Post a sign 1/4 mile closer to Hanalei, someplace where thereʻs nothing else to look at. So they get prepared.

We need more SLOW DOWN signs! Too much hurry, not enough enjoy! Slow down for vacation.

Anonymous said...

Wainiha Bridges Stories:
Years ago, I waved at a neighbor who had just totally jammed someone on the double bridges. I smiled while yelling, "I can't believe you just did that!"
As he drove by me he yelled, "Me? That guy was wrong!"
I assume we all think we know what we're doing.... when a lot of us really don't have a clue.

Another time, Annette Haumea was in the car in front of me, and as we waited for about 30 cars to go by, she yelled "You're WELCOME" to every single one! I couldn't stop smiling! Seems like we all should be a little more like Annette, than our know it all neighbor who blamed the other guy!

Change the signs? Nah. 5 to 7 cars stretches into maybe 10 - if you're lucky! But having a sign that says 10 to 20 - could turn into 40.
I like the 5 to 7 cars sign and no stop lights! We'll eventually get to where we are heading.

Here's what bugs me tho: When people don't wave or shaka when someone stops and waits for them! This seems to be happening more and more. Old timers should serve as an example and pass this common courtesy on to newcomers. It's just a random act of kindness that gives both sides a good feeling. I think it's called ALOHA.

Anonymous said...

Easy solution; try take the signs down, won't be the first time. See what happens for a couple weeks. I live & work on the corner of aku & the highway. I observe the traffic throughout the day. It is common that traffic can back up to the school in hanalei, and foodland in princeville, especially around 3-5pm if it is a nice day and all the tourons are at the beach, then it rains hard, everone scrambles back to their condo.

Anonymous said...

I have a better solution. Remember the Burma Shave signs on the way to Vegas. The signs were small at intervals on the road that told a story that ended in "Burma Shave" So the signs are fine. But it's the training that is lacking. Give them signs. Plural. One lane bridge coming up. If your side has a lot of traffic continue until the line is gone. Something to that effect. If either side went until the line was gone it would not take long to empty out. It isn't about the time of day. It's about springing the sign at the bridge. You need to ttrain them BEFORE they get to the bridge. Takingit down is like removing the dog ordinance. Counter productive. Guaranteed if you prep them you'll get better results. Even if the traffic is left to run out each sides line the amount of cars will not really be so much as to hold up traffic like now. Remember the one sign at the bridge is not working because they aren't prepped and are concentrating on cars crossing he bridge as they approach.

Anonymous said...

There are just too many people and cars, the ads for Kauai portray an isolated beach usually Makua, but the reality is there is parking for less than 5 cars there, parking for 6-7 cars at Chun's,some at the park and the mess at the end of the road and thousands (10-20 thousand )on island at a time and approx half of those visitors coming over the Hanalei bridge . Don't blame the bridge, none of the infrastructure can support the level of tourism past the Hanalei Bridge. Not the roads,not the toilets, have you smelled the sewage smell in Hanalei? It reeks like raw shit in Hanalei.

Anonymous said...

100 cars?? Not even during the state canoe race which brings over 1000 paddlers it backs up that much. Fishing tales huh Felicia?