Paul Menter

Paul Menter

It’s a busy week of status quo disruption on the world stage.

Robert De Niro kicked things off at Sunday’s Tony Awards, which are apparently still a thing. Don’t be fooled, he was not propositioning the president for sex when with clenched fists he exclaimed “F*%# Trump!”. His statement reflected the entertainment industry status quo and reminded me of one of my favorite 1960s sitcoms, “F-Troop,” a civil war spoof set in the 1860s, that to my knowledge never won an award of any kind. Go figure.

Speaking of Donald Trump, he just became the first American president to meet face to face with a North Korean leader. He and Kim Jong Un, who has the best-conditioned body guards of any national leader on the planet (did you see them all running next to his Mercedes limo?) met in Singapore to negotiate denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, a status quo disruptor far more important than the Tony Awards.

Closer to home, trade deals or trade wars seem imminent with our rather upset neighbors Mexico and Canada. NAFTA status-quo defenders argue that cheap avocados from Mexico and Canada’s lion-like vigilance in World War II are sufficient basis for perpetuating the current agreement.

Yes, it’s more complicated than that, and that’s also part of the problem. Meanwhile I tried to ship a $62 rectangular black plastic applique for the passenger-side door of a Chevy Suburban to a friend in Mexico who scratches out a living as a driver. My friends’ car part had been stolen and in Mexico the part costs over $250. The very nice man at United Parcel Service told me I would have to pay a 500 percent duty up front to ship the part across the border.

Do you get the picture? The Mexican government would rather protect its auto industry’s ability to sell a $60 part for $250 than help out one of its workers by allowing them to find the part at the cheapest price. I did some research but was unable to find if this particular duty is due to NAFTA, because as it turns out, those who have a stake in the NAFTA status quo really don’t want us to know what it permits or requires. So, you need to read it yourself. Which I tried to do.

The NAFTA agreement document is an Obamacare-esque 1,700 pages long. Way back in 1993 the Foundation for Economic Education warned us that NAFTA’s 1,700 pages of government rules and regulations were “anything but free trade.” As a result, the NAFTA question is ripe for status-quo stakeholders to overwhelm us with statistics proving their position is right. Our only defense is to read a treaty that’s 50 percent longer than Tolstoy’s epic “War and Peace.” As you might imagine, I didn’t finish it before my deadline.

But none of that is the point of this week’s column, No, the local matter before us is of even greater magnitude than the issues discussed above. It’s the ever-growing Carbondale rush hour traffic at the roundabout intersection of Highway 133 and Main Street. There is no getting around it, it’s getting downright dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists in Carbondale.

It should surprise no one. Carbondale is one of the hippest places to live in Colorado. As more and more families with young children move here (which is great by the way), all seemingly seeking their slice of Carbondale’s bike-friendly ethos, the more dangerous it gets for them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming the family cycling crowd. Far from it. They are merely one element of our current urbanization, the Roaring Fork Valley’s 12-letter-long, four-letter word that is changing our valley on a daily basis. Urbanization’s impacts are affecting all aspects of life — housing, employment, education, the cost of living — and the changes are as dramatic as I have seen in my 16 years living here.

One acute issue requiring action is how some drivers, cyclists and pedestrians choose to approach the use of the aforementioned roundabout. Roundabouts are an alternative to signalized intersections and require all users to realize they are all in it together if everyone is to pass through safely, particularly at busy times. I drive Carbondale’s roundabout at the morning and afternoon rush hour every day and I can say with some authority that a substantial number of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians don’t get this. They make me wish daily for Kim Jong Un’s super-fit jogging body guards to be beside my car every time I drive through there.

Paramount among the offenders are drivers, typically though not exclusively young men in large powerful pickup trucks, who see the two-lane roundabout as an opportunity to pass slower traffic on the highway that otherwise is one lane in each direction. It makes for an extraordinarily dangerous mix of fast moving cars, with cyclists and pedestrians simultaneously crossing the roundabout.

The truth is, pedestrians who fail to push the button illuminating the roundabout’s crosswalk signs, and cyclists who ride their bikes through the roundabout’s pedestrian walkways (or any other congested intersection’s crosswalk for that matter) are only slightly less responsible for tempting mayhem.

Someone is going to get hurt unless this behavior, which is becoming the roundabout’s status quo, is stopped through education and law enforcement.

History has a way of repeating itself and history tells us that when the status quo becomes more important than solving a problem, nothing gets better. Let’s hope someone disrupts the dangerous status quo developing at Carbondale’s roundabout before the unthinkable happens.