Bardstown Rd: The driving pinball game of X’s and arrows

Do you know what this means?
Do you know what this means?

Every time I approach the traffic circle around the Castleman Monument on Cherokee Pkwy, I’m reminded of when I lived in Hilton Head, SC.  Yes, in Hilton Head there are two traffic circles, and they cause some of the most erratic driving behavior you will ever see.  If you’ve ever had to stop at a 4-way stop sign anywhere in Ohio, you might have experienced very similar vehicular carnage.  What’s the big deal?  A stop sign?  A circle where all traffic travels the same direction?  These seem like simple tasks to me.  Speaking of simple tasks, can you tell the difference between a green arrow and a red x?  Well, when you’re driving through the Highlands on Bardstown Rd / Baxter Ave, how well you know the difference between these two symbols will determine your success rate.

Traveling on Bardstown Rd / Baxter Ave changes throughout the day.  The Highlands’ main drag is setup in a way that requires different traffic patterns for all four of its lanes at different times of the day.  Since Baxter Ave connects with major downtown avenues like Broadway, Market St, and Main St, there will be more traffic traveling toward downtown during the morning hours (going to work) and away from downtown in the afternoon / early evening hours (coming home from work).  Therefore between 7:00 am and 9:00 am Monday – Friday there are two driving lanes going toward downtown Louisville and only one lane going away.  And from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm there are two driving lanes heading away from downtown and one lane going toward.  Makes sense, right?  So what happened to the fourth lane of Bardstown Rd / Baxter Ave?  I’m glad you asked.  The fourth lane becomes a TURN LANE.  This means that regardless of whether you are heading toward downtown or away from downtown, if you need to turn onto another street there is a lane specifically designed for you to turn from so that people in the driving lanes don’t have to stop traffic and wait for you to turn.

So, how do I know which lane is going which direction?  Another great question!  If you don’t own a watch or you simply can’t tell time, they have developed a simple system to mark these lanes so that you know exactly which lane is for you.  As you drive in the Highlands along Bardstown Rd / Baxter Ave you will notice that there is a light box hanging above each lane every 50 yards or so.  Those are obviously not stop lights.  Those lights will tell you which type of lane you are using.  They are often referred to as the “pinball lights”.  Here’s the secret key…
A Green Arrow means you are in a driving lane going the correct direction.  A Red “X” means don’t drive in that lane, it is for people traveling the opposite direction.  Finally, a White “Turn Arrow” hangs over the turning lane and you should ONLY be in that lane if you are making a left turn (NOTE: this used to be a flashing yellow “X”, which still makes sense, but was obviously too tough for some to grasp).  That’s it!  The secret to navigating the Highlands is all here!  And this is only FOUR HOURS out of each weekday.  During the rest of the day and on the weekends, the two center lanes are the only two driving lanes and the two outside lanes are for parking.

I don’t believe that everyone driving in the Highlands on Bardstown Rd or Baxter Ave is ignorant.  I don’t believe that this is too complex to understand.  I do believe that there are people that get it and make it work, there are people that don’t get it and get honked at, and then there are people that get it but choose instead to use the turn lane as their own personal expressway.  The latter will receive repetitive honks and maybe even some sign language to go with.  Bottom line is that this system is designed to help the flow of traffic, try to be aware.  Otherwise just move to Ohio!  Haha.  I kid.  Have a good one.

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