Sunday, July 26, 2020

Birmingham, AL: Streets, Avenues, Courts, Terraces, and ....

10th Court sidewalk marker. Birmingham, Alabama. July 2020.

What the bloody hell.

Naming conventions

I have lived in a place or two or ten, and Birmingham's street-naming conventions are the most confounding thus far.

For every one road name, there are often up to five, six, maybe seven? cousins of same. To wit:
  • 10th Street
  • 10th Avenue
  • 10th Court
  • 10th Place
  • 10th Alley
  • 10th Way

Left for a rainy day, perhaps: 10th Terrace, 10th Lane, and 10th Circle.

And the above does not even get into the South and North angles.

A Lifehacker article by Patrick Allan explains The Difference Between Streets, Boulevards, Avenues, and Other Roads.

This Vox video does the same, and I love that it gives a special shout-out to Tucson's street naming conventions at the very end:

The disappearing roads

Like some rivers that are visible for long stretches, but then go underground for a stretch, then re-surface somewhere else, so it is in Birmingham.

Take 16th Street Avenue South, for example. You turn off of Greensprings Highway (also known as Highway 149 until it does a 180; also known as Columbiana at a different point) onto 16th Avenue South, and you continue straight. You're still on 16th Avenue, yes?


Unbeknownst to you, only about 500 feet from your turn on to 16th Avenue South, you are on 10th COURT, for fuck's sake. Where did 16th Avenue South go?

Ohhhh, look. No. Don't look. Because there is no "look."  Because you can't see it from where you are. Because the only way to know where 16th Avenue South re-appears (assuming you know it does re-appear) is to search for and find it on a map.

Ah, there it is! To get there, you'll need to continue on 10th Court South to 10th Avenue South, turn right, and then you'll hit 16th Avenue South. If you actually want to get somewhere from there, then you'd better take a left because if you turn right, you will end up LITERALLY on a circle tour. Idlewood Circle. Which, if the roulette gods are with you, could roll you onto a nameless road in George Ward Park, through a real traffic circle, and then to 4th Street, and then to your 16th Avenue starting point.

Surprise! signs

Birmingham is the Forest City (in addition to the Magic City). Gorgeous. Crepe myrtles draped in semi-precious jewel blossoms that can make you weep at their beauty. Tall trees that bestow bounteous shade and oxygen and Edenish vibes upon all who pass by. And, and, and ... .they hide Very Important Signs, that tell you TURN HERE! at sudden, out-from-nowhere on-ramps to, for example, Highways 149 or 31.

How many Birmingham newbies shout "damn it!" as they zip past that hidden fast curve off to the right, going too fast to make the surprise turn, especially with another car riding up close and personal on their hind end, knowing they'll now have to turn around and try another pass. Well, this newbie has done that several times in the short span of time she's been here.

No signs

And how about important intersections without any signs? Not on any of the corners. Not above the traffic light.

Noncommittal signs

Or there are signs at an intersection. Two, even, to show both street names. Only, they are at an angle that makes you wonder: Which is the sign for the street I'm on?

I'll get things sorted eventually, as I did in:

For Tucson's numbered roads, I had to create a mnemonic hack for myself: Vowels are north/south (like odd-numbered highways) and consonants are east/west (like even-numbered highways). Therefore: numbered avenues (A = vowel) are north/south and numbered streets (S = consonant) are east/west.

At least now I know about Birmingham's little game of roads. That's something.

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