A few weeks back, something looking vaguely like a traffic summons appeared on my front door, marked Colorado Springs Police Department, Code Enforcement. My violation? In official-ese: "Obstructions on public ways Chapter 3, Article 2, Section 218."
In plain language: The sunflowers that have taken over the hell strip between the sidewalk and the street have grown too tall, and apparently are obstructing the view of motorists. I am ordered to cut them down before Oct. 26, the "re-inspection date(s) noted in the Violation Table."
Naturally, I will obey the law. The flowers are nearly dried up and gone now anyway, their seedheads dropping fertile niblets onto the soil every time the wind blows.
I'll pull them up by their shallow roots this weekend and toss the heads into the garden, their original home. Over a couple seasons, sunflowers have taken over the southeast corner of the garden, and their seeds have migrated across the sidewalk to the hell strip, where I've never been able to get anything to grow.
This summer, the strip went wild. Hundreds of sunflowers popped up and proliferated, their yellow heads dancing at the corner, a sight that made me smile from a block away every time I saw them.
I wasn't aware they were obstructing the view of motorists. Thank God no one has crashed because of their presence.
The other night, on the other hand, as I was driving home just past dusk, I became all too aware of something that inevitably will cause a crash -- that's obtrusive, restricts visibility, is a direct threat to pedestrians and just plain obnoxious. And there wasn't a police officer in sight.
At every intersection, heading south on Cascade Avenue, an enormous SUV would pull up to my left, thrusting toward the stoplight and an eventual left turn. It was a cool early autumn evening, and the sidewalks were crowded with people headed for the Pikes Peak Center. It was that time of day when the light has just passed and it's hard to see bodies dressed in dark colors against newly darkened pavement.
I sat at a red light, behind the solid white line that edges the pedestrian crosswalk, enjoying the unusual sight of busy downtown sidewalks on a weeknight. The enormous metal monster next to me crept forward, first to the middle of the white line, then a foot in front of it, then practically to the middle of the intersection, while the light still was red. Pedestrians who still had the light and the right of way turned back to the corner as they saw the tank move into the crosswalk, assuming the light had changed.
Finally, the light turned green, and the SUV advanced to the next red light, a block up. More pedestrians. Another solid white line. Not a cop in sight.
Again, the imposing vehicle, this time with its left turn signal blinking, edged over the solid white line, across the pedestrian walk, into the intersection, while the light shone red. When it switched to green, the SUV burst across the four-lane street, turning in front of approaching traffic and almost taking out a band of evening walkers, youthful ones, luckily, as they raced onto the curb.
The car never slowed down. Its back brake lights remained dark as it rushed toward the startled crowd.
I don't mind pulling up the sunflowers. I don't even mind being served notice. I'm just a little bemused and befuddled at what constitutes a safety threat for pedestrians and drivers, and which laws are carefully enforced.
Is it against the law to pull across the pedestrian crosswalk against the light? I hope so. Is it enforced? No. Is it against code to grow a crop of lazy, floppy, bright and cheerful sunflowers around the hideous telephone pole in the hell strip? Yes. Is it enforced? You bet your booty.
Has a police officer ever been present on the street where I live, a block off the main drag, when teenagers have lined their cars up side by side in summertime, screeching off to drag-race the long straight stretch? Has a car ever been stopped for speeding down the cross street, so fast that sparks fly when its bottom scrapes the slight dip in the road? No on both counts.
Last night at dusk, butterflies and starlings darted in and out of the sunflowers before the light disappeared. On my front door, another official notice stamped in red -- FINAL -- begged my urgent attention. Should I not comply, there could be a lien against my property. Guess I'd better get digging.
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