Rules of the road

St. John’s streets could put even the savviest of navigators into a spin

Susan Flanagan
Published on January 15, 2013
A forest of traffic signs greets motorists at Rawlins Cross in St. John’s. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Monday was a big day. No. 3 turned 16 and got the best present a 16-year-old could wish for — his driver’s permit. Yee-haw.

I now have three assistant drivers to help with the workload. Well, No. 3 is not quite ready to strike out on his own yet. He will have his permit for at least another eight months, after which, once he completes a credited driver’s training program, he can go for his licence. Then, for a year following that, he has to be home by midnight unless an employer writes him a note.

Regardless, it’s a giant step in the direction of adulthood and we’re all ecstatic. After we paid the $40 and got his picture snapped, we left Motor Vehicle Registration in Mount Pearl and headed straight to an empty parking lot. No. 3 hadn’t felt the weight and power of the van before. He liked what he felt. The power, the freedom. It’s almost like flying.

Not quite, but you know what I mean.

It might be a few weeks before I let him loose at the more complicated intersections in the city, especially considering I just learned that I have had some intersection rules wrong for years.

For almost three decades I was sure that cars entering Rawlins Cross from Monkstown Road had the right of way over Prescott Street even if they were turning left and going around the circle.

Not so, I just learned.

Vehicles entering the Cross from Monkstown Road only have the right of way when continuing down Prescott Street towards Duckworth. If they go around the circle to go back to Monkstown Road, Rennies Mill Road or to turn right on Military, then Prescott has the right of way over them.

Prescott also has the right of way over vehicles entering Rawlins Cross from Queen’s Road which has a yield sign and Flavin Street which has a stop sign. So all other streets stop to Prescott and then Flavin would stop to Queen’s.

Confused yet?

Imagine the poor sod from away trying to figure it out. Make no wonder it was the site of the first traffic light in the city.

Surprisingly there are very few accidents at this intersection as drivers usually proceed with caution and are respectful towards others entering the Cross.


The big switcheroo

My father used to tell me the story of the night of Jan. 2, 1947 when, at the stroke of midnight, all the cars in the city switched from driving on the left to driving on the right.

My father, 18 at the time, stayed up with his buddies hoping to see a couple of cars run into each other entering Rawlins Cross the wrong way, but alas Dad and his buddies were disappointed. They had no accidents to report.

He said those most confused by the switch from left to right were the carriage-pulling horses who, up until that night, would have been whipped had they strayed to the right. Now they were being whipped if they didn’t go there.

Downtown St. John’s, as we all know, is not exactly laid out on a grid system.

I’ve met lots of oil folk and their spouses who are astonished that if they drive east on New Gower Street past city hall, their lane just seems to disappear into Never Land near Gower Street United Church.

The city, however, has done a good job of adding signage to make it evident that all drivers must veer right on this stretch.


Streets converge

Another tangly intersection is where Temperance Street meets Duckworth Street.

If you leave the St. John’s Port Authority and Terry Fox statue and head up to the base of Signal Hill, you’ll go up one of the steepest hills in the city.

This intersection can freak out the most seasoned standard vehicle drivers who get to the yield at the top and say their prayers before proceeding.

Cars are pointed at them from three other streets: east from Duckworth, west from Signal Hill and the Battery and straight at them from Quidi Vidi Road.

But all these other cars have full stop signs so the yielding Temperance Streeters are the ones who get to go ahead.

Then, if that same driver decides to proceed west on Empire Avenue, it may look like he has the right of way over traffic heading towards the hotel off Quidi Vidi Road, but that’s not the case.

That first chunk of road that leads west from Signal Hill is actually Quidi Vidi Road, so the driver must yield to westbound traffic coming from Belbin’s and the penitentiary if he wants to drive straight up Empire towards Forest Road.

It’s a lot for a 16-year-old to keep in his noggin when he’s on his first laps around the city.

I remember teaching No. 2 to drive around Pleasantville where traffic was scarce and there were lots of parking lots in which to take refuge.

We were over near the chicken factory when I suggested he continue up to the dump for a spin. I had a brain blip and forgot that the dump marks the beginning of the highway and before I could say “Oops!” we were headed towards Gander doing 100.

I calmly grasped the passenger door and suggested he turn off onto Stavanger where he could pull in and I’d take over to get us home.

Yes, I think my lovely 16-year-old and I will stick to parking lots for a few weeks yet.


Susan Flanagan will be white-knuckled for a few months yet. She can be reached at


Mail carrier feedback

Tim writes: “I am a 25 year letter carrier in Moncton, N.B. Your article has started circulating Facebook walls across the country and has been extremely appreciated. Our jobs are not well understood and you are correct in saying it has gone from being a decent job to a poor one, evidenced by the number of new hires who quit soon into their careers.

“You have really hit the nail on the head when you discussed the lack of concern for workers’ health and even more so with your points of ‘major misconduct.’ I believe the public would be shocked to know the level of hate Canada Post has for their employees and how we are daily working with the fear of suspension and dismissal for the smallest infraction or human error. It is abusive and archaic management.”

L.C writes: “Thank you! It’s been so long since I’ve heard anything about the post office or its employees that hasn’t been a ‘statement’ from someone sitting at a desk somewhere. Someone who realistically has no actual line worker experience or has even spent any time in our province. It’s actually amazing that someone finally asked the people that work on the job the questions and got answers. Susan, once again thank you for printing the facts. … I almost forgot that some news people actually still care about them.”

Joe the Mailman writes: “I am a letter carrier in Montreal. I see you have a good understanding of what we do. In the old system we did just deliver mail in the grey boxes as you mentioned, but our day starts very early sorting mail and magazines in racks in a specific order that follow first, by street and addresses according to the address layout on the route that we are delivering. We then tie up all the mail and put them in relay bag that another driver delivers to those grey boxes along the route. Before you see us on the route we would have worked indoors at the station anywhere from 2-4 hours depending if it’s your route or if you are a relief worker where the latter usually changes routes on a weekly basis, meaning he has to learn the sorting rack and that (it) always takes longer to sort mail as opposed to one that has his own route.

“With the new system we now have to, along with sorting mail roughly 20 to 30 per cent, we have to sort all magazines. Canada Post has increased the size of our routes and along with that they have included all parcel and registered letters.

“Some routes have red box collections; some have client pickups and sub pickups; some routes will have a combination of two or three of those that I have mentioned which was normally done by drivers called CSP that handle parcels, client pickups, red box collection and substation pickup or drop-offs.

“To see a letter carrier out late working is a result of many routes that are busted (oversized routes that are longer than eight hours). What I forgot to mention is that along with all that we have to prepare flyers for our route on a daily basis which I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are plenty of. That takes time to prepare — we get anywhere from two to, if you can believe, up to 10 plus flyers to prepare on a daily (basis). Some days it takes anywhere from 30 min to 2 hours to prepare. Yeah it used to be a great job — all you have to do is ask the roughly 70 per cent of new employees that don’t survive past their first week of work. Don’t get me wrong, I still love this job and many client’s especially the older ones, in their own little way make my day. Thanks Susan for taking your time to notice us and to thank us in your column. Well appreciated.”

Too Funny writes: “Mail carriers? What about our newspaper boy who carries a heavier load and is only half the size. On top of that he does it for less pay and without the government issued clothing and boots to keep him warm and dry. I’ve seen newspaper boys out delivering the papers in weather that kept mail carriers inside.”

S writes: “Too Funny. Paperboy half the size? Well I’m a Letter Carrier and I’m only 4’11,’’ so that puts that comment from you out the window! Government issued clothing and boots? Sorry? We have to work a good number of hours before getting clothing ‘points’ (for) which items can be obtained. And nowhere on that items list is boots! I have to purchase my own. If you think it’s so great, you get out there and carry the weight I do, at my height, and for anywhere from 9-10 or more hours a day.”

Steve writes: “Your local paper boy has perhaps 30 or maybe 50 drops and that is all. He/she does not have to get signatures, collect funds (cash, Visa, mc), and deliver to sometimes over a 1,000 addresses per day. When it is too cold then mommy or daddy will deliver for the child or at least keep the car running. Before TOO FUNNY comments on such things perhaps they would like to walk 17 miles in a POSTIE’S SHOES.”

Say it ain’t so writes: “What’s the math on that. The mail man drops off, maybe, a couple letters at a house. The newspaper boy drops off a paper. Paper probably weighs equal to 20 letters, maybe more. Well look at that, it works out to be the same.”

Danielle writes: “I believe in good working conditions for everyone. It doesn’t matter to me if you a contracted paper boy (who also is not entitled to basic employment standards) or work in a coffee shop. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re unionized or not. Instead of saying it’s not OK for the paperboy, but OK for the letter carrier because they are paid more, let’s all agree it’s not OK for either. As a letter carrier I now have 1,233 customers. My route is valued at just over 8.5 hours. I must put in overtime almost every day or Canada Post’s solution is to just not deliver the mail. Shame on them.”

Fibs writes: “Really great article Susan. ... I am sure every Postie that reads it will appreciate it…”

Craig Dyer writes: “Thanks you Susan for this article, members of CUPW really appreciate your support.”

Rhonda from the west coast of Canada writes: “Thank you so very much for printing the truth. The masses are weary and overworked and you are very correct in saying that the pendulum is swinging the other direction. I am a Letter Carrier with 28 years (in). I have three years to go and am doing my best to retire healthy and happy. Both as of late are terribly challenging. This job is definitely not getting easier by any stretch of the imagination. The routes are longer (mine is 15 km a day) and the weight loads have increased. Regardless, a very well written and accurate article. Much thanks for researching and telling it the way it really is.”


Dragonfly feedback

Father Frank Puddister writes: “Thank you for your article in The Telegram on Dec. 4, 2012. I was away at the time, but my secretary kept it for me until I returned. The dragonfly story is the best I’ve heard — and I’ve heard many — that refer to eternal life.

I first heard it some time ago when it was told at a vigil service by Deacon Ed Bonnell of the Anglican Church. When I see a dragonfly in summer, or see it in decorative art, I am reminded of the story.

The dragonfly was a popular motif in the Art Deco period, and is sometimes seen on Tiffany-style lamps today. I must add one detail. The dragonfly in the story makes an agreement with the others that any of them who feels the urge to crawl up the stem of a plant to the surface of the pond would come back to tell the others where he went and what he had seen. When he goes, he finds he can see his friends below the surface, but cannot return to them nor communicate with them, though he really wants to tell them how beautiful it is above the pond.

 I knew your father Dee for many years, and your mother, too, and have long admired and respected them both.

 I’ll continue to enjoy your column in future. Perhaps I’ll pick up a story from you to use in church!”

Note from Susan: A reader named Susan sent me the name of the book By Doris Stickney that deals with dragonflies and the afterlife: “Waterbugs and Dragonflies — Explaining Death to Young Children.”


‘Tis always the season to fill out scholarship applications

John writes: “I read and printed off your article Scholarships 101. I was wondering about a part in the piece when you stated: ‘Back in March, after my son applied in to MUN, he got a letter in the mail saying he had received back a Memorial University Entrance Scholarship. And this was well before final Grade 12 exams were even on his radar.’

“I was wondering if you could recall what that one would have been at that time. Like yourself at that time I’m in the process of going through the myriad of scholarship applications, etc., as my son has applied to MUN for September 2013. There are entrance scholarships that have an ‘automatic consideration’ without application whilst others have a standard MUN scholarship application form where you tick the appropriate/relevant blocks and provide some general contact info including SIN and MUN student number.”

Susan’s note: Both the Memorial University Entrance Scholarship and the Eastern School Board scholarships were automatic, based on high school results up to and including the January exams.


Loblaw feedback

Marylou writes: “Enjoyed reading the article. I have been annoyed with the attitude of Loblaw’s since the closing of the Newfoundland Drive store. A large corporation who are prepared to pay the leasing cost to keep a storefront vacant rather than permitting a competitor to provide a convenient service to grocery shoppers. I am not sure that the city or provincial government need to enact yet another bylaw. There must be some way to challenge the Mark Boudreaus of the corporate world to do the right thing.”

Ron writes: “Talking to a couple of employees of Dominion 2 years ago, they told me that the floor is condemned. It has been rotting away for 10 years. They tried several times to reinforce it over the years. Maybe you can check with the city on that problem.”

Susan Note: I’ll write more about Loblaw next week.