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JENKINS: How to get from here to there in the least amount of time

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

If you live in Gwinnett County, you probably spend a lot of time going from one place to another — by car, of course. Our suburbs aren’t designed for people to walk anywhere, as witnessed by our collective bulk, while braving Gwinnett’s busy streets on a bicycle is tantamount to having a death wish.

Moreover, if you’re traveling at certain times of the day, you’re probably in your car for extended periods of time. We’d all love to spend less time in the car, but short of moving, retiring, or dying, most of us haven’t yet figured out how.

However, after living here for 10 years, I’ve at least learned to minimize my drive times, utilizing several strategies I’ve developed specifically for that purpose and which I will now, against my better judgment, share with you.

Relax, officers. I’m not going to recommend anything illegal, or even anything dangerous, other than getting into your car to begin with. There are perfectly safe, legal and legitimate ways to get from A to B much faster, without ticking off too many of your fellow drivers.

The first trick, for those of us with major commutes, is to know when to take the freeway and when to stick with surface roads. Personally, I don’t go anywhere near Interstate 85 between 7 and 10 a.m. or between 3 and 7 p.m. At those times of the day, it’s usually quicker, and almost always less frustrating, to stick with secondary routes (unless, of course, you’re going against traffic).

The problem with surface streets is that they have lots of stoplights. That’s OK. The key, as you approach a red light on a four-lane road, is to pick the line that’s the shortest. If both are about the same, look at the cars ahead of you. You don’t want to get stuck behind a semi, and most of the time you’d rather trail a Mustang than minivan. That’s called playing the percentages.

One place you can pick up precious seconds is where four lanes at a stop light quickly narrow to two lanes beyond the light. At such intersections, people almost always get in the left lane because they know the right lane will have to merge. But there’s usually ample time to merge, and you can often pass an entire line of cars just by following Robert Frost’s advice (sort of) and taking the lane less traveled.

Those are just a few tricks of the experienced commuter. OK, you might actually tick off a few of your fellow drivers, but all of these moves are perfectly legit if executed properly.

So if you have to hit the brakes for a black Chevy Malibu that has just passed you on the right and is trying to merge into your lane — well, that’s not me. That’s my friend Kevin. But feel free to make rude gestures at him anyway.

Rob Jenkins is a free-lance writer who lives in Lawrenceville. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.