Bulbous Bottlenecks

It is obvious from the online discussion on several of your stories that many people have no idea what a “bulb-out” is. (One typical posting: “WTF is a bulb-out?”) I even asked a friend about this latest controversy in our community, and she said it was a good idea to replace those old-style light bulbs with fluorescent ones.

The confusion arises from the phrase “bulb-out.” It derives from what they look like on a design map, but says nothing about what they are or what they do. Since Mayor Schneider says that there is a community discussion to be had on the subject, it seems that a more accurate and descriptive moniker is needed.

I pondered the question, and offer the following: The intent of these curb extensions is to constrict the width of a roadway through intersections so that pedestrians have a narrower exposure to traffic when crossing the street. It’s like the way a wide flow of liquid in a bottle is constricted to flow through the narrower spout. The area where pedestrians cross is like the bottle’s neck.

It suddenly struck me (as it no doubt has you) that a perfectly descriptive word already exists for these installations. I checked the dictionary, and found: “bottleneck n a: a narrow route b: a constriction of traffic lanes … ”

What could be more perfect? Therefore, in the interest of clarity, I humbly suggest that henceforward the vague and confusing phrase “bulb-out” be replaced in your various broadcasts and publications with the more accurate and descriptive term “bottleneck.” — Gerry DeWitt

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