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The art of the Sanibel left

By Staff | Jan 7, 2015

Holiday drivers are confronted with executing the perfect Sanibel Left, which involves graciousness and some aggressiveness to succeed. CRAIG GARRETT

Here on the island, the successful traffic maneuver gaining in popularity (and for sanity) is affectionately coined a Sanibel Left.

It’s the art of hanging a left turn onto a busy roadway, mostly on to Periwinkle in a rushhour with few openings, without waiting too long, but also without being too pushy or failing to acknowledge the other driver creating the opening.

The risks of a poorly executed Sanibel Left are a fender-bender, a gesture/or worse, while balancing the maneuver in the midst of a pack of zooming bike riders and sometimes inattentive or rude pedestrians.

Because the math and geography work this way, half of the drivers in Sanibel and Captiva must face a left turn. Executing a successful Sanibel Left after a reasonable wait and without angering oncoming drivers has the same flavor of working a bull in the ring, graceful as a Spanish matador without getting gored. The jerk factor in pulling a Sanibel Left doesn’t play well with opposing drivers facing the same anxiety in deep traffic, most drivers insist.

The clear remedy to traffic mishaps and anxiety is to allow drivers queued in a Sanibel Left to enter the roadway, police Chief Bill Tomlinson said. As obvious, he said, graciously thank the driver creating the opening – wave, flash the lights, toot the horn.

“If everyone did that,” the chief said of courteous driving, “things would be a lot smoother.”

Tomlinson noted that this season’s holiday traffic was the most congested he’d seen in 30 years of law enforcement in the islands. Car horns, squealing tires and some profanity put a damper on an otherwise festive two weeks, several drivers scarred by the experience said.

For drivers positioning for a Sanibel Left, there is a palpable relief making the turn safely, certainly elation when a driver in gridlock slows and waves the waiting vehicle into traffic. A gift opening has the same welcoming feel as a stranger on a night highway pulling over to assist with a flat.

The anxiety of traffic was compounded over the holidays, as visitors and returning islanders surged on and off Sanibel and Captiva. Chamber officials reported zero vacancy in rentals and resorts, with cafes jammed with hungry guests.

Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau officials tracking tourism, tolls, bed taxes and other figures will release hard numbers this week, anticipating that 2014 broke records in a number of categories.