Jul 062011
 

Like millions of Americans I spent part of Monday evening watching the Fourth of July fireworks.

In previous years, my wife and I have headed to a vantage point in Riverside, Jacksonville, to watch the display.

This year was different. My stepdaughter and her husband have recently moved into a high-rise apartment across the St Johns River from downtown Jacksonville. The apartment unfortunately does not overlook the river but it is located close to the heart of the action.

We sat on the Riverwalk and watched the barges loaded with the fireworks glide into place.

The barges are positioned about half a mile apart. We sat about a third of the way from the barge to our right.

When the display started, the fireworks burst almost overhead; the loud bangs reverberating off the apartment buildings. It was an awesome spectacle.

What followed after the fireworks display was equally memorable and I had the perfect view from the apartment’s balcony on the 18th floor.

I had heard of the term “gridlock” but never before witnessed it.

The traffic along Riverplace Boulevard was backed up in both directions as far as the eye could see. If Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had a plan to deal with the traffic, it clearly wasn’t working.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

A police motorbike blocked off access straight ahead along Riverplace Boulevard in order to allow cars to exit the parking lot of the Crowne Plaza. That made sense, although a parking lot to my right did not receive such preferential treatment.

When 75 percent of the cars on the Crowne Plaza parking lot had left, the police officer moved his motorcycle and then proceeded to control traffic at the Flagler Avenue/Riverplace Boulevard intersection. That too made good sense and the traffic started to flow a little more freely.

Five minutes later, the police officer left his position, climbed on his motorcycle and drove away. It could have been that he went to answer an emergency call but surely other police officers were held in reserve for just such an eventuality. It looked to me as if he had come to the end of his shift, simply pulled up sticks and left. The scene at that intersection then resembled chaos, it was everyone for themselves. Turn lanes were used by some drivers to gain a 50-yard advantage over those people stuck in the regular lanes.

This event occurs every year. I should imagine the number of people who turn up is pretty much the same each year – a lot. The roads certainly haven’t changed in the past 12 months, so it kind of baffled me why Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office hadn’t devised a plan to deal with the volume of traffic. Well, it had and it was inadequate.

Among the cars stuck on Riverplace Boulevard was a Mini Cooper with the checkered flag roof, which stood out from the rest of the vehicles, making its progress easy to monitor. It took the Mini Cooper 25 minutes to cover 100 yards.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

For Jacksonville’s finest, this was not their finest hour.

These shots were all taken at ISO 1600 and then processed in Photoshop CS3, using the noise filter. I did an overall noise reduction and then reduced the noise in each of the three colour channels. The results would probably not stand up to being printed at a size larger than 10 x 8 inches.

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