Surprisingly, San Antonio drivers are not particularly bad. In fact, they probably tie with Twin Cities drivers as the least ragingly awful drivers I have ever encountered; their sole irksome characteristic is tailgating, which is doubly unnerving because approximately 75% of them drive SUVs or pickup trucks roughly the size of a convenience store. However, this still makes them less nerve-wracking than the drivers of Dallas or Austin, who have the same crowding tendencies and also seem to consider it a sign of effeminacy to let their speedometers drop below 80.
So, really, I don't have that much of a problem with the drivers here. The roads, on the other hand, are an unending nightmare of depravity and madness. It isn't even so much the traffic, which is much less awful than L.A. or Chicago or even Austin; it's just that the roads themselves seem to have been designed by a consortium of angry, half-paralyzed, one-eyed apes in the direct employ of Satan. I've said many times that this is the most poorly-designed city I've ever seen, and nowhere is this more evident than on the roads. Here are a few examples:
- Like many cities that experienced late-growth exurban sprawl, San Antonio built dozens of freeways rather than just expanding and streamlining the ones that already existed. Chicago, with 5 million people, essentially only has two major freeways, and does all right; Minneapolis, with a fifth of that population, has approximately eight hundred freeways, confusingly named and completely unintuitive. SATX has the same problem, and you often find yourself in the middle of a huge cluster of over- and underpasses, with your destination clearly visible but no way to get to it because you're on the wrong freeway, thus necessitating driving three miles to get somewhere that is 500 feet away.
- The condition of the roads here is absolutely appalling. A combination of low funding (no state income tax) and misappropriation (most of the road monies go to building still more freeways) means that the city streets are cracked, badly painted (lanes appear and disappear more or less at random) and pothole-ridden. There is a street near my house – and not a small one, either, but a major thoroughfare – where a huge, unavoidable, suspension-wrecking pothole sat for about six months, with the city's only reaction being to put a couple of traffic cones around it, thus causing drivers to have to hug the curb to get around it. Just last week, they filled in the pothole – but they didn't flatten the fill, so now, where there was once a foot-deep, foot-wide hole in the middle of the road, there is not a foot-high, foot-wide pile of rock in the middle of the road.
- This is something I have never seen before anyplace I have ever lived: on some roads – again, not little residential side streets, but major traffic arteries – the sidewalk simply disappears, and signs are put up indicating "no pedestrian traffic". The curb of the residences and businesses nearby literally go right up to the street, and there are low walls placed alongside the road, so you have nowhere to walk. What are you supposed to do if you're a pedestrian and you live in that neighborhood? Or have to walk there to get to work? Or get through it to get home? Walk two blocks out of your way, I guess, or go around the back and walk through the filthy alleys like a rat.
- Due to zoning, tradition, and good old incompetence, lots of streets in San Antonio are named one thing going in one direction and another thing going in another direction. There are also dozens and dozens of streets that are called one thing for part of their length and another thing for the rest of it. This can be confusing if you haven't lived here for, oh, 25 years. Additionally, in most cities, if you get lost, you can go to certain major roads and be assured that if you follow it long enough in the right direction, it will intersect with a street that gets you to where to want to go; no so in San Antonio. There are tons of major streets that run parallel with other major streets and never intersect with them, and there's very few streets anywhere that run all the way through the length of the city. The end result of all this shitty planning is that if you get lost, it's very difficult to just find your way back easily, since doubling back often puts you someplace totally different from where you started to begin with.
- Signage here is as half-assed and crummy as humanly possible. A few miles from where my mom lives, there is a freeway sign that is literally factually wrong – not just misleading (like the sign that says "take next right to Hildebrand", when in fact the next right takes you to West, which intersects with Hildebrand after about a mile with no signs to indicate this is about to happen and which if you follow it directly will take you in the wrong direction), but actually incorrect. It says "Lanark next right", when in fact, Lanark is the next left. Everyone knows this and compensates for it, but why the city can't just fix the sign is beyond me. Also, not too far from where I live, there's a bunch of construction on the I-10. The exit I take to get on the freeway is open, but the same exit is closed to get off the freeway, as are two before it and two after it, meaning I have to drive a long-ass distance out of the way to get home – it took me 20 minutes to get to the theater last night and over an hour to get back, with less traffic. But the truly amazing thing is that they didn't set up a detour, or even erect signs saying the exits are closed and suggesting a different exit to use -- they just put huge black plastic garbage bags over the signs to cover up all the text. It's like if Stalin ran the Public Works department.