New York State is not known for twisting expressways, (not even NYC). It may have picturesque ROADS that wind around scenic vistas…. But to NY an Expressway or Parkway is just supposed to deliver cars from start to finish line at 50mph, so NY tends to make them straight flat, maybe a loose curve here and there, and never winding or hairpin.
Yet, somehow there is the Jackie Robinson Parkway.
I knew it when it was called the Interboro Parkway. I drove my Corolla on it all through 1997 to 2010. Some claim it’s registered on America’s most dangerous highways (8th place), and it did in fact earn a place on the list of NY’s most dangerous roadways back in 2007.
It snakes through two cemeteries (….Oh Christ, of all the things to travel through…yes, this really clings to your mind as you drive this parkway, because the windshield view opens up at the top of some of the turns, revealing horizons of grave headstones.)
First time I drove this parkway, I was looking all over the place in shock. Jackie Robinson is entirely short-warning, confidence-robbing turns. Five miles of four turns. :|There are high thick concrete retainers on all sides,
and they are FULL of black marks. …
and lots of these burnt spots on the shoulders of the turns, and did I mention these black marks on the retainers---I never SAW so many marks. …Whaaa the…?
Every black line you saw is a driver who piled up his right fender trying to go from a straight into a winding left turn, OR a driver who was pinned against the wall by a car beside him losing control coming out of a winding right turn.
In each direction, there are only two lanes of traffic, and the shoulder is not wide enough for me to selflessly sacrifice myself out of the path of traffic. If I leave my lane, I’m crashing into yours
The next turn LOOKS the same as the one you just left, seems to repeat the same slowdown-wind-wind back-sequence, but every subsequent turn has a slightly different short-warning catch added to it--- the hidden merging on-ramp HERE, and the suddenly narrowing lanes THERE….and the claustrophobia at the TWO turns that the Highway Commission always criticized “a hazard to drivers” since the parkway was constructed long ago.
New Yorker drivers rarely take speed-limit signs seriously, so when they see a turn that deep suddenly come up on them, 1/4 of the drivers bobble and leave their lane---they can’t figure which of the steering, brake or throttle to moderate first. Suddenly, driving is not the tv commercial any more, slicing through highway water like a Ninja. On a Jackie Robinson turn, just add water and die.
A 1996 Corolla is arguably the finest version Toyota ever made of the Corolla. You’re supposed to say to yourself “I bought an economy compact car”, but the effortlessness of the transmission, the electronic auto-shifting that creates ZERO pauses and leaves no sounds as it changes up and down in gear… lets you never feel like you’re in a budget car. For the city, this car is “vaunt” (my word for a small car that looks too classy to zip through traffic, but DOES zip when you need it, no problem).
In my Corolla, handling the JRP at speed (responsibly) was exhilarating, but never the kind of exhilaration that made you want to be a fool. I’d been in the same black Corolla for years, long enough to develop real, non-faked FWD skill on the urban road (to others “skill” means weaving through the innocent drivers like Vin Deisel’s pal---to me “skilled” means being able to respond accurately without panic when Deisel’s pal loses a wheel two cars ahead of you in the turn).
My “skill” has been proven more than a few times… But in the case of the JRP there were times when, if I knew I had too much on my mind, or was actually in need of some sleep---I’d just deliberately NOT take this parkway. Why be stupid, right?
Now I have the XE 25T, with zero dents or scratches, and I was wondering if it would be stupid to try the Jackie Robinson after 3 years being away from it. Two days ago, I needed to get somewhere quickly after work. SatNav came up with a route through the Jackie Robinson.
Was it still the parkway I remembered? Some rumors say the Highways Dept gradually readjusted those two turns over the years, to make them better match the competency-grade of the NYC driver. I’m not sure I believe that was done. I mentioned earlier that you see “horizons” of grave stones, because the roadway is indeed depressed LOWER than the surrounding terrain, in order to allow stone bridges and overpasses can get over the roadway, and your roadway feels not like a tunnel, but like the some castle walls or a dried creek bed.
Here’s a picture.
How do you re-adjust turns surrounded by THAT?
The picture shows how the driver beside you is always wandering into you lane from fear of rubbing the retainer and the walls. You’ll notice 2 other weird facts about the parkway:
1. The roadway pavement has nearly ZERO skid marks (there IS no time to skid---the car contacts the concrete retainer doing 50+, bounces up and pieces its skin are left hanging on vertical surface somewhere---Skid somewhere??!)
2. There are NO potholes on this pavement, only harmless cracks (locals say the dead elves come out of the neighboring graves each night and get paid to do the road-repairs……
Have things improved? I found two 2017 drivers describing the Jackie Robinson:
“….If there's not a car already on fire, you have to be careful to not become that car. The road ragers and speedy Gonzales operate out here. You thought those drivers in Nascar put their lives on the line? Ha, ask anyone of them to race out here on the JRP.”
“…Even Waze can't really tell you the condition on this road. It is like you can never tell when the traffic jam will start. And if it snowy, forget about it. They should close this rd. The part under the bridge with the curve on icy road is a life risk. I once saw someone losing control of the cr and spin 3 times. It is not the driver's fault, it is this crazy road.”
I actually disagree with him about the fault being the road and not the drivers. The Jackie Robinson Parkway just needs steady, confident, accurate driving. Use the road signs, do the right thing, and the drive is completed in no time---it’s only 5 miles long. Most of us urban New Yorkers have, well… wretched ability--- if you made the driving test last three minutes longer, most wouldn't have gotten the license.
Knowing how wretchedly poor urban NY drivers are at steady accurate driving, I thought about switching my Mode to Dynamic at first, as protection if someone starts to loose it near my car,… but I put worry aside, and chose to leave the mode in my current ECO.
Weather and air dry and hot with clear visibility.
ICT SatNav TMC detected no significant traffic delays enroute (7 minute margin for error).
My fuel state was at 98%.
No detectable bird *&^$ on forward or rearward windscreens.
Sunset would begin in one hour---but SatNav reported a trip ETA of 27 minutes. That means I’d roll in and roll off of the target using only the J-Blade DRLs.
Meridian 11 speaker radio was set to…OFF.
I locked the doors.
I ignited the machine’s innards. Let’s groove….
SatNav led me to an on-ramp that had a stop sign (…..uh oh.) Watching the three cars ahead of me try to floor the pedal in order to insert into constant 45 mph traffic flow was disturbing. But DOING it in the XE was like listening to a leopard scare off frightened antelope in the jungle. When the opening appeared, even in ECO she just gave off a fantastic growl, and became one with the road doing 49 mph.
Everything that followed was… suddenly incredibly boring
. The car barely leaned doing 45 in a turn, and I don’t remember touching my breaks more than twice. There was more thrill in WONDERING about the challenge, than there was in finally FACING the challenge.
Good grief. I never realized the difference between FWD-energy and RWD-energy, 50-50 weight distribution versus non-50 weight, as much as I realized it Tuesday on the JRP. My FWD driving was all about braking to get down below the posted speed prior to the turn, then throttling-up and “pulling” myself through the curve…
This RWD took me through all 4 turns on just a steady throttle and no braking at all---a curve into a straight, then into a curve. OUTSTANDING! But, yes, outstandingly boring… watching other cars breaklights pop on and off at all odd moments during the turns…. fall back behind me, not doing what my car was doing at all. I was never speeding…. (speeders leave their skin on the walls—like I said) But I could comfortably disobey the posted turn speed (all in TracDSC), and never have to notice those grave stones looking down on my car.
Christ, what a crafted machine. Between the car, myself, and the Jackie Robinson Parkway… one of us has just become impotent.
As I remember, all those BMW drivers always looked like they have to work so hard to handle this parkway…
It was still too light outside to need headlamps,… a shame because I’d bet my adaptive cornering illumination would have at least added some moody drama to these winding turns.
Most dangerous roads? Do you have any declared in your area, and have you taken them in your XE?