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The right and wrong of the Pittsburgh Left

Plus, what's eating Philly's Chicken Man.

Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.

November 11, 2022
Inside this edition: Chicken dreams, fire mountain, this old house, political tourists, facial swelling, and the problem with the Pittsburgh Left.
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This week's PA Local trivia question.

Which Pa. county is the contested Christmas tree capital of the world? 

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)

Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.

» One thing worth sharing: Philadelphia Magazine asked Alexander Tominsky, who ate 40 rotisserie chickens in 40 days, if he's okay. Tominsky told them about the chickens that haunt his dreams.

» One thing worth seeing: A forest fire on a mountain in the heart of Pennsylvania's wild elk range led to dramatic photographs like these on Wednesday and was said to be under control by Thursday.

» One thing worth reading: PennLive has the story of a farmhouse with a history of mass religious conversions and cameos in major military campaigns that was demolished in Cumberland County this week.

» One more thing worth reading: Billy Penn reports a group of British and Australian tourists came to Philadelphia last week to gawk at the U.S. midterms and wound up irritating local political canvassers.

» One thing worth watching: "I’d 100% be convinced this was a scene from The Office if I’ve never seen it" is @OTCeIIy's apt intro for this clip of Pittsburgh Penguins gawking at an injured teammate on a plane.

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Spotlight PA's top original news stories of the week.
» COVID-19 UPDATE: Your guide to finding resources on cases, vaccines, and tests

» Democrat Josh Shapiro will be the next governor of Pa.
» Republican Doug Mastriano hasn't conceded to Shapiro
» Former Pa. governors urged candidates to accept results
» Governorship likely to be Shapiro's biggest challenge yet
» Dems say they've won control of Pa.'s state House
» The big business of Pa. medical marijuana cards
» No, a judge did not change the ballot deadline in Pa.
» The top misleading claims pushed ahead of the midterms
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A traffic light that has turned green.
(grendelkhan / Flickr)

At the risk of alienating half of Pennsylvania's second largest city, I want to talk quickly and critically about the Pittsburgh Left this week.

For those unfamiliar, the Pittsburgh Left is a hurry-up lefthand turn made by a car in front of oncoming cars, just as both lights turn green. 

Pittsburgh is an old city with an odd traffic grid and a surplus of "yield on green" intersections that can make hanging a louie painfully tantric.

For that reason, the move is often made with the consent of oncoming motorists — a show of solidarity and, just as often, co-misery. 

But that's not the problem with the Pittsburgh Left, this is

Critics say it's a car-brained chaos agent that fails to consider people crossing the street as the hurry-up turn is made.

(If opposing traffic is two lanes, the intersection is now a gauntlet.) 

Supporters argue it eases gridlock. Both can be true. 

It's also illegal, but I'll assume everyone already knew that.

At this point, I must confess that I am a Pittsburgher who has made Pittsburgh Lefts, offered Pittsburgh Lefts, and dodged them.

There's that old driver's ed adage: Be predictable, not nice.

And while some say the Pittsburgh Left is commonplace and therefore predictable, it's definitely not a universal language. 

Take this Oct. 30 Reddit post titled "Help: I don’t want the Pittsburgh Left."

In it, the anxious poster describes trying to wave off the offer, only to draw the ire of the opposing motorists behind it. 

"...oncoming cars gifting it are getting angry with me," it reads. "I didn’t grow up here, I’m not in a hurry..."

It's not just humans either. This unwritten rule of the road was a major source of confusion for the driverless cars that first descended on Pittsburgh, an early testing ground, in 2016.

Programmers ultimately had to account for the X factor.

These days the city of Pittsburgh is designing intersections in ways that discourage the move, as City Paper reported in 2020 — that includes lights that give walkers and cyclists more lead time. 

But the Pittsburgh Left isn't going away.

It was also a long time in the making.

What do you think? Drop me an email with your thoughts on the Pittsburgh Left, or Pennsylvania driving in general, by clicking the link below. 

Colin Deppen, PA Local editor

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Our favorite photo of the week submitted by a PA Local reader.

Under inspection, via Eric F. in Paxtang. Send us your photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.

A squirrel examines the inside of a bird feeder in Paxtang.
The answer to this week's trivia question.

Indiana County calls itself the Christmas tree capital of the world. So does Estacada, Oregon. 

NPR waded into the fir fray a few years back, found compelling arguments on both sides, and ended with a the-more-the-merrier verdict

Thanks for reading PA Local! We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? 

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