Still Your Buddy?

The popular website and mobile app GasBuddy has been acquired by Oil Price Information Service (OPIS).

GasBuddyThis is probably good in the near term, as it means better access to a database of wholesale gasoline prices. Most of the current pricing information provided by Gas Buddy comes from volunteer price spotters. But consumers should probably prepare for more ads as the integration with OPIS matures. They plan to accelerate development of OpenStore, a system for c-store owners to promote their car wash and burritos through social media.

Gaithersburg, Md.-based OPIS, a subsidiary of UCG, is a leading source for worldwide petroleum pricing and information It publishes daily spot prices for all refined products, more than 30,000 wholesale gasoline and diesel rack prices and more than 110,000 retail fuel prices Through its subsidiary, Axxis Software, OPIS also provides software for petroleum marketers to automate price collection, data storage and repricing of dealer and commercial accounts.

Source: CSP Daily News

Remember Turn Signals?

They used to be standard issue on most motor vehicles.

Each corner was equipped with a lamp that could blink slowly. It was rumored these “blinkers” were intended to indicate a vehicle’s impending change of direction. Some older drivers can still recall these being used occasionally- though I’m told they never met wide acceptance. Continue reading Remember Turn Signals?

JUST STOP, DAMMIT!

Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed a weird trend in daily traffic. Drivers pull it up to a traffic light and stop several feet away from the car ahead of them. A friend of mine calls it “pre-stopping.” I call it aggravating.

It’s especially so if you drive a manual transmission car. Or a bike. Drivers stop several feet before they should, then roll up like they’re stalking the preceding vehicle. The cars ahead of me keep crawling forward instead of just pulling up to the stop light and- well, stopping. Busy intersections nowadays are more like pausing… to creep forward… every few… seconds.

At first I blamed this on small people piloting huge vehicles. The acreage your common SUV covers makes it challenging for the average driver to negotiate their expansive property line. How can we expect mom to see over the hood of that Tot Rod when she can barely see over the dash?

But when I began observing their techniques this theory seemed to evaporate like fuel from a Ford Expedition’s gas tank. I noticed the vehicles the “pre-stoppists” drive are not always huge. Or not by American standards anyway. Sure, you’ll see plenty of Hummers leaving a full car length or more ahead of themselves- but you’ll also see Camrys and Subarus sneaking up to the light.

So if the vehicle isn’t the common thread, maybe it’s the drivers? I started watching what people in the car were doing when stopping short. It didn’t surprise me there were a lot of cell phones visible. But I’m not so sure there is any higher proportion of conversations inside those cars waiting blocks away from the stop light. In fact, the scariest realization for me was everyone in traffic seems to be yakking on their cell phone!

So for now we’ll just wait and wonder. But please wait several feet behind me.

Yield… to Clinton Riggs

Clinton Riggs probably never considered himself a “graphic designer.” Heck, the term probably hadn’t even been invented back in 1939 when he was creating his magnum opus. But I’ll bet you’ve seen his work. They’re triangular and red & white. In some parts of the world they have no verbiage, but around here most of them just say YEILD.

When Riggs first ventured into the world of traffic control systems and graphical designs he envisioned a device he called a “responsibility sign.” That would have probably never made it in this day and age, and fortunately the key element “yield” came along. The first signs said: “YIELD right of way” in black letters on a yellow background. In 1939 he tried to sell the idea to Tulsa’s municipal government to no avail. Ironically, interest from afar was enthusiastic about the idea. But it was still another ten years before the Yield sign really started rolling.

Finally, in 1951 Captain Riggs took it upon himself to put his sign to work. Back then the most dangerous intersection in Tulsa was 1st Street and Columbia Avenue. For some reason no stop sign had ever been installed, even though accidents were common. Riggs had the world’s first Yield sign made to his specification out of his own pocket. He promptly mounted a pair on poles and planted them at 1st and Columbia. Accidents immediately decreased.

A modern example of the Yield sign in the US.Over time the Yield sign slowly became more common. There was some trepidation on the part of those that felt it was an unnecessary new sign. The thinking was– any intersection that merits slowing down needs to have a stop sign installed. Internationally acceptance was more rapid and letters poured in from around the world asking about design and implementation of the new sign. And then in the late Fifties came the Interstate Highway System.

Suddenly roadways all across the nation were being built with merge lanes and exit ramps. Even cities built predominantly on a gridwork pattern, like Tulsa, were dealing with curved intersections where traffic flowed together. Perpendicular intersections were one thing, but no one was going to suggest putting a stop sign on a superhighway cloverleaf. The Yield sign was immediately requisite.

I can remember seeing the distinctive original yellow signs as a child. In fact, I recall traveling to other cities and noticing unusual triangular Yield signs. It never occurred to me why there might be different styles of the same sign. Eventually triangular signs replaced all of the original keystone-shaped versions. Years later the Yield sign was “globalized” with a new coat of paint and now the yellow ones have all but vanished.

Riggs retired in 1970 and is best known in the Department as the commander of the police-training academy, a job he held for many years. The southwest precinct of the TPD is named in his honor. His widow, Vera Riggs, still has that original prototype sign, along with those letters from all over the world. An example also resides in the Smithsonian.

And to this day every officer of the Tulsa Police Department wears a small homage to this self-made graphic designer/traffic control engineer. If you look closely at their shoulder patch you can see a little bit of that very first black and yellow Yield sign.

This article was originally written for the Tulsa channel on About.com in June 2000.