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Ask Dr. Delay: Crosswalk countdowns can vary by place, time

If you've tried in vain to get a feel for the pattern of the digital countdown displays that have been installed on some crosswalks in downtown St. Petersburg, you're not alone. Reader Rick Carson asked us to explain how the countdown displays are configured and why they don't seem to be uniform:

"In theory, this is a helpful clue to pedestrians and drivers as to how much time is left before the light will be going from green to red or vice versa. But the problem, for drivers especially, is that these digital lights are not consistent. At some intersections when the seconds go down to zero, the light immediately changes. At others, there's a second-or-so delay before the light changes. … Why aren't these digital countdowns consistent so drivers can expect the same procedure at every traffic light?"

Motorists should keep in mind that the countdown displays are intended for pedestrians, not drivers.

"It is a mistake for the motorist to assume that as soon as the countdown pedestrian signal reaches zero that the yellow light will begin," said Bill Foster, the city's traffic signal coordinator. Foster told us the signal countdown time is set according to the width of the road so a pedestrian has enough time to cross the street.

The length of time a signal is green for vehicles may vary at different times of the day based on traffic volume. Because these two times are not necessarily the same, the countdown may reach zero before traffic signals turn red.

Starkey and Bryan Dairy

Stalled work expected to resume in a month

What's happening with the apparently stalled construction work at Starkey and Bryan Dairy roads in Seminole? Reader Jim Martin wrote:

"The southwest corner driveway into CVS and the rehab center next door still have their driveways unpaved and there are piles of dirt with weeds growing over them. Stacks of huge concrete pipes are on the northeast corner and other construction stuff has been left behind. … This has been like this for a very long time. Is the construction company ever going to finish?"

We checked in with the folks at Pinellas County public works and learned that the contractor assigned to the project has been redirected to several other critical drainage repairs that have arisen. Based on the county's timeline for the drainage repairs, the contractor is expected to return to the Bryan Dairy/Starkey Road project in about a month.

Sand Key

Red flags are to help pedestrians cross street

We received a traffic question this week all the way from the U.K. Wendy Trevett and her husband recently vacationed in Clearwater and sent us a question:

"Dear Dr. Delay, please settle a long argument. We traveled to Clearwater a few weeks ago and at Sand Key we went over three road crossings. At these crossings there were red flags at the side of the road. My husband says they are for people to carry as they cross the road as a warning. I say they are for road workers only. Can you please settle this as both pride and money depend on it?"

Joelle Castelli with the city of Clearwater tells us the flags at the Sand Key crosswalks are indeed for pedestrians to use, so it looks like Wendy's husband wins this round.

Doc Delay is on twitter! Get news from the road at Please e-mail Dr. Delay at to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Questions selected for publication may be edited for space and clarity.

Ask Dr. Delay: Crosswalk countdowns can vary by place, time 08/14/10 [Last modified: Saturday, August 14, 2010 4:30am]
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