Here's a follow-up to last week's mention of the daunting pedestrian crossing on six-lane Park Boulevard next to the Wagon Wheel Flea Market. Readers have expressed concern about the amount and speed of traffic on Park and the scant safety measures in place (just a few signs and stripes painted on the pavement) for pedestrians who want to cross the road to access the market.
Thomas Washburn, traffic safety engineer for Pinellas County, told us that the county plans to enhance the existing crosswalk with flashing yellow lights, joining the existing yellow and black pedestrian crossing signs. The flashers can be activated by a push button. He said the installation should be complete within the next two months.
Washburn noted that the enhancement follows the recent relocation of the crosswalk to its current location. As part of moving the crosswalk, the eastbound left-turn lane was closed in order to provide a bigger refuge area in the median for pedestrians to wait for a gap in traffic.
Turn on those headlights, and use those blinkers!
Reader Lynne Gilkes asked the Doc to remind folks that the rainy season is upon us and when driving in rain, motorists need to use their headlights. This excludes parking lights and flashers. Gilkes also wanted to pass along an observation on four-way stops:
"Just want to share an incident that happened at a four-way stop in my neighborhood. A truck was coming toward me and I was heading his way and we came to the four-way stop sign at about the same time. Neither of us had a signal on. I waited a second and proceeded to go straight when the truck proceeded to turn left in front of me. I honked and got him to stop. I asked him why he hadn't signaled. His reply was, "You don't have to signal at a four-way stop.' ''
To reinforce Gilkes' point, it makes no sense to not use a directional signal at a four-way stop. We use them when we're sitting in a designated turn lane, right? So what's the deal with so many drivers failing to use them at two- and four-way stops? What do you think, readers? Do you use directional signals at two- and four-way stops? If not, why?
Take an alternate route? Not so fast
Reader Russell Skillman recently wrote with a few travel-time calculating tips. Skillman has serious credibility with the Doc because he drives over both the Howard Frankland and the Sunshine Skyway bridge four times a day. Really, he does.
Skillman says he values digital smart signs that flash estimated travel times and emergency information, but he agrees with the Doc that the smart sign on the Howard Frankland doesn't really help anyone avoid tie-ups by suggesting alternate routes because we're already stuck on the bridge. It does serve to let motorists know of traffic conditions once over the bridge into Tampa.
Here's a good rule for estimating travel times and figuring out what's going on when looking at the displayed miles and time to a certain exit or landmark. According to Skillman, who has plenty of opportunity to observe the situation each day, the average travel time when there is little to no traffic on the road is generally a couple of minutes more than the miles, so for example, 10 miles, 12 minutes equals no traffic. A little more time is added to the displays in slow traffic and a lot more when there is heavy volume or a big delay ahead.
"Only look for an alternate route if the sign says 'Traffic Stopped' or 'All Lanes Blocked,' " Skillman advises other road warriors, because, in his experience, opting for an alternate route has its own problems as other drivers are usually doing the same.
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