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Dr. Delay: Bumper is no place to display incivility

Years ago, as the Doc drove her 10-year-old daughter home from school, she found herself at a red light behind a vehicle that displayed a bumper sticker that met the Doc's criteria to be considered obscene. (It included four-letter words not routinely published in the newspaper.) This led to an uncomfortable drive the rest of the way home because the inquisitive 10-year-old wanted to know what those four-letter words meant. I resented being forced to have this conversation just because some fool decided it was cute to decorate his vehicle with a crude message.

I was reminded of this recently by an e-mail from Todd Olson, producing artistic director at American Stage. Olson attached a photo he'd snapped of a message affixed to the back of a vehicle in the parking lot of a local mall. The message was obscene and just plain angry, suggesting what people who drive while chatting on cell phones ought to do with those phones.

"I just think this is the kind of incivility we should be calling out, now more than ever," Olson commented, and the Doc seconds that opinion. While public discourse and free speech are wonderful — and there certainly is such a thing as constructive dissension — driving around town with obscenities plastered to your car is probably not the best way to try to effect change.

South Pasadena will install red light cameras

If pushing the limits and running red lights is your thing, beware that those days are coming to an end if you are bothered by tickets generated by red light cameras. South Pasadena has joined a growing number of communities using the cameras; they will begin taking photos of red light runners at several intersections this month. There will be a 30-day warning period in which the registered owner of a vehicle that's photographed running a red light will receive a notice with no fine. But the warning period will end in March, and citations for red light violations, which carry a $158 fine, will be issued starting March 17.

Design plays role in when lanes can turn

A reader recently asked: "Can you tell me why certain intersections don't use the standard 'same time' left green arrows prior to the normal green light flow of traffic going in opposite directions? For example, at 49th Street and Park Boulevard the left-turn arrows don't allow opposing traffic to turn at the same time, which causes the cycle of the lights to take longer."

We asked Ken Jacobs, Pinellas County's traffic signal operations manager, to fill us in.

Jacobs said in some cases traffic engineers may decide to operate left-turn arrows in what's referred to as lead-lag left-turn phasing to ensure safety. An example would involve a southbound left-turn arrow and southbound through traffic getting green lights, followed by a north-south through green light, and finally the northbound left-turn arrow and northbound through green. But in some cases limitations in the design of the intersection may cause the paths of opposing left turns to cross each other, so, obviously, this pattern isn't possible.

"In other cases, separating left-turn movements can have a positive impact on the traffic engineer's ability to progress vehicles through signalized intersections. … Software is used to determine the benefits of this type phasing and when and where the alternate phasing should be installed," Jacobs wrote in an e-mail.

Until next week, happy and safe motoring!

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.

Dr. Delay: Bumper is no place to display incivility 02/05/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 5, 2011 3:30am]
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