ON TRAFFIC AND THE FUTURE

As I was driving north on A1A last weekend a lady with a bicycle approached the side of the road to my right at a crosswalk that was not at an intersection. I was 75-80 feet away from the spot when she hit a button that started the flashing lights around signs that were too numerous to read at 45mph. 45mph is the speed limit. There was no way I had time to stop. Lucky for her she understood that was the case and she waited for me to clear the crosswalk before she started across the road.

The next day I was doing the same and two men, not at a crosswalk, crossed the road. There were no lights, no signs, no warnings that people would be crossing there. They waited until the southbound lanes were clear and crossed them to the median. They then waited for the northbound lanes were clear and crossed to the east side of the highway. They were never in danger and needed no help in crossing the road.

Which, I ask you, was the safer of the two actions? Was it the lady with the help of signage and flashing lights or the men who crossed where there was no intersection?

I’ll say it was the latter. The men had a clear handle on what they were doing and crossed the road with no incident for themselves or any traffic that approached during their daring adventure.

The lady, on the other hand, has fallen victim to the latest scam the traffic engineers have thrust upon us. That scam seems to be that highways are now somehow made safer by artificial confidence that is added when signage and flashing lights are installed in untraditional locations. This gal was fine, she knew to allow me to clear the way before she stepped out in the traffic. Her wisdom will not be possessed by all walkers.

In addition to those examples, the FDOT is taking other measures that make it seem they are more interested in bicycles and pedestrian traffic than the vehicles the roads were designed to carry. They have even removed continuous green arrow lanes that had been in place for years with no significant number of incidents because, save one, they were in locations where little pedestrian traffic exists or is expected.

FDOT in explaining the decision cited traffic studies, crash records and field observations in determining the action would make the roads safer for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists. Wait a minute! Are we forgetting that these highways are designed for vehicular traffic and that others using them are at a distinct disadvantage in any collision situation? Do these folks bear any responsibility for their actions?

By creating special intersections that give walkers some semblance of control over traffic (what else are flashing lights for on a road?) we give them a false sense of security that vehicles will respond and stop in time for them to cross. Some will inevitably hit the button, think they have created a stop light and step into traffic. It won’t be pretty.

By eliminating through lanes where pedestrian traffic does not normally occur, they give the impression of trying to create a cycling and walking route that was clearly designed for vehicles. To make matters worse, they are including ADA compliant conditions in these areas where pedestrians rarely go and honestly don’t belong. What could possibly go wrong?

Sidewalks are fine as are crosswalks at intersections. Continuous green traffic lanes are also fine where little pedestrian traffic is common. These alterations to our roadways certainly don’t help traffic and ignore the purpose of the road in the first place.

Walkers and cyclists…we aren’t Europe; we are not as bicycle friendly or ready as those places are for your traffic ventures. We don’t all drive smart cars and it’s a good thing we don’t, because then…then…you’d never hear us coming!

While the governments making these decisions on use of our roads are trying to move us backward in speed, if not time itself, remember that we aren’t there yet and there are many lessons to learn on the way. How about doing your part to not be a statistic that makes you one of those lessons?

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