Plan for holiday traffic, parking

Published July 2, 2006

The Fourth of July holiday is upon us and it's time once again for the annual downtown festivities culminating in a fireworks display on St. Petersburg's waterfront.

The Doc encourages everyone with plans of heading downtown to plan ahead and be considerate when parking. Let's stay out of people's front yards, driveways and alleys. And unless it's clear that business owners do not mind you parking in their lots, avoid those, too.

Your best bet for convenient, covered parking is one of the city-run parking facilities like the garages at BayWalk and the Progress Energy building, both of which offer special holiday parking for $10, an increase from last year's $5 fee. Additional disabled parking is designated in the parking lot south of North Shore pool 901 North Shore Drive NE and on portions of Beach Drive.

Circulating shuttles will run from 2 p.m. until 11 p.m. to ferry revelers to venues including the Pier, North Straub Park and Vinoy Park. The shuttles will not run from other downtown parking lots or garages. Fireworks will commence at 9 p.m. at Spa Beach, weather permitting.

And once the fireworks are over, don't start any of your own. Stay cool and expect a traffic jam because there will be one. Take it easy and take your time, be courteous and let someone squeeze into traffic ahead of you. Let's have fun and get everyone home in one piece.

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The Florida Department of Transportation reminds July Fourth travelers to do some advanced planning by calling 511 or logging onto FL511.com. The statewide 511 service provides free, real-time traffic information on all Florida interstate highways and the Florida Turnpike. The 511 system will also supply up-to-the-minute reports on major evacuation routes and bridge and road closures during emergency evacuations caused by seasonal incidents, including hurricanes and wildfires.

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Complaints about those pesky, not to mention, dangerous, motorized scooters are cropping up again and wreaking havoc in area neighborhoods.

A resident of Yacht Club Estates recently wrote: "It looks like anything is now permitted on the public roadways in St. Petersburg. Children as young as 5 years old are driving motorized unlicensed and un-roadworthy vehicles on roadways intended for licensed drivers and registered vehicles.

"These children are racing up and down every street on the island much to their peril. I see them crossing back and forth over the dividing median on 79th Street S into oncoming traffic and blowing past arterial stop signs onto busy 79th Street from the side streets, well after dark. These vehicles are without lights or any kind of licensing. They are hard to see at dusk, and the antics of the immature drivers are totally unpredictable. Some of these children are clothed in no more than shorts and flip-flops. How irresponsible of the parents! A fall onto the asphalt at 25 mph will result in horrible 'road rash.' What can these parents be thinking?"

Good question. But if the physical safety of children is not of concern to the adults providing access to these motorized vehicles, maybe a hit to the wallet is. Mom and dad may find the cost of the fines a little more painful than having to say "no" to the kids.

While some adults insist that there is nothing in the state statutes that specifically prohibits scooters on roadways, the bottom line is that the Florida Highway Patrol says they cannot be issued tags and are therefore not street legal.

"The law does not allow them on any public roads - even if the operator has a driver's license as required for all motor vehicle operators under Florida law," according to the Highway Patrol's Web site. "Many parents and children are not aware that it is illegal to ride scooters on sidewalks or roadways, and that if they are caught doing so they can be subject to fines."

While the scooters are permitted on private property, obviously, common sense dictates that children ought not to operate such vehicles on roadways with automobiles.

Some residents have written to say that law enforcement has not been responsive to complaints about the scooters. Let's hope that the vigilance of residents armed with information on the statutes and stepped up communication with the police will help improve the situation. For more information, visit the FHP's Web site at www.fhp.state.fl.us and click on the "Scooter Safety" link.

Until next week, happy and safe motoring!

Please share your traffic concerns, comments and questions with Dr. Delay via e-mail at docdelay@yahoo.com.