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No changes for left turns

Dr. Delay Navigating South Pinellas

By Lorrie Lykins, Times Correspondent
Published February 17, 2008


Traffic signals are a never-ending source of frustration and confusion for motorists, which means lots of signal-related mail for the Doc.

Reader Tony Dilley wrote to ask whether there are any plans to address the accident-prone intersection of 38th Avenue and 49th Street N, an area he thinks may be more dangerous because of the traffic signals.

"I have lived two blocks away from the intersection for about eight years, and it seems worse than ever. The sound of sirens headed to that intersection for another accident is a weekly occurrence," he wrote.

Part of the problem, Dilley says, might be alleviated if the speed limit were lowered a few blocks before and after the intersection and if traffic would no longer be permitted to turn left northward on 38th Avenue on a green light, meaning that vehicles traveling eastbound on 38th Avenue would turn left at the intersection only with a green arrow rather than try to dash through the regular green light.

We asked city traffic signal manager Bill Foster about green arrows that are followed by green lights, which traffic gurus refer to as "green balls." Foster explained that the left turn signals at this intersection are called protected/permissive, meaning there's a protected green arrow display followed by a green ball.

During the green ball "permissive" period, vehicles are allowed to turn if there is no oncoming traffic. The other type of left turn is called a protected left turn, which has no period with the green ball after the arrow expires.

Foster says it's frustrating for drivers not to be allowed to make a turn if the signal is green for through traffic and there is no oncoming traffic.

Foster checked the St. Petersburg Police Department's accident report database and found that there were 46 accidents in 2006 at the intersection of 38th Avenue N and 49th Street, and 50 accidents in 2007. Foster says he reviewed each accident record that involved left turns and found the number to be low: six of the accidents in 2007 were related to the left-turn phase.

"I do not think a change in the left turn signals is necessary at this time. I will continue to monitor this location and have the option of lengthening the left turn timing if necessary," Foster said.

Pedestrian legislation

Lawmaker proposes changes at crosswalks

Pedestrian safety is on the mind of state Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, who is sponsoring a proposal that would require drivers to stop at certain intersections when a pedestrian is either in, or steps into, a crosswalk.

Fines would be allocated to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to educate the public about pedestrian safety and traffic laws governing crosswalks.

If passed, HB 89 will take effect in July.

Bicycles on bridges

Signs will warn bikers to walk across bridge

Bicycles on area bridges are a safety concern for cyclists and motorists alike. A Tierra Verde resident contacted us about cyclists riding on the drawbridges leading to the beaches.

Shandell Gelmini wrote: "There is signage before the Pass-a-Grille bridge, but not the Tierra Verde bridge, stating that bikes should be walked over the bridge. I have yet to see any rider do so.

"When a rider reaches the grated, metal middle section of the bridge, it seems they have a rather difficult time keeping the bike on a straight path. I, for one, will not overtake a rider at this juncture, as they often look too unsteady. For their own safety, riders should be walking their bikes over these bridges."

We passed Gelmini's concerns on to DOT's Kris Carson, who said signs like the ones posted on the approach to the Pinellas Bayway Bridge leading to Pass-a-Grille will be installed on each approach to the Tierra Verde bridge. This should take about six to eight weeks, Carson said.

Until next week, happy and safe motoring!

Please e-mail Dr. Delay at to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions.

[Last modified February 16, 2008, 23:41:32]

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