Monday, July 12, 2010

Is 1 minute 45 seconds too long to save a life?

Strange question, but actually I believe it is.

At 2:40 in the afternoon, I was at the pedestrian crossing in front of the Wilton Manors City Hall.  After having done some browsing in some of the shops on that end of Wilton Drive, I decided to cross over onto the sunny side of the block.  This being Florida in Summer, they're both sunny, but the South Side was my destination so I thought it best to cross at the light.  Wilton Drive being four lanes of traffic plus a turn lane or a median is a difficult place to cross.  At present there are four lit crossings on the street, none of them being placed where the pedestrians seem to want to cross.  Wilton Manors is a place where jaywalking seems to be the rule rather than the exception. 

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Wilton Drive also has a 30 mile per hour speed limit.   The road is almost exactly a mile from its beginning at the Fort Lauderdale city limit on the South end at the Middle River to the intersection at Five Points.   At 30 miles per hour, that would mean that in 2 minutes, you should be able to drive the entirety assuming nobody got in your way or you decided to turn off and park and actually enjoy our city.

Having gotten to the crossing, I pressed the button on the pole, and the button on my chronometer to try to see how long it would last.  As some of the Commissioners of this city will tell you, I tend to be a stickler for knowing how long something lasts.  During the time I waited for the light to change, three different sets of pedestrians decided that it was pointless to stand there in the sun any longer and crossed without benefit of light or crosswalk.  One used the crosswalk but didn't wait for the light. 

On a Sunday afternoon it seems that traffic is light enough that you can actually cross the Drive without getting hit.  I know, I saw 5 people do it in three clumps. 

The question remains though that if the person presses the button on the stop light pole, does it actually do anything?  If the button does in fact do something, could the timing of the light be set to something more reasonable? 

Having watched many car shows, I have noticed that the standard for stopping distance seems to be around 120 feet.  40 Meters if you're counting.  30 MPH is 44 feet per second.  That works out to three seconds at legal speeds to stop.  Now it would be insanity to suggest that we set the time from pressing the button to the light changing be 3 seconds.  I would say that a more reasonable time would be closer to twelve seconds, 528 feet or one tenth of a mile travel time.  That would be a "standard" block in a ten block per mile area like South Florida.  After all, the light then would turn yellow then allow the person to cross at a red. 

A minute and 45 seconds is approximately the distance it takes to drive at legal speeds from Five Points at the North end to the City Hall Light.  Is that amount of time really necessary?

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