Mar 032018

by Rick Boettger…….


Rick Boettger

Two weeks ago I wrote about the guy on a moped who got sent to Ryder Trauma Center for seven staples in his head (even with a helmet) after he was rear-ended and knocked 30 feet when he lawfully stopped at the killer crosswalk on North Roosevelt at the Kmart Plaza. My point was that the crosswalks transferred the danger from lawbreaking jaywalkers, who if they get hit it’s their own fault, to law-abiding citizens. With these dangerous crosswalks, the people in danger are the trusting pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the road, and the good moped drivers properly stopping to let those people cross.  In other words, FDOT has transferred the danger from the guilty to the innocent.

I think that worse than transferring the danger, the net effect of the crosswalks is to create MORE accidents, not fewer. To research this, I first asked the City for the crash records on North Roosevelt for the most recent month they were available. As reported, 43 — 20 in parking lots, 5 on the roadway, 23 in the new crosswalks.

I next asked for the records of the same month back in 2011, before the crosswalks were installed by FDOT.

Following are facts and speculation.

The facts are that the Police Department Public Information Officer at first said, sure she could get those to me, but not that day, as she had a number of other things she had to do first. Then I didn’t hear from her for a week. When I followed up, she said that “2011 is beyond our record retention requirements.” I then asked if they in fact had the records, and what the legal authority was for the length of time they have to make them available.  She cited the law, 4 years, but did not answer the question as to whether they in fact still have the records. Also, she did not send me the record they are supposed to keep of records destruction.

Now for the speculation. My bet is that they do in fact have the records. They looked at them, and did the same half an hour of sorting that I did for the recent month.  What they found was that, indeed, I (and everyone else complaining about these benighted crosswalks) am right, and the crosswalks create a net new danger, with, say, 5 more accidents every month than we had before their creation. So the word came down NOT to let me, and that means We The People, find out this fact. The City can easily prove me and the myriad other objectors wrong by showing me the papers, please. It appears they are using the 4 year law designed to ease the burden of records storage to deny me the right to see public records that indeed have not been destroyed.

Why on earth would either the Chief, City Manager, or Commissioners NOT want this research done?  After all, they are themselves pleading with FDOT to remove them, or speed up the red stoplight installation scheduled for after I am dead (possibly while crossing the Boulevard, which I do twice a day). All I can think of is that they think I am embarrassing FDOT by calling them out and being right on everything I have objected to (see my last column HERE, reviewing their past follies). Why would they not want me to further embarrass FDOT by doing the kind of factual research they and our City leaders ought to have done themselves?

Damn, this is hard to believe, but all I can think of is that they are wusses, afraid of angering the big bully, and hoping that if they are servile enough the big bully will stop taking their lunch money. Even worse would be looking at what they did before the North Roosevelt years-long repair job, with the disastrous one-waying for the first two years until we got that fixed by a popular uprising. The Commissioners at that time did not object to FDOT breaking two of their standard, by-the-book practices: putting a factor into the bidding process to reward early completion, and not turning a business road into a one-way street because it bankrupts a lot of business owners, which is what in fact happened.

So those are not two fine choices, servile or stupid.  Any other ideas? I’m favoring the second, as, according to the Citizen’s report on their last meeting on the crosswalks, no one brought up my point about transferring harm from the jaywalkers to the law-abiding citizens, which may have been too subtle for them to understand.  There was also no discussion of doing any research like mine, either.  Darn, and some of them even have college degrees.  Maybe without a research class requirement.

As far as research goes, the system is institutionally inept in that their records retention system was apparently devised by a Trump appointee. Alyson says and Cynthia confirms that their dumb-ass system does NOT allow you to search by, say, any of the categories I mentioned: by place, type, or, more importantly, injury.  Please, give me twenty minutes and I’ll build you a spreadsheet where, by entering exactly the info typed onto the police crash reports, you could do a sort in seconds, and then make nice reports and even charts within a few minutes.

I’d read in the Citizens’ Voice last week that two more pedestrians had been struck in the crosswalks.  I asked Alyson for the reports, and, trooper that she is, she searched the last two weeks, apparently by hand the way I did, and found only a bicyclist in the center lane at Toppino rear-ended by another hit-and-runner. If the Citizen’s Voice commenter sees this, please contact us with your version of events. (Let me please give credit to all the public institutions of Monroe for quickly responding to my usually critical PRR’s, especially the City Clerk and PD.  Only the School District holds back, even at times from their own Board members.)

Next topic: stoplights.  They are the most dangerous and inefficient traffic control devices on earth. Why dangerous? Again, they create and transfer a great danger to the law-abiding driver. By trusting the green light and driving right through an intersection without stopping, you are in danger of getting killed by a law-breaker running his red light. This is a simple fact, and research confirms that when you convert an intersection from a four-way stop to stoplight, deaths go up.

Why less efficient?  Again, do some research. The number of cars using an intersection at a stoplight is only a fraction of the number of cars using it when it is a four-way stop. Back when my office window overlooked Garrison bight, I could see that when the electricity went out and the busiest intersection in town, Palm/1st and N. Roosevelt, the traffic in all directions was barely backed up at all.

That intersection even has reasonable times for the traffic lights.  I don’t drive the Y much, but apparently, they have screwed up the timing out there, and the backups are terrible. Adding three more red lights on the Boulevard for the idiot crosswalks might induce more workers to bike from Big Coppit to Old Town as they can’t handle the impending hour-long car commute each way.

After lights, the second greatest cause of traffic congestion is Key West’s sleepy, passive drivers. Passive? To read the Citizen’s Shriek, there are speeders everywhere, and all should be shot.  Nope. I live on a street, Olivia, with many public complainers, and I can attest anyone going over 20 is rare. Twenty looks fast.  Go ahead, try going 25 on it and it won’t seem natural.

The worst passivity is at the lights. Enough drivers wait until the car in front of them is 40 feet away before they deign to move on. But the worst is when someone wants to make a left turn, and waits BEHIND THE PEDESTRIAN CROSSWALK LINES until the approaching traffic is clear for him.

The law states that when you want to make a left turn at a light, you should proceed all of the way into the intersection to wait your chance.  This allow the traffic behind you to PASS YOU ON THE RIGHT while you are waiting, about the only time it is explicitly legal to do so.  You can then successfully make your turn even if the approaching traffic is nonstop to the end.  When the light turns red for you, they have to stop, and that’s when you complete your turn. No long line of cars waiting behind you.

I work yards from the Truman/White intersection, and I have seen people wait behind that crosswalk all the way until the light turns red again, meaning not one car went through in a full cycle, and cars back up to Eisenhower heading into town.

My nominees for dumbest stoplights are, first, the one on the Boulevard at Fifth.  During the reconstruction, it was just a stop sign for Fifth. There were never more than two cars stopped on Fifth, and there was no delay for the Roosevelt traffic. Second would be at the Green Parrot.  A four-way stop there would cut expected waiting time by 75%. It is so much fun to be an elusive bicyclist, with only the danger of being another FDOT sacrifice to the crosswalk deity to fear in my future.

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Rick Boettger
Rick Boettger had a Top Secret security clearance in the Army and studied nuclear chemistry at MIT and law at Yale before getting a PhD in business at Berkeley. He earned tenure as a business professor at TCU in Fort Worth before going to Moscow as a Fulbright Professor, writing a book on the economy, hosting a semi-national talk radio show, and retiring to Key West in 1996 at the age of 48. Since then he has worked part-time as a tax and financial advisor, and has been doing investigative journalism since he began at the Blue Paper in 2007​. He is very happily married to his superb copy-editor Cynthia Edwards, the former long-time PIO for the Key West Police Department.
 March 3, 2018  Posted by at 1:04 am ~ Column ~, Issue #258, Rick Boettger  Add comments