Doctored road signs warn of encounters with Rudolph, Bambi

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

July 10, 1995

The Intrepid One is dead set against defacing road signs or property that belongs to someone else. But sometimes you see a street or road sign that's been "altered," shall we say, and it makes you chuckle.

Everyone remembers not long ago when someone kept adding the word "Hon" beneath the "Welcome to Baltimore" sign on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, expressing the sentiments of many of us locals.

And we recall a sign on Interstate 70 in Frederick County warning of "Falling Crocks" in a mountainous area just beyond a bridge. The "C" obviously had been scrawled on the sign, for we doubt if any crocodiles actually lived in the vicinity.

We recently received a letter from Thomas A. Lilly, a Lutherville resident who frequently travels the state, who spotted an interesting sign on Interstate 97, just outside Annapolis, while venturing to Crisfield in Somerset County.

The sign is a yellow "Deer Crossing" sign to which someone has added a red dot to the nose of the depiction of the deer.

On another trip, this time on I-70 near the Pennsylvania border, Mr. Lilly eyed another "Deer Crossing" sign where some Rembrandt had added a -- of white paint to the drawing's tail.

"You know it's a great state when the highway folks put up warning signs for both Rudolph and Bambi," Mr. Lilly said.

SPELLING LESSON: While we're talking about road signs, Herb Rosenberger of Mount Washington in North Baltimore has found one that is misspelled and erroneous.

The sign, in the southbound lane of Charles Street at Cold Spring Lane at Loyola College, reads: "Warning, Park Cars Ahead."

Mr. Rosenberger believes the sign should read: "Caution, Parked Cars Ahead." Caution, he says, means to be aware of. And in this case, we assume traffic should be aware of the "parked" cars ahead.

"It's misspelled, and it conveys an erroneous message," Mr. Rosenberger said. "It's been there for several years, and I notice it all of the time."

Margaret Reid, an English professor at Morgan State University, said the sign is grammatically incorrect.

"It's the past participle used as the adjective," Dr. Reid said. Whether the word "caution" or "warning" is used is a "matter of semantics," she said.

Your Intrepid Roamer routinely roams by that intersection and, to be honest, we never really closely read the sign -- until recently. That's probably because the intersection has four -- count 'em, four -- street or traffic signs for southbound Charles Street traffic, and it's easy to glance away from them all.

A while back, Edwin Rubin, a Loyola College student, said "it was like reading a book" when you get to the intersection and "see a million signs."

"Luckily there are traffic lights to stop us," Mr. Rubin said, "because there is no way I'd be able to read all of those signs in moving traffic."

HARBOR RIGHTS: With warm weather and the vacation season upon us, the streets near the Inner Harbor are flooded with tourists, sightseers and locals checking out downtown attractions.

Intersections crowded with vehicles and pedestrians can be tricky, especially when neither wants to give up the right of way.

One of the more dangerous corners we've found is at Pratt Street and Marketplace, where pedestrians often have to use the "sprint and pray" method to cross Pratt Street.

Skip Pearre, who works at the nearby Brokerage, said pedestrians who cross Pratt Street are "terrorized" by vehicles making left turns from Marketplace.

"They [pedestrians] get the walk sign to come across from the Harborplace side over to Market Place and where Fuddruckers is, and generally they've got to dodge cars or simply run across VTC with kids and the stroller, and it's really stupid," Mr. Pearre said.

Although pedestrians have the right of way, Marketplace traffic often hurries through to make the left turn, usually at pedestrians' expense.

Sam Ringgold, a city police spokesman, said he is unaware of any accidents or pedestrians being struck at the intersection.

RAIL LIGHTS: John Hammond, who rides the light rail downtown from his Mount Washington home daily, said he is perplexed by the timing of the train, especially at the Mount Royal Avenue stop near the University of Baltimore.

The train is often held up by traffic signals at the Mount Royal stop -- and sometimes is kept waiting for as long as five minutes, he said.

"Twice within the last week I've seen the driver have to exit the train and hit the walk button for pedestrians to activate the signal so we can get a green signal to proceed on our journey," Mr. Hammond said.

Anthony Brown, a spokesman for the Mass Transit Administration, said a recently installed sensor -- which works in conjunction with equipment on light rail trains to give trains the right of way in traffic -- had not been working properly and has been corrected.

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