The most ignored traffic signs What signal?: Motorists court disaster by failing to obey posted instructions.

The Intrepid Commuter

January 08, 1996

Today marks the beginning of an occasional feature in this space that we'll fondly call The Intrepid One's Favorite Ignored Traffic Sign Or Signal Award Of The Week.

We've all seen (and probably run a few) of them. A few examples, you say? Check these:

* The flashing red lights to Goucher Boulevard from Loch Raven Boulevard.

* The no-right-on-red sign from Guilford Avenue onto Monument Street.

* Stop signs in Columbia.

* The 55 mph speed limit on Interstate 95 from Baltimore to the Beltway.

* Traffic signs in the Howard Park community in Harford County.

Who pays any attention to them? They're there, we see them, we ignore them. Plain and simple.

This week's winner -- who receives nothing -- is Doris C. Koehler. She brought to our attention the wonderful downtown intersection at Monument and Cathedral streets in Mount Vernon.

As we all know, the two lanes of westbound traffic on Monument Street are split by a blocklong park. According to the traffic signs, the left lane of Monument Street must turn left at the Cathedral Street light while the right lane must proceed straight.

No other options are available for either lane, according to the signs. This little traffic pattern for Monument Street vehicles seems noble and a good way to avoid collisions with Cathedral Street vehicles.

But no.

The traffic in the right lane of Monument Street makes left turns at will, while the motorists in the left lane keep straight with no apparent shame or guilt. The screech of braking cars and accompanying string of obscenities are common sounds for area residents.

So that's why Ms. Koehler and the "No Left Turn Onto Cathedral Street" sign on Monument Street and the diagram with the line through a right turn arrow are winners of our Favorite Ignored Traffic Sign Or Signal Award Of The Week.

The signs are worthy winners; they are truly ignored.

Metered spaces at station weren't always unused

The new parking garage at Penn Station sits modern, clean and mostly unused. The metered parking spaces in the neighborhood surrounding Penn Station sit worn, littered and mostly unused.

But the metered spaces haven't always been unused. Until the parking garage was opened last fall, the meters -- then programmed to give motorists 10 hours of parking -- usually were filled with commuters who took the train to Washington.

But when the new parking garage opened, the city changed the meters to allow only two hours -- thus forcing train commuters to park in the $12-a-day garage.

"This is the only way they can get people to use [expletive] garage," said Sean McKnight, who lives in Charles Village and works at the Library of Congress in Washington.

"People used to race to get those spots in the morning when they were 10-hour [meter]. Now we're just out of luck."

Adrienne Barnes, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works, said the parking spaces were changed to two-hours to encourage short-term parking.

Blinded by the light, driver won't go slow

This may not be up our alley, but we'll try to help anyway. Cary Scarpone was driving south on Interstate 95 between Catonsville and Columbia at about 4 p.m. last week when he noticed a considerable slowing of traffic.

The culprit: A very bright sun.

"Once I got past the Beltway, I saw a logjam so I thought there was an accident of some sort," said Mr. Scarpone, who lives in Laurel and travels on I-95 very infrequently. "I kept waiting to see the police or an accident but it never happened. It just cleared up by itself."

At that time of day, Mr. Scarpone, the setting sun causes major problems for southbound traffic. The motorists slowed, as they should, until their vision was not restricted by the sun.

"But the sun is not something that should slow up traffic," Mr. Scarpone said. "Just put on sunglasses, pull down your [sun] visor and don't look directly at it and keep on going."

Mr. Scarpone obviously follows the Rambo school of driving philosophy.

We mentioned the incident to representatives from the State Police, the State Highway Administration and several driving schools, but could not get a serious response from all of the chuckling.

"They're the kind of drivers that just go plowing into other cars because they can't see right but don't take precautions," said Eric Constance, a instructor at a Towson driving school.

"He should hang one of those little yellow signs in his back window that reads 'Warning, driver can't see.' "

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