If you follow current events in Torrance you are probably aware of the decision to install permissive blinking yellow lights for left turn lanes and certain major intersections in the city. The intent, of which I am in favor, is to allow cars that are sitting in the left lane at a red light with no oncoming traffic to proceed with caution. It is a great concept that I am sure everyone agrees is long overdue; however, when these signals are installed they also need to be programmed and apparently they are not being programmed correctly or whomever decided on the cycling of the lights did not give any real thought to the process or the possible consequences of their haphazard decision. Allow me to elaborate.
This evening at 9:45 my fiancee and I were walking the dogs eastbound on 182nd Street approaching Prairie. At Prairie we would cross 182nd and continue south on Prairie. As we reached the northwest corner of 182nd and Prairie I immediately pressed the button for the WALK signal to protect Tanya, the dogs and myself as we crossed 182nd Street. As we stood there waiting for our WALK signal Tanya and I noticed that all the left turn lanes for the east/west traffic were blinking yellow immediately. There was no protective green for the cars in the left turn lanes in either direction. It became clear that instead of supplementing the green light as it should, the new signal was replacing it! There is no more protective green arrow for left turns. That is not the intent of those signals; but it gets worse.
Because there is no protective green light for left turns, pedestrians are immediately given a WALK signal which should grant some kind of guarantee that you probably are as safe as you are going to be, but instead it means; “Do you feel lucky? Do you think that guy will see you?” I hope I am drawing this out well enough, but suffice it to say that in the two or three minutes we stood there we saw several drivers that seemed completely confused as to what they were supposed to do; especially those that were expecting their protective green arrow.
The way these new signals are supposed to work is that cars in the left turn lane get their protective green arrow, then instead of going from yellow immediately to red, it blinks yellow indicating that when it is safe to turn you can. What Torrance is doing is eliminating the protective green arrow; that is not going to help traffic if intersections are clogged with emergency vehicles from crashes.
Even more important is the safety of pedestrians. As one that walks across major intersections several times a day, every day, I can tell you it is tough enough to survive out there but if you are telling me I can walk and telling the car driver he can go too, one of us is not going to fare well. I really feel sorry for the old blind guy we see a few days a week.
As we continued our walk and discussed the problem, Tanya suggested that maybe the cycle of the lights changed to the default blinking yellow after a certain time. If that is the case, the pedestrian’s WALK signal should overrule the default.
I will do what I can with telephone calls but in the meantime, watch yourself out there. It became a whole new ballgame today.