Monday, November 05, 2012
What's on Your Mind? Flashing lights aren't always enforceable
What's on Your Mind?
- Mountain Lake isn't only resort that can claim 'Dirty Dancing'
- Historical warehouse building to get new life
- A few popular Malcolm atlases still around
- Column archive
Previous What's On Your Mind columnists
Q: I live in Blacksburg and I work in Radford. I travel through four 25mph school zones on my way to work. The flashing lights that identify the school zones apparently are on timers, and they automatically turn on at the same time every weekday whether the students are in school or not. My question is: If the students are not in school because of a snow day or a holiday, but the lights are flashing because of the automatic timer, is the zone still considered a 25 mph school zone?
Alice Coughlin, Blacksburg
A: Thanks for the question, Alice. I've often wondered about this one myself. I have no idea which school zones you drive through on the way to work -- but so long as you're in Blacksburg, you can safely ignore those flashing lights when school is not in session, according to police.
"They're on timers, and they're not easy to change," explained Sgt. S.G. Workman of the Blacksburg Police Department. "The school doesn't have the ability to change them. Those are controlled by the town." But so long as school is not actually in session, Workman confirmed, "those lights are not enforceable."
So, no, Alice, you won't get a ticket for not slowing down when school is not in session. On the other hand -- are you sure you know when school is not in session? Are you really, really sure? If not, you may want to just slow down anyway. Better safe than sorry.
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In my Oct. 15 "What's On Your Mind?" column, I quoted some of the reader response I received to an earlier column on bicyclists using city sidewalks. (In most cases, by the way, unless the sidewalks are part of the greenway system, it's not allowed.) One of those I quoted was Peter Nylander of Maiden Lane in Roanoke, who brought up a related matter: Why, he wondered, do mothers pushing strollers in his neighborhood seem to prefer the busy roadway to the sidewalk? "It is most disturbing to see mothers pushing baby strollers in the street. What are they thinking?" he asked.
Marianne Gandee of Roanoke offers one explanation:
"Walking is a great exercise for new mothers, and one of the benefits is that the baby often goes to sleep," she said in an email. "Those bumpy sidewalks are hard to maneuver around with a stroller, and hitting a two-inch gap in the sidewalk with one side of the stroller is enough to wake a dozing infant."
That makes sense to me. It also reminds me of something a friend told me years ago, about preferring the relative softness of asphalt to the unyielding concrete of sidewalks on his arthritic knees. I had never thought about it until that moment -- but I soon noticed he was right. Asphalt is the material of choice for much of the valley's popular greenway system. Should we be using it for all our city sidewalks as well? Would it encourage more people to use them? Maybe sidewalks could become the greenways of the future. What do you think? Let me know.
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