Q When I read that a stamp will be issued in honor of Lady Bird Johnson, I thought about the things she had done, including, I recall, a ban on billboards near major highways. However, judging by the monstrosities lining our highways today -- for example the huge digital display adjacent to the Bayshore in Redwood City -- I must have not remembered it correctly. Can you straighten me out on what the law actually said?
A Yep. Although the Highway Beautification Act was applauded when passed in 1965, it was so watered down that much of Lady Bird's dreams were never realized. The bill stated that billboards would be banned "except in those areas of commercial and industrial use." After her death, the New York Times published a 2007 opinion piece saying that while the act imposed certain restrictions on the erection of new billboards along federal highways, "loopholes have allowed the construction of many more billboards now than were present when President Johnson signed the bill into law ... and most of America has seen the proliferation of far larger signs than in the past -- 1,200-square-foot behemoths that loom over the landscape atop 40-foot poles and which can be seen from miles away. The new trend is to turn them into huge digitalized screens that can be programmed to flash a dozen ads in the driver's face as he passes by."
And on that trend, here is the almost universal reaction to my story last week on a Swedish study saying that digital billboards pose a safety risk as drivers take their eyes off the road for too long to read the bright, flashing messages:
Q They needed a study to show that these digital billboards are a danger? Cars slowing down, with the resulting backups, aren't clear enough evidence every time those things light up?
A And let's swing to the East Bay ...
Q I want to thank you for your attention to the light blight I have had crammed down my throat. I and my carpool partner drive by these monstrosities every weekday on the Bay Bridge at 5:30 every morning. They're right where all the lanes are merging after the toll plaza. It's ridiculous.
Naturally it is always dark outside and the light from these billboards can be blinding. Particularly when they are flashing.
I would be beyond happy to see these taken down. They provide absolutely NO benefit to motorists, and further are an accident waiting to happen. I mean, really. At 5:30 in the morning, I couldn't care less what is on TV that night or what movie will be opening soon!
A And ...
Q This is why traffic slows almost to a stop on 880 at the Oracle Arena. The signs are a hazard.
A Now to the South Bay ...
Q I've been a victim of the flashing billboard -- specifically at Great America Parkway off 101. The bright lights distracted me from driving at night, and it was so bright that it took several seconds for my eyes to adjust. Luckily there weren't that many people on the road. The funny thing, I wasn't even looking at the billboard directly -- just with my peripheral vision.
A And ...
Q A digital sign at the 280-880 interchange near Valley Fair? Well, I guess it'll be effective advertising. That's already pretty much THE worst place for fender-benders and stupid accidents. I guess since it'll be even more of a mess, we'll have more time to look at the ads while we wait for wrecks to be cleared. I can't believe someone actually approved that location. What if we collectively decide to NOT patronize businesses which advertise there?
A A billboard boycott? Hmmmm.