Road hazard for motorcyclists Cigarette: A discarded butt poses a danger. One cyclist has the unforgettable memory of his pants being set on fire.


INTREPID ANSWERED a burning question recently about whether a lighted cigarette butt thrown from a moving car or truck could cause a fire in another vehicle. (The answer was: Not likely.)

What was overlooked, however, was the danger it can pose to motorcyclists. The discarded cigarette problem is one that has been noted by the American Motorcyclists Association, said Sean Maher, an official with the group based in Westerville, Ohio, that claims to represent 210,000 bikers.

And one cyclist called Intrepid recently to explain the peril based on an unforgettable personal experience: His crotch was set on fire by a burning butt lobbed from a car window. "It lit up my pants and I almost didn't make it to the side of the road," he said.

The very idea gives new meaning to the name Hell's Angels.

MTA bus drivers are fair game for tickets

Middleborough Road in Essex is a residential two-laner between Marlyn Avenue and Southeast Boulevard, where the speed limit is a posted 25 mph.

The problem, neighbors there say, is that many cars and Mass Transit Administration buses have at times turned the road into what seems like a speedway.

One resident, William C. Wagner, complained to Baltimore County police about the problem, prompting radar surveillance. But while speeding cars were being stopped by the police, Wagner observed, the buses continued to fly by at speeds he estimated at 50 mph.

Wagner told Intrepid that his complaints to police officers brought this response: "We can't ticket buses."

Spokesmen for the Baltimore city and county police departments said officers certainly can ticket MTA bus drivers for speeding, but the city spokesman, Agent Robert W. Weinhold Jr., noted that such instances are rare.

A bulletin alerting bus drivers about community concerns on Middleborough was posted by MTA administrators July 30, an agency spokesman said. MTA supervisors are staking out the strip to clock speeding buses, and police Capt. James Johnson, commander of the county's Essex Precinct, last week renewed a promise to scrutinize Middleborough speeders -- in all vehicles. Buses beware. While on the subject of the MTA, the Intrepid One received a query last week wondering why the agency doesn't provide Sunday subway service.

"Many people go to their houses of worship on Sundays and also many city events happen on this day," writes Kemper Lewis, DTC devout Metro rider who lives on Carey Street in West Baltimore.

Well, it all comes down to money.

MTA spokesman Anthony Brown said transit administrators have deemed that ridership on Sunday would not be lucrative enough to justify paying a full day's crew of Metro operators, security and maintenance workers. "Traditionally, it's not a heavily traveled day," he explained.

Brown says the agency is open to rider suggestions and that he would welcome feedback from Metro riders about adding a seventh day of service.

As a footnote, the MTA recently opened the Metro two hours earlier on Saturdays -- at 6 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. The result was an overall increase in subway ridership through all hours of operation up to the midnight closing time, when the trains that move under and through Charm City and county turn into pumpkins for the rest of the weekend.

Price of gasoline more taxing in Md.

Just in time for Labor Day travel: The national average price of regular, unleaded self-serve fuel is $1.25 per gallon, according to a survey by a St. Paul, Minn., petroleum watchdog. This is in line with Maryland's average pump prices, as reported last week, but Intrepid has received calls from visitors to nearby New Jersey who wonder why gas is so cheap in the Garden State. A fill-up in Jersey, always full-serve by state law, costs as little as $1.08 per gallon at some stations.

After a brief inquiry, Intrepid points the finger of blame at government tax-o-mania: Gasoline taxes in Maryland total 23 cents per gallon while New Jersey taxes total only a dime per gallon. Add to that an 18-cent federal gasoline tax, and you've got a budget breaker. (But be glad you're not buying it in Europe, where taxes make gasoline three to four times as expensive.)


Ravens flight plan alert: The Timonium park-and-ride to Memorial Stadium for Sunday's season opener will move to the Hunt Valley Mall parking lot because of the Maryland State Fair. Shuttle service for the crunchfest against the Raiders begins three hours before the 1 p.m. kickoff. The MTA gets a blue ribbon for offering fair-goers longer hours Sunday and Labor Day -- from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., instead of the usual 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday and holiday schedule. Motorists on Dorsey Road (Route 176) will find a new detour at 9 a.m. today when the State Highway Administration plans to close the westbound ramp onto the northbound Baltimore-Washington Parkway. The closure is expected to last until early October, during reconstruction of the ramp as part of the project to extend Route 100.

Pub Date: 8/26/96

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