+ Crossing issueneeds lots of attention
I read with great interest your article regarding road-crossing options (Oct. 13). It is a complicated situation. As one who lives in a condo on Midnight Pass Road exactly where the project would begin, I have some observations.
After five years of crossing Midnight Pass Road at least t10 times a week, I can and will testify at the Dec. 6t public hearing that something must be done to help pedestrians cross this road.
With great respect for County Commission Chairwoman Nora Patterson and Siesta Key Association Director Bob Waechter, both whom I know and admire from my past seat as a director on the SKA board, I feel it is not viable to say since only one accident has occurred in five years, we do nothing, or that if we lower the speed limit, it will help pedestrians cross the highway.
These aren’t ordinary pedestrians. They are usually from out of town, not familiar with our traffic patterns. They often are elderly, or have toddlers, beach chairs, carriages, umbrellas and other paraphernalia under their arms. They do not move swiftly or easily, thus encumbered.
Those of us who are more lithe and limber still have a challenge crossing. You must make eye contact with each and every driver, who could be distracted, drunk, texting, or not watching the road, who is heading your way. I long ago stopped caring what I looked like crossing the road. Now I wave, make eye contact, run when motioned across, always stop in the middle, look both ways, often hoping I don’t die, and again wave and mouth a “Thank you” to all who let me pass.
Every time I drive this 1-mile stretch of road the Florida Department of Transportation is considering for action, I always stop and make exaggerated, permissive hand gestures to those crossing. Some are stunned-looking, like deer in headlights; others hardly even look as they cross.
Your caption underneath the satellite photo on page 8A states that so far a majority of Key residents has opposed these pedestrian islands. How do you arrive at that statement? As far as I know, no one has asked me or my neighbors, many of whom haven’t heard about this project. Many more residents will find out about it when they return for the season. I think that the SKA and Siesta Key Condominium Association have voiced their opposition and concerns, as they should, but that does not constitute a majority.
Reducing the speed limit to 35 mph may have helped. I do not have data to support or refute that. I see cars and trucks speeding past me every day. I see drivers, impatient with having to wait for the traffic light on Stickney Point Road, try to make up for lost time by speeding past the first group of condos, giving no pedestrian any chance at all.
I doubt that crosswalks will help. Drivers will be making constant short stops. The driving courtesies are already absent here; I doubt that many drivers will be philosophical about stopping several times in a mile.
When I first arrived here, I crossed Stickney Point Road from the South Village just once before I realized that there was not enough time to cross safely. With the help of Nora Patterson and the county, that light was finally adjusted to allow 30 seconds for pedestrians to cross. I know the county had personnel out there timing the traffic, the crossing times, etc.
What we need to think about is who exactly is crossing ad the amount of time it takes to cross half the road (pedestrian islands) versus the entire road (crosswalks).
We also need to get data to see if drivers going 25 mph will make any difference at all. Even slow-moving vehicles can severely maim or hurt someone.
When I first sat on the board of the SKA my main concern was road safety, for pedestrians, bikers and drivers. I had an idea that I never implemented. It was to have a program that brought together the businesses, Chamber of Commerce, condos and SKA to undertake a focused campaign on courteous and safe driving. I called it the “Pay It Forward Campaign.” Every time someone lets you cross the street, you give him or her positive reinforcement, thanking him, waving, smiling, anything to make him feel good about what he just did for you. Hopefully, that gets paid forward. This is not realistic for tourists, but is still a goal I have.
We also could put flyers in restaurants, businesses and condo offices and explain the safest way to cross the street, to allow for tourists to cross to the beach, and to ride their bikes and those tiny little scooter carts safely. A simple message, effectively delivered, has been proven to change health and safety behaviors. (Example: “Cigarettes Kill,” or “Seat Belts Save Lives.”)
Instead of doing nothing, or losing state funds, as SKA President Catherine Luckner so wisely cautions against, we should combine approaches. Gather data, start safe-driving campaigns and construct traffic-slowing measures, be they walkways or islands, signage or social advertising.
What we cannot allow is an “Oh, no, not in our neighborhood!” kind of reaction. That serves no one well.
Nancy R. Wilson
+ ‘Occupy’ groups nothing like tea party
Thanks for your excellent “My View” column pointing out the differences between “Occupiers” and the tea party.
Many in the media are trying to convince Americans that the two are related. I attended the very first tea party in Sarasota April 15, 2009. The signs I saw reflected the goals of those who attended: Taxed Enough Already, Cut Spending, Give Me Liberty Not Debt, Smaller Government, Wake Up America and Follow the Constitution! These people were patriots who expressed love for the USA and a desire for fiscal responsibility. Many wore red, white and blue and carried American flags.
They were local people who were not bused in or paid to protest. No outside money or radical groups sponsored their rally, and they picked up their trash and left the location cleaner than they found it.
The Occupiers express a desire for larger government and class warfare hatred. One sign on Wall Street said: “Eat the Rich.”
Unfortunately, our current president has fed the fires of class warfare. We need a new leader who will inspire, not divide, Americans. I believe that the tea party patriots will help elect such a leader in 2012.