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Longboat Key Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016 5 years ago

Remove the crosswalks

They’re a safety hazard. Longboat Key was safer without them.
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

Everyone knew it was a matter of time. Unfortunately, that time came sooner rather than later.

Friday morning, Feb. 5, a motorist struck a pedestrian who was trying to cross Gulf of Mexico Drive at the new crosswalk near the entrance to Country Club Shores IV and Longboat Club Road.

The Longboat Key police report says the motorist failed to yield to the pedestrian in the crosswalk.

The incident occurred two months after the crosswalks — installed by the Florida Department of Transportation — became operational and two months after constant complaints and harping from Longboat Key residents and town officials.

Virtually everyone from day one complained that motorists would not see the tiny, yellow, flashing lights, nor would they stop. Longboat Key Commissioner Lynn Larson confirmed that herself two weeks ago when she used the Country Club Shores crosswalk.

As we commented last week on this page, the state’s response to the concerns is to conduct a series of “WalkWise” public forums. We called that a joke.

Thirty minutes after the accident, Town Manager David Bullock sent a sizzling letter to FDOT District 1 Secretary Billy Hattaway demanding immediate action — “make corrections to these crosswalks so that our citizens can safely use them, or if your staff doesn’t know how to fix them, remove them …”

Afterward, FDOT officials drove to Longboat Key and presented a layout for an additional sign to be placed at the crosswalks for pedestrians, explaining how to use the crosswalks.

The town then expedited the process by purchasing the new signage to speed up installation.

This is throwing good money after bad. 

But let’s go back to 2013. When the Urban Land Institute presented its recommendations to address the town’s vision for the future, it recommended building median islands at the crosswalks “to maximize pedestrian safety (see box).”

According to the ULI recommendations, the pedestrian-level lights that FDOT installed at the crosswalks were considered enhancements to the crosswalks, not as the primary safety feature. 

But, alas, the transportation department opted not to construct the medians.

Adding more signage for pedestrians on how to use the crosswalks is a feeble solution to the danger.

Ever since the crosswalks went live, Longboaters have been shouting — at the least — to convert the yellow flashing lights to red. Everyone know what red means.

Or what about implementing what ULI recommended as the first step: built-in, raised medians around the crosswalks?

We have a better suggestion: Remove them altogether! 

Even though Longboat Key has had two fatalities in the past two decades from pedestrians attempting to cross Gulf of Mexico Drive — two too many, to be sure — for as long as Gulf of Mexico Drive has been a paved road with a 45 mph speed limit, the vast majority of pedestrians have been smart enough to use their rational minds to determine when it is safe to cross the road. Altogether, the record for safe crossings, statistically, has been remarkable. 

Conversely, the new crosswalks and all of the paraphernalia surrounding them can be viewed as less safe, because, as Bullock pointed out, they provide pedestrians with a false sense of security.

With crosswalks, lights and signage, the pedestrian’s safety transfers largely to the driver of the vehicle. With no crosswalks, the pedestrian’s safety falls on his or her own responsibility.

Who would you trust more — a driver over whom you have no control or yourself?

Get rid of them. 

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