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Red – not yellow – means stop
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Re: “Does anybody see me out there,” Tom Germond’s column, Jan. 17.
Yes, in a sense, pedestrians are invisible – and so are people who wear sunglasses. The difference is most pedestrians don’t want to be invisible, whereas most folks wearing sunglasses do. All humor aside, I hear you when you say most pedestrians are invisible, and it is a problem.

I read your recent article in the Jan. 17 Beacon. Basically, I agree with most of what you say, but there is one major matter that I don’t quite agree with you about – and that is your expectations. For example, one of your paragraphs read as follows:

“A few days ago, I was attempting to use a marked crosswalk in Dunedin on Alt. U.S. 19 near Edgewater Park. Six to eight vehicles whizzed by me before a motorcyclist stopped and let me cross.”

It is clear that your expectation is, and was in this instance, that motorists are suppose to stop for you when your waiting/standing at the curb when, in fact, no motorist is required to stop for you while you’re waiting at the curb. It is only when you enter the crosswalk are motorist required to stop – and you, as a law-abiding pedestrian are not to step into the crosswalk until it is safe for you to do so (i.e. at a time when a motorist can safely stop for you). For you to do otherwise (that is, step in front of a fast moving car) would not only be unsafe; it would be illegal for you to do so. It’s no different than a motorist pulling out in front of a car when it was not safe to do so.

The motorist pulling out in front of a car needs to do so only when there is enough time and distance to do so safely. The motorcycle that stopped for you did so out of courtesy not because he was required, by law, to do so.

Your expectation is that a motorist must stop for you when you’re standing at the curb waiting to cross. This is not the case and it’s not the law. The problem is that most pedestrians have the same misconception that you have – the expectation that motorist are suppose to stop for you while your standing at the curb.  

For your expectations to be more in line with the law, one important thing needs to change in Florida: the signalization of pedestrian crossings. If, and this is a big if, the desire is to allow pedestrians to dictate when auto traffic is to stop, then the pedestrian signal color needs to change from yellow to red. In your article, you noted the FDOT will be installing beacons but you didn’t say what color the beacons would be. I contend that if the beacons are yellow, we still will have a problem. A yellow flashing beacon only means slow down and prepare to stop, it does not mean, undeniably to stop.  

In the traffic code, yellow means caution. When a motorist (and cyclist) encounters a yellow flashing or solid yellow light, it means for him/or her to slow down and prepare to stop – it does not mean for him/her to immediately stop. However, on the other hand, a red light means stop; red does not mean slow down and prepare to stop. Red means stop!  Therefore, if the desire is for pedestrians like you and me to get automobile traffic to stop for us, then we need to be pushing a button at a signalized intersection that makes the light/beacon flash red, or turn red so that we can legally gain the right of way and cross the road.

Note that by gaining the right of way, we are still not completely safe. The way motorists drive around here, it is unfortunate that a red light doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a motorist will stop.  

Steve Yost
Treasure Island
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