Largo resident Charles Blackstone crosses East Bay Drive at Belcher Road during a busy rush hour.
Pedestrians using major intersections in Pinellas County all say the same thing: they don’t feel safe when they are crossing those intersections, even with traffic signals and walk signs. They agree the problem isn’t the signals or signs; it’s the cars.
Lynn Heritage of Largo said what scares her every time she crosses the street are cars making right turns.
“I nearly got hit twice recently,” she said. “I walk this way every day and I have to constantly be on my guard for cars that don’t stop even when I have the right of way.”
Heritage was crossing East Bay Drive at Keene Road, and as she was being interviewed she had to stop in her tracks as a car, coming south on Keene, made a right turn without stopping.
“If I hadn’t stopped I would have been killed,” she said.
A little later, winter visitor Ann Thibodeau of Peterborough, Ontario, was waiting for the light to change at that same intersection and she agreed with Heritage.
“I don’t feel safe here. The cars don’t stop when they are making a right turn,” she said. “I feel safer down the street jay walking across than waiting here at the corner for the light.
Thibodeau said she has a policy whenever she crosses a major intersection at the lights.
“I will not even begin to cross until I make eye contact with the driver of an oncoming car,” she said. “Once I am sure the driver sees me, then I’ll cross.”
Further east at the intersection of East Bay Drive and Belcher Road the story was much the same. Deanna Rodriguez walks along East Bay from her Largo home to work and back every day.
“No, I don’t feel safe when it comes time to cross the street,” she said. “Even when I have the right of way the cars don’t stop or wait for us. Add to that sometimes the lights don’t last long enough to get across safely, so no I don’t feel safe.”
Pedestrians on sidewalks also have to be on the lookout for people on bicycles. Niko Westman of High Point arrived at the East Bay-Belcher intersection on his bike. He commented that at busy times along East Bay it was dangerous to ride his bike on the street. When he walks he said it is just as dangerous.
“Me and the kids nearly got hit six times last week alone,” he said. “The drivers don’t care. They just keep on coming; they don’t care.”
Cathy Bassi of Largo has to be vitally aware of how safe it is to cross the street. She makes an almost daily trek from her home off Belcher to the Publix at the corner of East Bay and Belcher, while pushing a young woman in a wheelchair. This limits her mobility and puts her and her charge at greater risk.
“It is scary at times,” she said.
Then she repeated what the others had said.
“The cars making the right hand turns just don’t stop, they don’t care.”
No sooner were those words out of her mouth when a car, coming north on Belcher made a right onto East Bay, just feet away from her and her wheelchair, forcing her to pull back.
“I’m amazed more people don’t get hurt,” she said.
Bassi, like most of the others said the lights and walk signs were fine and for the most part timed out properly for pedestrians to get across. She reiterated that it was the cars making right turns that were the problem.
Charles Blackstone of Largo added his voice to the complaint.
“Sometimes the cars just ignore you,” he said. “It seems they just don’t care.”
Earlier in the day, at the busy intersection of Ulmerton Road and Seminole Boulevard, a man had just crossed through a construction zone pushing his walker. He needed the help of a crossing guard. He made it safely. He wanted to remain anonymous, but perhaps summed up the entire situation the best when he said: “Traffic is coming in all four directions, with that there is always the unknown, just like life. This should be simple, but it often turns out tragically,” he said.