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Pinellas County
BIG-C approves flag program
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Photo by BOB McCLURE
Florida Department of Transportation workers Steve Gaby, left, and Anthony Debose install a flag container on a sign pole along Gulf Boulevard in Indian Shores.
BELLEAIR BEACH – Members of the Barrier Islands Governmental Council voted unanimously July 28 to pass a resolution supporting a new pedestrian flag program along Gulf Boulevard.

The $6 million state program, which was recently approved by the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization, will provide yellow flags for pedestrians to wave as they cross Gulf Boulevard at 39 crosswalks from Clearwater Beach south to the Bayway.

The flags, which will be in a container at all crosswalks, are to be deposited in another container once pedestrians cross the street.

By passing the resolution, the BIG-C supports restocking of the containers by beach communities when the flags disappear. There will be no cost to the municipalities.

The flags will be installed within the next two weeks by Pinellas County and Florida Department of Transportation workers.

“It’s a mid-block program,” said North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen. “It won’t be at major intersections where there would be the distraction of headlights.”

The key to the program’s success, he said, would be education of both motorists and pedestrians.

“It’s going to be a work in progress,” said Queen. “We’re changing a culture that’s been in existence for 50 years.”

Julie Bond, with the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida, said her office has contracted with the Florida Department of Transportation on a one-year education component. Bond, who helped implement a similar program in Salt Lake City, will make a number of presentations around the area to educate residents on the use of the flags.

She said Florida has the highest pedestrian fatality rate in the nation, which makes the program a must for the area.

“It will be a good, additional aid for visibility as you try to cross a major corridor,” said Bond.

Robin Grabowski, president of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, said her organization would assist Bond in education efforts by placing flyers on the flag program in information packets for visitors and rack cards at welcome centers.

“I’m always interested in making my town and the beaches safe,” said Queen. “If it works, great.”

Queen said he has been seeking ways to improve pedestrian safety since 2003 when two people were killed trying to cross Gulf Boulevard at 171st Street.

“Education plays a key role,” Queen said. “Motorists need to pay more attention to driving and get off their cell phones. And pedestrians need to use their eyes and common sense more.”
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