Madeira Beach businesswoman Doreen Moore says continuity in the style of crosswalks along the beaches is important. During a Walkwise Tampa Bay gathering Oct. 25, she also said input from town leaders is needed to find the right locations.
MADEIRA BEACH – A community effort to promote pedestrian safety along Gulf Boulevard was the focus Oct. 25 during a WalkWise Tampa Bay gathering at Archibald Park in Madeira Beach.
WalkWise, a grassroots effort providing pedestrian safety education and resources to the Tampa Bay area, was formed recently through the Florida Department of Transportation and is on a mission to provide 400 safety presentations to local residents. More than 250 of those presentations are planned in Pinellas County where pedestrian safety has become a major issue in recent years.
“If the Tampa Bay area was a state, we’d be ranked 16th in the nation in pedestrian fatalities,” said David Skrelunas, District 7 safety programs manager for FDOT. “Our goal is to increase public awareness of safety.”
“The whole program is concentrated in Pinellas this year,” said Julie Bond, project manager of the WalkWise Tampa Bay program, which is based at the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “A lot of people just don’t realize they have to be safe.”
According to FDOT, there were 604 pedestrian crashes in Pinellas County from 2006 to 2008. Of that total, 133 were in unincorporated Pinellas, 114 in Clearwater and 106 in St. Petersburg.
Along Gulf Boulevard, the number totaled 51. St. Pete Beach led the way with 19, followed by Madeira Beach, 12; Treasure Island, 11; Redington Shores, 3; Indian Rocks Beach, 3; North Redington Beach, 2; and Redington Beach, 1.
In 2008, 11.1percent of pedestrians and 17.4 percent of bicyclists killed in the U.S. died in Florida, which has 6 percent of the nation’s population.
“We’ve got to create more awareness to pedestrian safety (for drivers), as well as make pedestrians more aware,” said Madeira Beach Mayor Travis Palladeno. “We just want people to be more aware when they’re crossing streets.”
The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce is working with WalkWise to promote better education of visitors to the beaches.
“We’re working on developing a piece to distribute to the transient visitor,” said Robin Sollie, president and CEO of the Beaches Chamber. “We plan to include a WalkWise page in our visitor’s guide. We’re here and we know when to stop. But the transient pedestrian and transient driver doesn’t. So we need to make sure of continuously re-educating.”
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, who serves as president of the Barrier Island Governmental Council, said it’s up to automobile drivers to do a better job.
“We’re all the best driver, right?” asked Cretekos. “But with that comes the responsibility to look out for the pedestrian. That’s what this program is all about. We’re here to make the best driver an even better driver. It’s up to us to be the best driver and better than anyone else.”
Madeira Beach business owner Doreen Moore said it’s a three-fold process.
“It’s all about the three E’s – engineering, enforcement and education,” she said. “It’s very important that we have continuity (on Gulf Boulevard), be supportive and see that (new) crosswalks move forward as soon as possible. Getting cities involved (in that process) is important and finding the right locations with people who live and work on the beaches is important.”
Al Bartolotta of the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization said the plan in Pinellas is retrofit Gulf Boulevard with more effective devices at crosswalks and to “think more of our pedestrians.”
Skrelunas said plans to continue the crossing flag program along Gulf Boulevard are moving along but the ultimate plan is to retrofit the 39 crosswalks along the roadway with Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon strobe lights.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, RRFBs can enhance safety by reducing crashes between vehicles and pedestrians at intersections without signals and mid-block pedestrian crossings by increasing driver awareness of potential pedestrian crossings.
“Since it’s a beacon and not a signal, it has to be amber,” said Skrelunas. “They would be used where existing crosswalks are now when we can find the funding.”
Skrelunas said the cost would be about $7,000 for each of the flashing beacons.
“So it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.
Skrelunas also said FDOT is looking at what areas need additional street lighting, which would act heavily as a deterrent to many motorist-pedestrian accidents after dark.
In the meantime, WalkWise will continue its education programs in Pinellas County.