Be Safe, Be Smart, Stay Alive
the busiest time of year for our little community. What with spring break, the
Shrimp Festival and St. Patrick's Day, the population of our island will swell
in the coming weeks from a year-round average of just 6,000 souls to over ten
times that - many of whom are looking to enjoy their hard-earned vacation time
by being footloose and fancy free. Combine that with harried islanders trying
to make it to work on time and a few distracted or impaired drivers and it
results in a situation where accidents can and do happen. To remind folks to
slow down and pay attention, the Sand Paper decided to share the story of one such incident that resulted in a local
lady going to the hospital with two broken vertebrae.
8am on Wednesday, February 5th, 70-year-old Delores Heyd left her condominium
on the Gulf side of Estero
Boulevard to walk her dog and decided to cross
Estero at Lenell Street.
"My dog is
16 years old and he's deaf and pretty slow, so I always wait a while before I
cross because I don't expect people to have to wait forever for us,” Heyd told
us. "There was no traffic on Estero, but there was a lady on Lenell with her
blinker on. I stood there awhile, trying to make eye contact with her, but she
never looked up. Then, cars stopped on both sides of Estero so I waved my hand
indicating that I was going to cross and stared walking. All of a sudden, this
woman turned off Lenell and ran straight into me! I swear the first time she
saw me was when I was on her hood.”
immediately stopped and Delores fell to the pavement in shock.
in one of the cars that had stopped - he was an angel - he caught hold of me
and would not let me move,” she told us. "He was so kind and sat with me until
the paramedics came. Another lady - she's the manager of one of the hotels
there - she got my dog, who miraculously wasn't hurt, and took him to my
husband. She's an angel, too.”
would spend seven hours in the hospital, where Delores was found to have two
broken vertebrae. Nearly a month later, she still has trouble walking and is
terrified to cross the street by herself. She says the woman who hit her has
never spoken to her.
all have been prevented if people just paid attention,” said Delores' husband,
Peter, who spoke about the issue at last week's candidate forum. "There has to
be a politician that's willing to think outside the box on this issue -
something needs to be done.”
offered possible solutions such as blinking lights at every crosswalk or
reducing the speed limit for at least the one-mile stretch of road from just
south of Santini Plaza to Driftwood Lane.
stretch has the highest density on the whole island with those condos on both
sides of the road,” he said.
Safety Committee, an advisory board to Town Council, has been working on the
crosswalk safety issue for nearly the last two years. One of their members,
Fish Tale Marina owner Al Durrett, has been advocating for a lower speed limit
on the island's south end, but says he's not getting a response from the
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
suggested changing the speed limit from Bay Beach Lane to the Church of the
Ascension to 25 miles an hour from December 15th until the end of April -
that's when the condos are full and when it's needed,” Durrett told us. "But
they refuse to talk about it.”
told us the group has had flashing beacons placed at two crosswalks - the
Wyndham Hotel (formerly Holiday Inn) and Estero Beach
and Tennis Club, and is working on getting them installed at Bay Beach Lane. He agrees with the Heyd's
that Lenell is the most dangerous crosswalk on the island and said he likes
Council Candidate Anita Cereceda's idea of asking one of the Lee County
Sheriff's Office V.O.I.C.E. volunteers to direct traffic there during peak
hours of the day.
- and the seasonal lowering of the speed limit - are ideas that should be
tested for at least one season,” he said. "If it doesn't work, then we try
something else. The Committee is working on this, I assure you.”
educate folks, the Public Safety Committee has put together a brochure offering
the following tips:
pedestrians, keeping safe is all about making sure drivers see you. Make eye
contact. Cross Estero Boulevard using designated crosswalks only and do
something to get the vehicles' attention to let them know you are about to
cross, such as 'Point for Safety' - extend your arm out to alert drivers, and
make sure both lanes have stopped before entering the street. Some parts of
Estero can get very dark after sunset, so wear light colored, reflective
clothing and carry a flashlight at night. Even when traffic is moving at a
crawl, do not dart across Estero - all it takes is for the driver to be looking
somewhere else at that moment, and it does not take much speed for a car to
injure a pedestrian.
must share the sidewalk with pedestrians and the road with cars, so they should
be aware of their surroundings at all times and not use cell phones or ear buds
while cycling on our island streets. Always ride with traffic, and be extra
careful when crossing the side streets as motorists who are attempting to pull
onto Estero do not always look for those on bikes. When crossing in a
crosswalk, cyclists are encouraged to dismount and walk their bikes across
since then they will have the same rights as pedestrians. Lights are required
for night cycling, and anyone under 16 must wear a helmet at all times.
driving on our streets should know that Estero Boulevard is two-lane from one
end of the island to the other, and that there are no stop signs from the Time
Square area south and no bike paths, so cyclists will be in the traffic lane.
Motorists must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, it is a state law and
offenders can and do get ticketed. They must also yield to folks crossing the
street who are not in crosswalks, according to Lee County Deputy Bill Joseph,
and cannot stop in the middle of a crosswalk. Be very, very careful during this
crowded month - look several times for bicyclists before pulling onto Estero,
and be alert for pedestrians darting across the road. Our street lights have
low illumination for environmental reasons, so take particular care on the
south end of the island and resist the urge speed up once free of the downtown
gridlock - this is how people have gotten killed.
not least, many folks ride mopeds. These vehicles are considered motorized
vehicles and must abide by the same rules as cars. They are not permitted on
the sidewalk, they have to have mirrors and riders must have licenses.
According to Deputy First Class Bill Joseph of the Lee County Sheriff's Office,
these riders may not ride on the sidewalks or more than two abreast, and should
ride as close as practical to the right side of the road.
must have eye gear - such as sunglasses, and no one under 21 can operate one
without a helmet,” he told us. "Those over 21 riding without helmets must carry
a $10,000 insurance policy and they must ride with the flow of traffic.”
Joseph told us that electric bikes - since they don't have fuel-operated motors
- are not considered motorized vehicles and that the rules for them are as the
ones for bicycles.
bikes, cars, mopeds and electric bikes - must yield to pedestrians,” he said.
and visitors alike are encouraged to use our Trolley System. These busses run
daily from 6:30am to 9:25pm and cost only 50 cents to ride for adults, 25 cents
for seniors and children under 6 are free. Schedules can be found online at
www.rideleetran.com, and folks can see when the next one is coming to their
stop by visiting www.nextbus.com. Motorists are permitted to pass trolleys if
they are stopped directly in the roadway, but must do so with caution. Traffic
in both directions must always stop for a stopped school bus.
All in all,
have fun and remember there is plenty of sunshine to go around! Taking a few
extra seconds to pay attention will make everyone's experience here a much
Keri Hendry Weeg