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Traffic Safety

05/09/2012 at 11:17pm
Traffic SafetyTraffic Safety Committee
Looks at Solutions

The recently formed traffic safety committee held it's second meeting on Tuesday afternoon where they listened to a report from Captain Matt Powell and Lee County Sheriff's Officer James Butler, a presentation from Andrew Cochrane about a successful crosswalk program on Marco Island and ideas for education and awareness from Lt. Ron Martin of the Fort Myers Beach Fire Department and resident Marilyn Henkel.

"I've been getting a lot of emails from folks concerned about traffic safety,” said Mayor Larry Kiker, who is serving as chairman of the committee. "It's been great to listen to all the different ideas.”

Captain Powell and Officer James Butler then told the committee about what they discovered in their research into state statutes regarding pedestrians and studies on crosswalks.

"There was a very large study between 1996-2001,” said Butler. "The study found that, on two-lane roadways, the presence of a marked crosswalk alone showed no difference in crash rates than no crosswalk at all. Anything raised in the medians provided significantly lower crash rates. Rumble strips before a crosswalk would also be a good idea with some of the data that I've seen.”

Butler then read the state statute regarding pedestrian responsibility, which indicates that ‘no pedestrian may leave the roadway suddenly so that vehicles are unable to yield' and that, when a person is in a crosswalk, cars may continue across the opposite side of the crosswalk until the pedestrian is in the middle lane.

Kiker asked if the LCSO had found the definition of jaywalking, and Butler replied that state statute reads that as long as folks go directly across the road at a 90 degree angle as opposed to on a diagonal, they are not jaywalking.

"One other thing - we noticed that, more than a year into the New Jersey's crosswalk safety law, the police have noticed an unfortunate trend where people feel like they can just walk out into the street without taking precautions,” Butler concluded.

Officer Butler then showed a video he took last weekend of a crosswalk in Bonita Springs, where solar-powered stanchions lit up and beeped once when someone was crossing the road and twice once they were across.

Andrew Cochrane gave a presentation on the same type of system, saying that the lights are guaranteed for three years and have a typical 10-year life. The crosswalk signs themselves also light up with LED lights, and are visible for quite a distance - even in broad daylight.

"The lights have a self-cleaning system to keep them visible,” he said. "My wife and I studied this for an hour and a half on Marco Island, and every single time the cars stopped - regardless of the amount of traffic.”

Cochrane also did research on raised crosswalks, flags and rumble strips, and handed out pricing sheets for each.

"I also got pricing for a number of other signage options including rectangular flashing beacons,” he said, and then Butler agreed with him that the Marco Island crosswalk system would be the best option.

Kiker asked them if they could work with Steve Jansen, Engineering Manager for Lee County, and Rob Phelan, a Senior Engineer for Lee County – both of whom were present and spoke at the meeting - and come up with a minimum solution, including locations, go to a work effort to determine which current crosswalk meets each category and where a maximum system needs to go.

"I'd like to clean up what we've got - take an inventory of what is effective and what is not,” he said. "In some places we can probably just remove the paint and stop confusing people.”

Al Durrett spoke next, reminding everyone that changes need to be made by October 15th.

"I met with Eve Haverfield of Turtle Time yesterday so I could bring her onboard with what we're doing, and she agreed to work with us in conjunction with FPL and she will have a big say-so in lighting up the boulevard,” he said. "The electric company is not going to change lights for free, and it's going to cost more for increased wattage. On the south end, there are between 300 and 400 feet between light poles. Bill Semmer and myself will end up working with FPL to determine what the best lights are, or we could put a few more poles up in critical areas.”

Kiker asked that everyone on the task force take a look at all the crosswalk locations and send him emails with pictures of the ones that they think are particularly useful and those that are not necessary, and he would forward that information to Jansen and Phelan.

Town Manager Terry Stewart agreed to look into what FPL would charge for additional lighting and to look at funding options.

"I think that the lights themselves are not going to be enormously expensive, but where a new pole is needed is probably going to be a problem,” he said.

The committee also agreed to recommend that the speed limit be lowered to 25 mph - during season only - from Church of the Ascension to Bay Beach Lane, and that more speed limit signs be erected.

Lt. Martin then passed out some examples of possible educational materials that he and Henkel had worked on.

"Education, with the goal of reducing risk taking activities - which is a long term plan; and raising awareness, which is more short-term,” he said. "So we sat down and came up with solutions such as having a public safety announcement on our website, utilize the trolley service for digital displays, brochures and handouts.”

"We definitely need the support and help of our private sector partners such as hotels to help get the word out,” he concluded.

Anyone interested in voicing their ideas and concerns on traffic or any other issue can send an email to ideas@fortmyersbeachfl.gov. This will go to every member on Town Council.

Keri Hendry