Is flag-waving a solution to pedestrian safety concerns? And would you be willing to pay a deposit to use a flag to wave at traffic prior to crossing a particularly busy street? Reader Claudia McCorkle wrote the Doc with such a flag-waving suggestion, which we passed along to the folks at the state Department of Transportation.
Here's what McCorkle, who lives in Redington Beach and drives Gulf Boulevard daily, suggested to help improve safety for pedestrians and motorists who use Gulf Boulevard:
"Simply install plastic containers on the yellow pedestrian crossing signs on both sides of Gulf Boulevard housing cute yellow flags. When the pedestrian enters the crosswalk, he or she deposits 50 cents in the box, out drops a yellow flag, and with a cheerful wave to motorists, crosses. Once safely across the street, pedestrians deposit their flags into the corresponding box on the other side of the street whereby the 50 cents is refunded."
McCorkle calls the plan an "easy, safe and cheerful solution."
The cynical Dr. Delay says all the flags will go missing after the first weekend.
But Kris Carson of the state DOT told us the city of Clearwater implemented a similar program in 2001 using red flags and recently expanded it to Enterprise Road, so it can't be all that ineffective.
"The Florida Department of Transportation is also going to research this to see where we could expand this operation along Gulf Boulevard," Carson wrote in an e-mail, thanking McCorkle for the suggestion.
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Reader Patricia Youhn contacted the Doc recently about the construction of extensions to the sidewalk curbs on Fourth Avenue N/NE, approaching the intersections of Second and Third streets in St. Petersburg. Youhn noticed that the curbs end at the lane markers on both sides of the street which means, in her estimation, there will be no leeway for drivers if they're distracted or drift from their lane even momentarily. Crashes into the extended curbs are inevitable, she fears.
"I sure hope pedestrians won't be at the very front of the curb waiting to cross the street. It'll just cement our reputation as one of the most-unfriendly pedestrian cities. I cringe at the thought of the red-light runners," Youhn wrote, adding that this reminds her of the median on Fourth Street near Fifth Avenue N that was reduced from its original size after vehicles repeatedly struck it.
We shared Youhn's concerns with Mike Frederick, the city's manager of neighborhood transportation, who told us that the intersection buildouts Youhn refers to are standard downtown and part of the city's "streetscaping" plan, which was approved by the City Council. The two intersections mentioned are being constructed as part of the plan to convert First and Second streets from one-way to two-way operation. The improvement also includes replacement of the traffic signal from overhead wire suspension to mast-arm support poles.
The buildouts will provide enhanced safety for bike riders and pedestrians, Frederick says, because they are designed to allow pedestrians to walk out to the edge of the road (beyond parked vehicles) to get an unobstructed view of oncoming traffic and also be seen by oncoming traffic when crossing.
"It also helps to slow motorists through these busy corridors with numerous conflicts and improve traffic safety. The downtown is one of the city's highest areas for pedestrian and bicycle crashes and these types of features help improve traffic safety, not reduce it, as your reader has indicated. Eventually, as funding permits, we will have all the intersections in the downtown rebuilt to include these narrowing features," Frederick said.
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