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Locals call for more safety measures on Bayshore Boulevard “death trap”

Residents are discussing how to press public officials for changes. They’ll meet again Tuesday.
About 100 people gathered on Bayshore Blvd in remembrance of George Gage who was tragically killed at Bayshore Boulevard and West Julia Street. Organizers of the event asked attendees bring a single shoelace to be tied together to symbolize their unity and honor George. After shoelaces were joined together attendees briefly stopped traffic on Bayshore blvd on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020  in Tampa.
About 100 people gathered on Bayshore Blvd in remembrance of George Gage who was tragically killed at Bayshore Boulevard and West Julia Street. Organizers of the event asked attendees bring a single shoelace to be tied together to symbolize their unity and honor George. After shoelaces were joined together attendees briefly stopped traffic on Bayshore blvd on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020 in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Jan. 13, 2020
Updated Jan. 13, 2020

In the wake of Thursday’s fatal crash on Bayshore Boulevard, social media groups on Facebook and Nextdoor have been exploding with grief and frustration. How could there be two fatal pedestrian accidents on the iconic waterfront road in less than two years? And is anything being done to mitigate the danger as high-rise development in the area ramps up?

Fed up, Chitra Reddy, 41, shared her own call to action. “WE CANNOT LOOK AWAY,” she posted on multiple Facebook groups, inviting interested community members to gather at her house to strategize how to pressure public officials for more safety measures. On Sunday night, five people showed up, hoping to plant the seeds for a solution.

Reddy, a physician by training, has lived in Tampa for seven years. She runs regularly, but avoids Bayshore ever since Jessica Raubenolt, 24, and her 21-month-old daughter, Lillia, were killed there by a teenager speeding at 102 mph in May 2018.

Hearing about the death of George Gage, a 70-year-old retired financial trust officer who was killed on Bayshore Thursday by a driver under the influence, intensified her fears. “Another death is imminent,” she said. “As a physician, I see this as a death trap, a public health crisis, that is only going to get worse and worse."

“How many more people do we have to see die?”

At her house, runners and local residents gathered in her bright yellow living room to share their experiences on Bayshore. They agreed that measures taken by the city after the 2018 crash — lowering the speed limit to 35 mph from 40 mph, narrowing lanes and installing flashing signs at crosswalks — were insufficient.

Sandi Lake, 61, lives on Bayshore and crosses the street almost daily to go running by the water. “I can’t tell you the number of people that fly through that flashing light," she said. “It’s an enforcement issue. The speed limit is not enforced."

Some attendees called for increased police presence or speed cameras. Others wondered if a fence or speed bumps might solve the issue. Some wanted a total freeze of construction in the area until a solution could be found or floated the idea of turning Bayshore into a full park.

Reddy plans to join with other local groups with similar concerns, like Take Back Bayshore, to study possible solutions. They will launch protests and letter-writing campaigns to pressure local officials to address their concerns.

For now, she and the others resolved to continue sharing information.

“Our work is not going to be done just this week or in the next two weeks,” Reddy said. “For our children, we have to keep fighting."

Reddy will hold another preliminary planning meeting at her home at 3118 West Harbor View Avenue on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Those interested can follow her Facebook page Bayshoresafe.