Longboat pins hope on new crosswalk signage

Associate Publisher

Hearts missed a beat when William Chamberland, 59, collided with a car around 8 a.m. last week in a newly constructed crosswalk. Visitors’ and residents’ safety are always on the minds of town commissioners, and right after the accident on Feb. 5, Town Manager Dave Bullock sent a letter requesting Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) officials send someone to Longboat Key in person to discuss the risks and possible solutions for the new crosswalks.

Bullock, pleased that FDOT District Secretary Bill Hattaway responded to his request that day, went in person to meet with Hattaway at the location of the accident. Hattaway said they would put in extra signs to inform the motorists and pedestrians of the crosswalks, and potentially more lighting (yellow flashing).

Bullock ordered the pedestrian signs that same day, and Town Public Works employees installed them at the crosswalks on Feb. 11. FDOT has ordered new warning signs for motorists as well, however, it has yet to be determined if extra flashers will be included with them, and Bullock said that he is not sure when those motorist signs will arrive or be installed.

For now, Bullock wants to take a cautious ‘wait and see’ approach after both the pedestrian and motorist signs are installed to establish if the signs are effective before considering whether to request that FDOT take the crosswalks down altogether.

The accident occurred last Friday, Feb. 5, when Chamberland was walking westbound through the crosswalk from the east side of Gulf of Mexico Drive when he was struck by a car traveling southbound at 45 m.p.h. The Fire Department responded immediately, and he was taken by ambulance with to Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

Longboat Key resident, Sondra Wood was the driver of the car and according to the Longboat Key Police report, Chamberland was hit by the car and landed on the pavement 39 feet away. Chamberland suffered two cracked ribs, large bruises on both legs and seven staples were required to close a head wound.

The driver, Wood, 71, told police she was blinded by the sunrise over nearby trees and didn’t see either pedestrian in the crosswalk, and did not notice whether she saw the crosswalk’s flashing lights. Chamberland remembers pressing the button to activate the flashing light in order to cross. Wood was cited by Longboat Key Police for failure to yield.

An accident such as this one was a concern expressed by many residents and commissioners. Commissioner Phill Younger referred to the newly constructed crosswalks as a “deathtrap,” at a recent commission meeting and said he would never use one. Commissioner Lynn Larson also expressed the same concern, citing the yellow flashers as not enough to make motorists stop, and the false sense of security given to pedestrians who enter the crosswalk thinking traffic will automatically stop for them.

The desire for the crosswalks came in 2012 to the town commission after a pedestrian was killed in front of the Islander Club after crossing Gulf of Mexico Drive at dusk. Bullock said part of the idea was instead of having citizens crossing at random locations, designated areas could have crosswalks to make crossing safer.

FDOT performed a pedestrian crossing analysis in 2013 and another in 2014 and found that there was enough pedestrian traffic to warrant the installation of four crosswalks. They showed the commission examples and subsequently the crosswalks were installed and became active earlier this year.


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Longboat Key News

9 Responses for “Longboat pins hope on new crosswalk signage”

  1. Dan Screet says:

    It is both saddening and humorous to read the comments on this site. There are comments from individuals that don’t want to be “inconvenienced” as they drive on GMD or think they are qualified to make engineering judgment. Of course some are just keyboard cowboys shooting their mouth off just because they think someone will be impressed, and others are just wired to be not so nice and dislike anything. I ignore the ones that just make idiotic comments.
    If any of the people commenting on these crosswalks had a loved one injured or killed trying to cross the road they would keep their keyboards silent. Are they attractive? Are they an eyesore? Well if they are attracting attention then they are doing their job! They are meant to be seen and meant to be heeded, they are safety devices.
    As to comments on the color of the lights, please do some research before you say things like “All over the world, a red traffic light means Stop!”, please educate yourself. the yellow means “CAUTION”, “PAY ATTENTION”! The reason they are not red is the fact that it is NOT a STOP light, it is a Pedestrian Warning Signal which is a different setup and not to be confused with a standard traffic signal. Florida law states that regardless of the flashing lights drivers are required to stop for pedestrians within marked crosswalks. The yellow lights are there for an advance warning for the drivers the pedestrians can cross in the crosswalk regardless of the lights and the law still states that drivers must stop to give them safe passage. Consider them a courtesy to drivers.
    I was not involved in the design but even just with reading the information contained within the article it states that there was “pedestrian crossing analysis in 2013 and another in 2014”, so a lot of thought and engineering went into the locations. Are they convenient for every road crossing situation? No, that was not the intent. The intent obviously was to select the locations with the largest number of pedestrians were crossing the road and install the crossings at those locations. This would lead me think that if it is found that additional locations are needed at a later date those will be reviewed and potentially installed.
    It is simple people need to use their head, use just a touch of courtesy and don’t be in such a hurry while driving.

  2. Louise says:

    We seem not to,be accomplishing much. Getting rid of above ground poles and wiring, bu adding many signs for the crosswalks that don’t seem to,be working with pedestrians and drivers! It’s a mass of signs out there right now…..to start with, speed limit to high! Lowering it, might help with crosswalks working!

  3. Steve says:

    I have just conducted an in-depth study on the crosswalk issues and am now prepared to make several recommendations to the City. To fix the crosswalk problems we need to immediately do the following: 1) install more and bigger signage and flashing lights 2) require all drivers entering Longboat to take a seminar on how to interpret large signage and flashing lights and how crosswalks work. Those scoring under 70% on a written exam should be turned away 3) hire full time crossing guards 4) launch flares when the crosswalk bottom is pushed 5) require “crossers” to wear neon reflective garments 6) when we bury the power lines maintain the poles for additional large signage and flashing lights (big money saver) 7) consider installing more crosswalks. As it is, in order to cross GMD, I estimate that people living in the middle of the existing crosswalks will have to walk a mile to the closest crosswalk and then another mile to get where they wanted to go. The round trip will be over 4 miles . This could be a bit time consuming – especially to citizens using walkers 8) more and bigger signage and flashing lights. I can’t emphasize that enough. 9) buy additional insurance for the City because of the possibility of seizures triggered by the large signage and flashing lights. These steps will help solve the crosswalk problem. By the way, has anybody heard of someone who actually survived a crossing of GMD in the 50 years before the crosswalks? The courage and cunning that would have required may make for an interesting article

  4. Ross P Alander says:

    The poles need to have a bigger and flashing light at the top like they are at other cross walks. It’s hard to see the current light at times because of its height and size

  5. Barbara says:

    The only thing that means stop is a red light. Anything else is confusing. What use are education efforts to out of town drivers?

  6. Frank says:

    I’m with Steve on this. I’ve witnessed peds crossing randomly and not walking to the crosswalks. The signage on these are an eyesore already. Four crosswalks on an 11 mile stretch is a joke. Perhaps we should consider tunnels as previously mentioned. This is such a beautiful place, it would be a shame to junk it up with more signage.
    Why bother burying the cables and then adding more items like this?

  7. Steve says:

    I find it ironic that the City is willing to spend $21 million to bury the phone lines along GMD because they are an eye sore on one side of the road – while at the same time spending money to install four ugly, obnoxious cross walks right down the middle of our gateway thoroughfare – complete with signs and flashing lights. Now it looks like they might install more signs and flashing lights warning drivers not to forget about the signs and flashing lights that they should pay attention to. These crosswalks create a false sense of security to the walkers and often catch drivers going 45 MPH by surprise (and I think I’ve occasionally noticed a few “senior” drivers on GMD before, who may not have the greatest eye sight and/or reflexes). Did the city ever consider installing underground tunnels like there is at Seaplace? They are completely safe – no wait – and almost invisible. A few more bucks perhaps, but a lot less obnoxious looking and much safer.

  8. rose stohmann says:

    I have a condo here on Longboat Key for 28 years and I find the crosswalks are ridiculous. Do you actually think people walk such a long distance to walk to a crosswalk to cross the street? This is a state highway and cars are able to drive 45 miles an hour. I have also notices several times. people who are crossing do NOT pushthe button to let the cars know that they want to cross. The one incident that has happened last year, is very unfortunate, but I feel there will be moreincidants with these crosswalks.\
    In the past, people who want to cross this street are very cathious crossing without the walkways.

  9. Graham says:

    All over the world, a red traffic light means Stop!
    Not on Longboat though. For some unfathomable reason the Comissioners chose flashing white lights
    It’s almost as if they want this long overdue safety measure to fail.

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