EDITORIAL: A little flashing just what the island needs
March 3, 2011
Flashers coming to Sanibel? We certainly hope so, although the city's Department of Public Works seems to be against them.
During Tuesday's City Council meeting, a discussion involving improving crosswalk safety along Periwinkle Way — specifically, in front of the Sanibel Community House — drew quite a bit of interest among those in attendance.
According to Gates Castle, Public Works Director, that location is the city's most frequented crosswalk for both pedestrian and bicycle traffic, particularly at night. It is anticipated that once the Dunlop Road shared use path is connected with the existing path along Periwinkle Way, that crossing will see even more usage.
To that end, Castle proposed installing permanent lighting at the crosswalk, and presented a pair of options to the council:
• Installing two poles, provided by LCEC at no cost to the city, and pay a monthly fee of up to $20 per month for each light fixture. LCEC would also be responsible for maintenance of these lights.
• Having the city purchase two 15-foot fiberglass poles equipped with code-compliant LED light fixtures, contract to have them installed and be responsible for their maintenance. This option would cost an estimated $7,000, although maintenance fees have yet to be determined.
However, another element that would help improve safety at the crosswalk, which seemed to be dismissed in Castle's report to the council, would be an in-ground lighting system.
Consisting of pavement-mounted LED flashing lights housed in a receptacle similar to raised pavement reflectors, a proposal to install 10 signal heads — five facing east, five facing west — as well as four automatic pedestrian detector bollards, two pedestrian signs with LED-enhanced crosswalk lines and a solar powered control unit. The cost estimate to provide the entire system is $30,000.
Castle reiterated to council that a similar proposal, brought forward in 1995 and 1997, raised a number of concerns with local leaders and citizens. Among those concerns was flashing lights could frighten oncoming drivers, resulting in sudden stops and an increase for rear-end-type accidents.
We hardly think that is likely. In fact, having a system in place that would automatically trigger a system of flashing lights — installed within the roadway — is far better than the current state of safety, when walkers, joggers and cyclists make a sudden turn towards the street before attempting to cross it.
Castle also noted that the size and height off the pavement that these road-mounted lights could cause bicycle or moped accidents. At just an inch-and-a-half high, we would question that conclusion, too. Aren't these the same bicycles and mopeds whose safety would be improved by the installation of the system itself?
Finally, the fear that adding a flashing light system at this crosswalk would be the first step towards traffic signals on the island does not seem like a plausible rationale. Perhaps those folks back when the system was last debated, almost 14 years ago, were still reeling from the threat of fast food formula restaurants offering their McBurgers on the island. That ban became permanent in September 1996.
But this is 2011, and the time to consider improving safety along the city's shared use path system is now. We urge the council to reconsider installing pavement-mounted LED lights at the crosswalk in front of the Sanibel Community House. And, of course, we hope to see more "flashing" on the island.
— Reporter editorial