Flashing beacons can’t come soon enough as confusion, frustration reign at A1A crosswalks

While Satellite Beach officials wait for flashing safety beacons to be installed at all crosswalks on State Road A1A, they are teaching residents and visitors how to safely cross the busy roadway with existing signs and markings.

There was growing frustration at a recent City Council meeting, along with new stories of close calls, caused by the confusion over A1A changes designed and carried out by the state Department of Transportation with local input.

Satellite police and city officials have taken to social media pages to explain how to use specific pedestrian crossing zones, designed with safe areas in the medians, rather than standing in the center turning lane designed for vehicles only. One key is for pedestrians to wait for all traffic to come to a stop before attempting to cross. But some problems have arisen because not all lanes of motorists are aware of pedestrians in the crosswalk.

To give all motorists a “visual cue” of when a pedestrian is ready to cross, Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons (RRFBs) will be added at all of the crosswalks from Pineda Causeway to U.S. 192. Studies show they reduce crashes between vehicles and pedestrians at unsignalized intersections and mid-block pedestrian crossings by increasing driver awareness of potential pedestrian conflicts.

Activated by pedestrians manually by a push button, RRFBs catch motorists’ eye by using an irregular flash pattern that is similar to emergency flashers on police vehicles.

A 2008 study in St. Petersburg found that RRFBs at pedestrian crosswalks were dramatically more effective at increasing driver yielding rates to pedestrians than traditional overhead beacons. Starting with less than a 2 percent motorist yielding rate, with only 19 RRFBs installed in the beginning, compliance soared to 8 percent and has continued to grow to near 100 percent today with 130 RRFBs installed, said Michael Frederick, manager of neighborhood transportation for St. Petersburg.

“This would be classified as a major paradigm shift in pedestrian safety in our industry. Residents and motorists alike in St. Petersburg have become accustomed to them now after 11 years of use as they have been woven into the fabric of our streetscape, as we move away from the typical Florida ‘mean streets’ to a more complete street for all roadway users,’’ he said.

In the beginning of the Brevard County project design, only certain pedestrian mid-block crossing locations along SR A1A were to receive the flashing lights. However, “based on feedback from the public hearing last July and continued project coordination, it was decided to add them at all of the crossing locations. They were always in the scope, just the number of them changed,’’ said DOT spokesman Sara Shepherd. In addition, Satellite Beach City Council has been notified by DOT that all SR A1A crossings in their city also will soon have flashers.

The DOT project now in design specifically covers the area on SR A1A from U.S. 192 north to Eau Gallie Boulevard. Currently there are no raised medians or defined areas in Indian Harbour Beach to give pedestrians a refuge to go halfway across the road and wait for traffic to clear before continuing to the other side. The DOT project will modify one existing pedestrian mid-block crossing and add 11.

The final plans for the $1.2 million project are scheduled to be completed in March, with construction to start mid-fall, she said.

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