Pedestrian safety along Gulf Blvd. expected to improve with upgraded crosswalks

TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. - Marlene Markland makes her way to the beach on Treasure Island several times a week.  And she's always careful to use the crosswalk on busy Gulf Blvd.

"You have to take that extra time to cross where you're supposed to.  Where the pedestrian lights are, or where the streetlights are," said Markland.

But not everyone subscribes to the same line of thinking as Marlene.  

"You do see people that don't cross at the light.  You're taking your life in your hands almost," she said.

That's why the Florida Department of Transportation is upgrading and standardizing all of the crosswalks along Gulf Blvd, to make it safer for pedestrians.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," said Debra Dobias, who is visiting from Massachusetts.

Dobias takes advantage of the DOT's WalkWise flags posted at many crosswalks. The bright yellow flags help to alert drivers that the crosswalk is active.

"Very smart.  And the cars did stop," Markland told Dobias when they passed each other.

"Some of the pedestrians don't pay attention, they don't use the light, they don't use the flags.  But I still believe it's mainly the motorists," explained Dobias.

An increase in pedestrian accidents in the last few years helped fuel the need for greater safety.  Multiple flashing lights at mid-block crosswalks also raise awareness of drivers.  And pedestrian refuge islands at the crosswalks provide added safety.

"It does make it a little safer, you have that spot in the middle where you're a little more protected," Markland said.

Most seem to agree the placement of the crosswalk is vital to how much it's used.

Troy Pentlind from Indianapolis doesn't mind going out of his way, a little bit, for safety.  "You know, if you've got to go three or four blocks, everybody's going to be cutting through the middle.  But if you've got one every block, it ain't no big deal to traffic," he said.

The DOT expects the project to be complete this July.

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