CLEARWATER, Fla. — Friends of a Clearwater woman, who was hit and killed Wednesday night crossing the Duke Energy Trail at Nursery Road, are urging for change after her death.
Carmen Charrez, 49, was riding south on the trail when she rode out onto the street and was hit by an eastbound Chevrolet Tahoe driven by William Dailey of Clearwater.
It happened around 8:26 p.m. on Wednesday, just after the sun set for the evening.
Charrez's friends are now begging for change. The intersection where the crash happened at the busy trail does not have flashing pedestrian beacons. There area also doesn't have markings on the pavement indicating the presence of an upcoming crosswalk. Drivers only indication of a walker or biker are two yield signs along Nursery Road.
“She’s just going to be so missed. So, so missed," Michelle Fields said while holding back tears. "Her laugh was so infectious.”
Fields says she would like to see changes to protect other bicyclists, including a new device that will soon be used as a pilot program in Dunedin that automatically senses when a walker or biker approaches an intersection and turns on the rapid flashing beacons before the pedestrian even presses the button.
“If those sensors can alert people and trigger something then maybe a lot more lives will be saved,” she said with a sigh.
Zachary, another bicyclist who uses the trail, didn't provide his last name but agrees.
“Yeah, definitely. They should have done that years ago. I've almost been hit several times," he said.
Whit Blanton, the Executive Director of Forward Pinellas, which advocates for pedestrian safety, says the intersection should at least have a flashing crosswalk.
“We can’t tolerate any acceptable fatalities on our transportation network. It’s not the cost of doing business,” he elaborated.
Blanton says safety upgrades are particularly important on well known trails like the Pinellas Trail and Duke Energy Trail.
“We are a trail county. We have trails all over the place. They’re very popular and yet we also have a lot of big wide roads that are fast with people in a hurry to get to where they want to go and that creates an inherent conflict,” he explained.
The pilot program will launch in Dunedin at Skinner Boulevard soon using cameras to automatically detect walkers and bikers. The technology costs around $7,500.
Forward Pinellas says the Rectangular flashing beacons cost around $10,000, which is a much more affordable alternative to $7 to 10 million overpasses.
Fields says it's a small price to pay to save lives.
"I’m sure if it was a safer intersection or place for people bicyclists to cross half of these things wouldn’t happen," she explained.