Pinellas County ranger Tom Rapson looks at the flashing yellow lights – proper name: rectangular rapid flashing beacons – and shakes his head:
“The conscientious drivers will stop or at least slow down,” says Rapson, who works the Pinellas Trail.
He urges drivers to watch their speed, especially where it crosses major roads.
“But most of the time, drivers blow right through them. They don’t want to be bothered. It’s an inconvenience to stop.”
Bicyclists hit by cars are rising in Florida, up almost 35 percent. To slow that number the Bay Area is installing more high-tech warnings – that is, in lieu of traffic lights or a stop sign. Flashing beacons are being implemented to protect pedestrians and bikes from cars on busy roads. There are 244 in Pinellas County alone; brand new ones that are solar-powered with sensors that detect joggers or cyclists nearby and set off beacons automatically.
But most drivers still have no idea what to do when they approach one.
So what’s the law? When beacons flash, drivers should make a full stop behind the white road marking. Check for pedestrians, allow them to cross. Then proceed with caution.
Cyclist Steve Speairs is hoping Tampa Bay will be getting a whole lot more of them: “The first time I saw this, I just said, thank you, Lord. Someone is thinking.”