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As Walkers and Cyclists Complain of Predatory Drivers at Belle Terre and SR100, Officials Call For More Education

| January 15, 2014

The intersection at Belle Terre Parkway and State Road 100 can seem like a free-for-all, especially for pedestrians. (© FlaglerLive)

The intersection at Belle Terre Parkway and State Road 100 can seem like a free-for-all, especially for pedestrians. (© FlaglerLive)

You’re not imagining it: being a walker or a cyclist in Palm Coast is dangerous, the more so as the city continues to expand its grid of sidewalks, encouraging more people to bike and to walk. The city is making it easier for people to get around. The problem: drivers, used to having roads and crosswalks to themselves, are often oblivious to the rising number of walkers and cyclists, either ignoring them or disrespecting their right to cross roads.

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The intersection of Belle Terre Parkway and State Road 100 makes the point.

The Flagler County Sheriff’s traffic unit last week worked the equivalent of 22 and a half man-hours at the intersection. During that span, 10 drivers were cited either for blocking the pedestrian crosswalk or for violating pedestrians’ right of way. Two pedestrians were cited for failing to obey the pedestrian walk signal—that is for jaywalking. The moving violation is a $260 fine. It’s $53 for jaywalkers.

“There’s a residential apartment complex to the west of that intersection, and a lot of people walk to the shopping and have to cross a very busy intersection,” County Commissioner Barbara Revels says.

“Unfortunately the cars are not giving any ground to anybody in that crosswalk,” says County Commissioner Charlie Ericksen, who bikes around 20 miles a day and lives nearby in Palm Coast’s E-Section. “It’s a real challenge. I saw someone in a wheelchair who had pressed the light, go through two cycles before the cars would give them a chance to get out in the crosswalk and get away.” Ericksen himself-who’s on his way to logging enough miles on his bike to have circumnavigated the globe—has been at the receiving end of several close calls from oblivious drivers.

It’s not a problem exclusive to Palm Coast, either: Florida leads the nation in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities, according to federal statistics and a more recent study by Transportation for America, a nonprofit safety advocacy organization, which ranked the Orlando-Kissimmee area as the deadliest urban area in the nation for walkers and cyclists: between 2000 and 2009, 550 pedestrians were killed in that region. Tampa-St. Petersburg was second in the nation, followed by Jacksonville and Miami-Fort Lauderdale.

County Commissioner Charlie Ericksen has logged enough miles on his bike in his years in Palm Coast to have nearly circumnavigated the globe. His eyes are on city and county roads almost daily. (© FlaglerLive)

County Commissioner Charlie Ericksen has logged enough miles on his bike in his years in Palm Coast to have nearly circumnavigated the globe. His eyes are on city and county roads almost daily. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast was too small to be in the study, but the numbers point to a cultural blind spot among drivers that underscores local officials’ emphasis of needing more education.

Two cyclists have been killed in collisions by motorists in the last 10 months in Flagler County: Frederick Martinez, 51, of Flagler Beach, was killed was riding his bike home in the bike lane on State Road 100, just east of Old Kings Road, last March. And Deborah Dunn, 63, was killed in July as she rode her bike north, legally and inside the white line, on U.S. 1 just south of Belle Terre Boulevard. In April, 62-year-old cyclist Terrance Conley was severely injured by a motorist as Conley rode his bike on Palm Coast Parkway, just east of Old Kings Road. In that one, the motorist initially left the scene. The drivers were fined but did not lose their driving privileges. So even the law goes easy on drivers at fault for striking pedestrians or cyclists.

“The more bicyclists and walkers we have out there now that we have all the paths creates more of these conflicts,” Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon said, “but that’s why we are trying to change behavior of drivers. This is one that I think, with the enforcement part of it, we really need to do that because all within the last six months I’ve seen videos, including at 100 and Belle Terre, of two or three bicyclists being hit, and then recently another one at Florida Park Drive, and a lot of those are right turn on red where they’re looking left.”

The intersection at Belle Terre and SR100 was the subject of animated discussions Monday at the County Commission and Tuesday at the Palm Coast City Council as elected officials have been on the receiving end of constituents’ complaints about the hazardous crosswalk. Florida Department of Transportation officials appeared before the commission on Monday to outline a five-year plan of road projects. Specific safety improvements at that intersections are not in the plan, though the officials said that DOT is always focused on three elements to improve road safety: engineering, enforcement and education. It’s the latter two, the officials said, that must have precedence in Palm Coast.

There are discussions about various possibilities, from creating an all-red-light trigger when a walker wants to cross top installing more signs to stepping up enforcement.

“The biggest thing we’re finding right now is education,” Craig Coffey, the county administrator, said. “Palm Coast has been working heavily, they control the intersection and DOT has been a partner at the table, so all this is being worked out. It comes down to education and just being used to people in the crosswalk and honoring the safety of those pedestrians. We have a huge education process for that and also for bikers in our county that we probably need to bark on in the coming years.”

Cmdr. Mark Carman would like to see parents take responsibility for their children who walk alone. (© FlaglerLive)

Cmdr. Mark Carman would like to see parents take responsibility for their children who walk alone. (© FlaglerLive)

That includes educating walkers and their parents.  “I’ve heard some comments from young students, young kids, their parents saying it’s dangerous, and I don’t want my child hurt,” Cmdr. Mark Carman, who’s in charge of the Palm Coast precinct for the Sheriff’s Office, said. “Well, they have to take some responsibility, too. If your child is that young, I don’t think he should be crossing on his own regardless of what we do down there.”

Palm Coast has assigned a traffic engineer to analyze every intersection in the city for potential safety improvements. And with the state transportation department’s approval, more signs may be going up at the Belle Terre-100 intersection. But there are limits to enforcement. Community policing volunteers known as C.O.P. don’t have the authority to pull over vehicles or issue citations—a limit officials support.

Palm Coast’s code enforcement, which oversees the red-light cameras, does not have the authority to issue any citations for anything other than red-light violations. For example, the city could not issue citations to drivers who fail to yield to a pedestrian’s right of way. For that to be enabled, the law would have to be changed—and state law right now, in so far as red-light cameras are concerned, is under pressure to be amended to reduce the existence or scope of red-light cameras.

There’s also the matter of conjecture: “Is that person in the process of crossing the intersection or are they just standing there?” Mayor Jon Netts asked. The answer is more obvious to some than to others. “Probably, short of putting a traffic officer there 24/7,” Netts said, “the only real, long-term, functional solution is four-way red with a pedestrian walk, no right on red. Stop all traffic, let the pedestrians go, then let the traffic have at it. But that’s very difficult to get DOT to approve.”

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23 Responses for “As Walkers and Cyclists Complain of Predatory Drivers at Belle Terre and SR100, Officials Call For More Education”

  1. Charles Gardner says:

    Right turn on red should not be allowed at this intersection, that is a big part of the problem. Drivers should be ticketed for going beyond the broad white strip (stop line) at the light.

  2. Laura Gollon says:

    Well, gee Mr. Netts. How difficult do you think it would be for DOT to make that crucial change when a high school student is killed? Would that prove to them that it needs to be done? My son’s life, and that of every pedestrian, is worth much more than backed-up traffic. Educating drivers will not do the trick. They are on their phones and not paying attention to those who want to educate them. My son has been beeped at and has been cut off by multiple school buses in that intersection when he had the walk signal. Cmdr. Carman, my son is 16 and a high school student. Should I forbid him to ride his bike to and from school? Are you insinuating I’m an unfit parent because I “allow” him to bike to school rather than take space on the bus? It *is* dangerous down there, Cmdr., whether my son is crossing or not. I have over a year’s worth of proof that we’ve been trying to get changes made at that intersection. This article neglects to mention the 15 yo student who was hit there on Dec. 12th. I came upon that intersection from south of 100 and all I saw were the emergency vehicle lights. My son had just left for school on his bike and I pictured him in that intersection, sprawled, bloody and dead. Think about that for a while. I was under a doctor’s care for weeks due to the stress of that sight. I’m done. I can’t do this another 2.5 years. And it’s not just students going to school. It’s going home from school in the afternoon, too. I plan to be at the next meetings. I will do what it takes to make effective changes. Put pedestrians’ safety first.

  3. Paul Anderson says:

    I see people walking on the curb of the street rather than using the side walks. Why do people insist on putting themselves at risk?

  4. Mike says:

    I have seen that poor woman on the power scooter, she sits at that corner until a person with commen decency stiops before making the right on red to let her go. Drivers in general do not follow simple traffic laws, pedestrians have the right of way, turning you must turn into the inside most lane, not cross another lane and go to the outside. People have become oblivious to driving, it is no longer a privialedge it is a free for all, I used ti instruct in the Smith System so I have tought my children how to be defensive drivers, hope they stick to it as they get older.

  5. WaxTrax says:

    I realize the focus of this story is on crosswalks, but I think one thing that would cut down on injuries and fatalities would be for bikers and pedestrians to actually use the sidewalks and bike paths on the roads where they are available. It makes no sense to me why a bike rider would choose to put themselves in harm’s way by riding directly on a road such as Town Center Blvd when there is a nice new bike path only a few feet away. What is the logic behind that? Likewise, just the other day I saw a kid almost get hit on Belle Terre because he was walking down the median instead of using the sidewalks. He tripped into the road and would have been hit if the driver of the car in front of me had not seen him in time.

  6. Reaganomicon says:

    Cyclists: ride with traffic. Walkers/runners: walk/run against traffic. Follow those rules and I’m willing to bet we’d cut the number of fatalities by half.

  7. Kendall says:

    While I have the utmost respect for Mark Carman, I have to disagree with his comment. I have people of all ages risk their lives to cross Belle Terre at the Hwy 100 intersection because drivers do not yield to the pedestrian’s right of way. It is no more or less dangerous based on age. Pushing this responsibility onto parents and away from law enforcement is just wrong.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Sheriffs vehicles parked in the lot behind Olive Garden for extended periods of time. What’s being accomplished there? How about parking at Walgreens instead and watching the intersection? Maybe write some tickets and make it a major campaign for pedestrian safety. Just as speed traps with monitor deputies as well as motorcycle officers to catch speeders and write tickets are set up, do the same at pedestrian heavy intersections.

  8. Steve Wolfe says:

    I am a bicyclist. I am lucky that I have no need to cross 100 at Belle Terre, but I have seen the drivers there, and it is scary. While it is possible for education to reach a large number of drivers, we’re still only talking about a positive response from drivers who actually give a #@&*. There are far too many drivers who shouldn’t even be behind the wheel, plus a constant stream of out of towners, who will miss the education. That leaves pedestrians and bicyclists at risk regardless of the education efforts. There must be some innovation to get drivers to pay more attention to signage or signals requiring them to yield to the more vulnerable. Unfortunately, rude driving and distracted driving are part of the culture. Both of those are in the domain of “stupid.” I’ve heard that you can’t fix stupid. So maybe stupid should be painful, as in the issuance of steep fines and points, leading to the revocation of licenses. Perhaps failure to yield could be included in offenses like texting while driving and littering for which I wish there was instant roadside justice, in which Deputies simply taze offenders on the side of the road until the offender smokes (just a little) in full view of the public. It sends a message, and it makes stupid hurt.

    • Outsider says:

      I agree….tase every alpha hotel who throws their nasty cigarette butt on the side of the road under the apparent belief that the world is their ashtray.

  9. confidential says:

    I totally agree after reading today that in death of pedestrians, cyclist and motorcyclist Florida is #1 in the country. No wonder I being shocked many a times seen some nearly missed by some aggressor at the steering wheel. The one I remember the most was an SUV driver throwing his vehicle in Rte 100 and Rte 1 at a young pregnant lady with a baby in the back of her bicycle waiting patiently to go across Rte 100 and Re 1, when she had green this male driver almost run her over. She barely kept her balance while hurriedly dismounting her bike not to fall down. If that driver would have hurt that mother and baby I would have follow him took his license plate and call the cops and be a witness of his uncalled aggression.
    Every time I see this type of careless driving that endangers innocent people that do not have the protection of a four wheeled vehicle, I am prepared to be a witness in case of incident or accident. Also when I see aggressive driving endangering lives, I take car model and license plate and call the cops.
    Also when I see a pedestrian jay walking or not, a cyclist or motorcyclist I make sure I give them plenty of room and slow down or stop if needed, because a life is too precious to take or loose no matter the circumstances..

  10. ryan says:

    Unfortunately, in this town, you have a lot of inconsideration towards others and this selfish “I’m an ass hole and it’s your fault” Northern big city attitude where people feel they have a right to speed up on those crossing the street. This is just one of many things that attests to that attitude. I have seen so many drop a door on some old lady or old man with arms full of packages walking to the post office, and neighbors that find it odd when you introduce yourself to them if you have just moved in. I cannot tell you how many nasty attituded people I have met and seen here in Palm Coast. I have been all over the world, and never have I visited or lived anywhere with such an unwelcoming atmosphere. I guess as someone who knows that consideration and kindness toward others are more important than anything, and giving a hand to those I see struggling to carry something, as well as slowing down and allowing pedestrians to cross the street, I am disgusted with the ass hole behavior exhibited towards others. I know that some people are just going to be that way, but not to the extent that occurs in this town. Have some consideration towards other people, stop defending some sort of right to be an inconsiderate scumbag, and try helping people for a change, if you are capable of it.

  11. barbie says:

    To begin with, people behind the wheel are just oblivious when it comes to motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians. And you are NOT going to educate them into compliance. The only way you’re going to get them to comply is to fine them, steeply, for failing to yield. And a complete red light all around for pedestrians is dumb, because pedestrians do not quite come and go with regularity like vehicle traffic does, so that would screw up traffic flow from 95 all the way to Bunnell, regularly.

    This isn’t rocket science though, folks–as someone else already noted, simply outlaw vehicle right on red there. Not only would that be good for pedestrians, it’ll also help drivers turning right onto Belle Terre from the Target/Town Center side entrance. I can’t tell you how long I have had to sit there sometimes, simply to make a right-hand turn! The right-on-red off off 100 is never ending sometimes. It’s ridiculous.

  12. Angie Torres says:

    To Cmdr. Carman’s comment: it’s very presumptuous to make a blanket statement that parents need to take responsibility for their children walking alone. Sure, there are neglectful parents. There are also single parent households where the parent works multiple jobs to pay the bills. Sometimes school hours conflict with household income hours. And, in your professional opinion, at what age IS it appropriate for a child to walk to school alone? I would guess opinions vary on that. This is a traffic enforcement issue. Sadly, this community has had it’s share of car/pedestrian and car/bicycle accidents. In some cases, the person on foot or on bike could have excercised more caution for their own protection. THIS particular article highlights an intersection with lights and a regulated crosswalk…not Town Center (as referenced by another poster). People cross busy intersections in cities much larger and busier than ours. Let’s stop acting like this is the conundrum of 2013/2014 and do what needs to be done to fix it. If that means working to change our culture rather than accepting in, I’m in. If it’s out of local control, local officials need to make their voices heard at the state level. Kudos to Laura Gollon for continuing to be a squeaky wheel for such an important issue.

  13. Albert Einstein Warski says:

    Here’s a better idea……..Build an OVER THE INTERSECTION Bike and pedestrian path ………….. Problem solved !

  14. Bethechange says:

    I’d like to know who to contact with ideas. I travel out of and in state quite a lot, and have seen many new, advanced and effective signs & lights designed to alert drivers of approaching intersection conditions. May be a cost-effective start, at least. Speed limits are high in our state, with long distances between lights, lulling drivers into a highway mindset.

  15. Sherry Epley says:

    There are many “pedestrian safety” devices that could (and maybe should) be installed at this very dangerous intersection! It’s just a matter of putting safety first, please! Obviously trying to educate drivers who are speeding and texting is NOT working!

  16. Laura Gollon says:

    Barbie, my son’s life is worth backing traffic up from 95 to Bunnell. If it causes an inconvenience then people can leave their homes earlier. It would only cause major problems a couple of times a day on weekdays…the times students are going to and from school. The rest of the time it would be intermittent. And the cross signal only lasts 30 seconds, not enough to cause a back up of phenomenal proportions. I’m all for all-reds while pedestrians have the right of way. Even a no turn on red would be better than that stupid green turn arrow to cut down on traffic/pedestrian conflict. Obviously it didn’t work since that girl was hit anyway. And it only takes one vehicle to hit someone, not multitudes.

    Thanks, Angie, for your support. I’m not nearly done fighting.


    As a walker and moped rider, I’ve long said drivers only look for or yield to something that is bigger than them. They look for something that could hurt THEM. If the obstacle is smaller than them, it either doesn’t register, or the aggression born of wielding a 2,000 pound weapon makes them push it aside.

    Many’s the time I’ve almost been flattened at SR100 and A1A, in the crosswalk, by someone turning right on red. And I’ve actually had people SPEED UP to try to beat me across in front of the pier.

  18. Seminole Pride says:

    I am a avid bicyclist, and I would say the majority of the drivers in this town do not follow or understand that bicycles are considered a motor vehicle when they are on the road, and have the exact same rights. So drivers please be aware of this, and SHARE THE ROAD !

  19. Lefty Wilbury says:

    Like another reader commented: get rid of right-on-the-red at intersections
    like 100 @ Belle Terre. It’s a simple, lifesaving fix.

    People should be able to cross the street safely.

  20. ryan says:

    How about lose the NY/NJ attitude and have some consideration for others. Down here, you don’t speed up on people crossing the street. It’s disgusting and a lot of people are growing tired of it.

  21. marcia says:

    I ride my bike at least 100 miles a week in palm coast. I try using the crosswalk but the cars that turn right it doesn’t seem to matter if your in the lane. Why do we need to have turn right on red in those area that have a lot of walkers and bike riders who cross. What’s 1 min out of your time to save a life.

  22. confidential says:

    We need harsher penalties…other than the usual pat in the wrist after a vehicle driver cuts of the right of way of another vehicle and specially harsher when the cut off on motorcyclist, cyclist or pedestrians and if injuries or death long prison terms.
    The disregard for human life that I see day in and day out by irresponsible at the steering wheel in our roads, borders the criminal…and so far they get away with it!

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