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Friday, Oct 31, 2014

Gulf Boulevard hotels give tourists tips on crossing dangerous street


Published:

Local beach hotels are reminding their visitors to look both ways before crossing the street.

Guests at many hotels along Gulf Boulevard are getting pedestrian safety key cards as part of an educational program to prevent pedestrian accidents. The key cards come with tips such as wear bright colors, use crosswalks and avoid cellphone distractions while walking.

“We’ve had a lot of pedestrian crashes out there,” said Kris Carson, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Transportation. “A lot of the hotels have been very receptive to handing these out.”

The DOT reports that from 2009 to 2013, 123 pedestrian and bicyclist crashes and five pedestrian deaths occurred along Gulf Boulevard. The department hopes to reduce pedestrian fatalities by 20 percent by 2018.

Carson said the area can be problematic, particularly because many visitors aren’t familiar with the area and the traffic patterns, including some tourists from other countries. The key cards are an educational supplement to engineering changes that have been made, such as adding flashing lights to crosswalks to help grab drivers’ attention.

Clyde Smith, general manager of the Bilmar Beach Resort in Treasure Island, said many guests who aren’t familiar with the high-traffic atmosphere around the beach have appreciated the tips. He said he would like to see similar information distributed to drivers who rent cars, as well.

“If you have pedestrians and drivers all in the same loop I think you are going to greatly reduce the risk,” Smith said.

The key cards, distributed as part of a joint effort by the DOT, the Center for Urban Transportation Research and the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, first were given out last year. About 20,000 key cards and 30,000 larger rack cards were distributed last year, Carson said, and an additional 10,000 key cards with “WalkWise tips” were ordered to restock this year.

The cards, designed at the Center for Urban Transportation Research, cost $297 for 10,000 to be printed.

Doug Izzo, governmental affairs representative with the Beaches Chamber of Commerce, said hotel employees and law enforcement have been supportive.

“It’s just a way to tell their visitors, to bring it up to them without causing too much alarm, ... just a little reminder to them,” Izzo said.

The Chamber of Commerce is focusing on the entire stretch of beaches, from St. Pete Beach to Clearwater Beach. He said the problem is consistent throughout the stretch but tends to be worse in areas with heavier traffic.

Smith said the situation in Treasure Island is improving.

“We were hearing about something almost monthly. Now it’s been a while since someone in our immediate area was struck by a car,” he said.

kmitchell@tampatrib.com

(727) 828-6753

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