I moved to Sarasota, Florida in 1993 as a Disabled Veteran after serving 12 years of Active Duty. After leaving the military I have worked as both a Professional Fund Raiser for Fire and Police Unions, and as a U. S. Chamber of Commerce Representative.
I have a vision impairment and can no longer drive. However, I do ride a bicycle (slowly). I started advocating for pedestrian safety in 2003 after the FDOT obstructed the Bee Ridge Road Sidewalk. I was a Yeoman in the Navy and I am familiar with government regulations. I feel like a Government Whistle-Blower, but I must have a Dog Whistle because nobody hears me.
I could not understand why the State would let their Contractor obstruct the sidewalk. I read how Florida is the most corrupt State with 1,762 of Florida’s public officials have been convicted of public corruption since 1976. From 2000 to 2010, there have been an average of 71 convictions each year — and 107 convictions in 2000 alone, the worst year on record.
Since 2003 many cyclists and pedestrians have been injured by the Light Posts which obstruct the center of the sidewalk. A few years ago I attended a FDOT Public Hearing concerning the proposed 12 Pedestrian Safety Islands on Bee Ridge Road. There were several FDOT Officials in attendance along with a few business owners. However, I believe I was the only actual active Pedestrian at the Hearing.
Before the Hearing started I was standing at the back of the room look at a blown up version of a map with dots on it in the locations of pedestrian / cyclists accidents. I was standing next to a FDOT Official and a Sarasota County Deputy. The FDOT Official pointed at a cluster of dots on the map and said to the Deputy; "Look at all those dots there next to the Crackerjacks Bar, ha, ha, it must be a bunch of drunks". The Deputy did not respond, but I said to the FDOT Official; "Those dots surround one of the Light Posts the FDOT placed in the middle of the sidewalk. I said; "Do you see how all those other dots are evenly spaced on the sidewalk. Those are also located next to your Light Posts which obstruct the middle of the sidewalk". She did not respond.
The FDOT did their presentation about the dozen Pedestrian Safety Islands and they showed the below example photo of a family at a "Marked Crosswalk".
When it was my turn to speak I said that if they wanted to make Bee Ridge Road safer for Pedestrians and Cyclists then they should relocate the Light Posts that obstruct the sidewalk. I also said that the proposed Pedestrian Safety Islands were a bad idea.
I told them that if the Crosswalks were Marked and actually utilized it would cause traffic jams. I said if the Crosswalks were Unmarked it would basically be enticing pedestrians to Jaywalk.
The News Reporters turned off their cameras after the FDOT presentation and they did not record any of the citizen comments.
In the 1990's I was a Board Member of a Non Profit Disability Association. We were one of the groups of advocates who went to Washington to Lobby for the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
The FDOT has learned that they (their contractors) can make a lot of money by installing Curb Cuts.
So, in 2003 the FDOT misrepresents the ADA to justify obstructing the sidewalk. Next, the FDOT goes "Nuts with Curb Cuts" and has the nerve to call them Pedestrian Safety Islands. The FDOT "flexible interpretation" of Safety Standards may make Contractors rich, but it also kills Pedestrians.
Now I more clearly understand why the FDOT would obstruct sidewalks and build dangerous crosswalks. It is all about the money.
A News Reporter recently asked me why I was so passionate about this issue. Well, I started advocating for Pedestrian Safety because it really hurts when you collide with these Light Posts. Also because 20 years ago myself and a lot of other people worked hard to lobby for the passage of the ADA. It is very offensive for me to see how the FDOT is using the ADA as a way to increase contractor profits while actually decreasing access and killing pedestrians.
I became more passionate after Jessica and Lillia were killed in the type of Unmarked Mid-Block Crosswalks that I have been advocating against. I did a little research and found out about other pedestrians (Isabel and Alexis) killed in Unmarked Mid-Block Crosswalks.
I think there may be dozens of others killed in these "Fake Crosswalks". News Reporters will often report that the pedestrian killed was wearing dark clothing, or that they were not in a Marked Crosswalk. I wonder how many were attempting to cross at an Unmarked Mid-Block Crosswalk on a High Speed, High Traffic Road.
My passion comes from empathy, and I don't understand why more citizens are not passionate about this subject.
I want to transition from being a Pedestrian Safety Advocate to being an Activist. You may have seen me on my recumbent bicycle with my Ad Sign and my hamster on a wheel (don't call PETA, the hamster is just a toy). If you see me on the road, please say "Hi Jeff" and introduce yourself. Please take a photo/video of my bike (and sign) and share it on Social Medial I will soon be adding more photos and videos.