Safety Issues at Legacy Trail Road Crossings

Update: Sarasota County officials are now (2/7/22) saying that the HAWK light sequence will be modified to implement the change recommended by FLT and NACTO. The changeover is expected to occur by Wednesday of this week. Thank you Sarasota County for making the Trail safer, and thank you to all of the trail supporters who have made your voices heard.

The citizens of Sarasota County have just invested approximately $70 million to build the North Trail Extension, whose primary purpose is to provide a safe route for bicyclists and pedestrian traffic. That safety is now substantially decreased by the configuration of the HAWK signals at Legacy Trail road crossings.

FLT has been recommending for some time that the county make a change to the light sequence at HAWK signals at Legacy Trail intersections to improve the safety of both pedestrians and cyclists. As of now, nothing has been done.

As described in our recent letter to the county commissioners, the problem arises because in one phase of the light sequence ( as currently programmed ) vehicles are informed they can proceed cautiously with a flashing red light while trail users are still viewing a countdown of time remaining to cross the intersection. This is contrary to typical intersections, where countdown timers convey to pedestrians or cyclists that they have the right of way. Given the speed of cyclists, a cyclists may believe he has plenty of time to cross, while a driver believes they can go forward.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials ( NACTO ) has identified this as a problem with HAWK signals on bicycle trails. In the current NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide they specifically address HAWK signals and recommend that HAWK beacons “should maintain the solid red indication for motorists throughout the full bicycle clearance interval.” Thus, there is a simple solution to the problem: change the flashing red light to a solid red light.

The county’s response to our letter continues to say that they are looking into the issue, as they have been saying for months. This is unsatisfactory. We urge the county to do the right thing and change these signals now.

If you support this effort, please express your thoughts by writing to your county commissioners.  Their email addresses can be found here.