Concerns raised over lighted pedestrian crosswalks in Cocoa Beach

Sophia Nelson struck, killed in Satellite Beach in 2019

Cocoa Beach officials don’t want FDOT’s flashing-yellow mid-block crosswalks on SR A1A
Cocoa Beach officials don’t want FDOT’s flashing-yellow mid-block crosswalks on SR A1A

COCOA BEACH, Fla. – Some Cocoa Beach residents have voiced concerns over the installation of new pedestrian crosswalks with lighted beacons because they flash yellow and not red, potentially giving walkers a false sense of security as they cross a busy roadway.

Here’s how the Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons, or RRFBs, work. When you approach the crosswalk, you press a button and the beacon lights up yellow. It’s supposed to get drivers to stop and allow the pedestrians to cross the street. Some people say it doesn’t do the job it’s intended to, however.

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“I live in this area and I still see people blow through those lights when they’re flashing. I still see people failing to stop when pedestrians are standing on the side of the road,” attorney David Alpizar said.

Alpizar said the yellow lights may cause confusion for pedestrians and drivers alike.

FDOT said the beacon lights can’t be changed to red due to federal highway regulations. Red beacons advise drivers to stop at all times and can only be used for certain signs. Signs below the pedestrian beacon do tell people to wait for traffic to stop before crossing.

Alpizar said the confusion over these lights may cause a death trap for pedestrians.

Alpizar represents the family of Sophia Nelson, the 12-year-old who was struck and killed in 2019 while crossing State Road A1A in Satellite Beach. She was using a lighted crosswalk, but the driver didn’t stop, according to authorities.

“The family continues to be heartbroken over their loss,” Alpizar said. “We don’t want these tragic incidents to happen like what happened to Sophia.”

As part of a pedestrian safety project, FDOT was proposing additional pedestrian beacons to be installed along S.R. A1A in Cocoa Beach, from Cocoa Isle Boulevard and Lucie Lane. Residents had mixed reactions on whether the beacons actually keep pedestrians safe.

“I think having them there is better and effective from what I’ve seen,” Stanley Prizz said.

“I’ve seen them as an advantage, and I’ve seen them work as a disadvantage. When you put too many up in a short distance, some drivers may ignore them and just drive through,” Lorelei Peace said.

While Cocoa Beach city leaders are voicing their disapproval of the project, FDOT moved forward with a public meeting Tuesday and said that the plans for installing the pedestrian beacons are not set in stone.

“We realize there are some concerns that we will certainly address to see if there’s something different that could work better. The RRFB is just one tool in our toolbox. We want to hear what community members have to say and want to hear what their alternative options are to better pedestrian safety,” said Jessica Ottaviano, public information director for FDOT.

The pedestrian safety project was requested by the city of Cocoa Beach in 2017. FDOT conducted a traffic study and found more measures are necessary along the corridor of S.R. A1A to improve safety.

About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a multimedia journalist who joined the News 6 team in February 2020. Crystal comes to Central Florida from WKMG’s sister station, WJXT in Jacksonville, where she worked as a traffic anchor and MMJ.