tampabay.com

Traffic keeps scooters at bay

A fatal crash at Sheldon and Waters has seniors who rely on the vehicles afraid to cross the streets.

By JACKIE RIPLEY
Published June 19, 2006


TOWN 'N COUNTRY - Traffic is so fast and furious on Sheldon Road near Waters Avenue that neighbors have dubbed that stretch the Town 'N Country Daytona 500.

It's so dangerous, in fact, that many residents of nearby Fountainview Estates and Rocky Creek Villages retirement communities won't cross Sheldon or Waters on their motorized scooters.

"The furthest I go with mine is Winn-Dixie, and it's pretty bad,'' said Loretta Mydlowski, 66, of Fountainview Estates. "I don't even cross the streets. I'm deathly scared.''

And for good reason. Friend and neighbor, Joseph A. Way, was killed on his motorized scooter Tuesday as he tried to cross Waters at Northbridge Boulevard. Sheriff's officials say Way, who lived at Rocky Creek Village, was traveling south in the crosswalk against a red traffic light when he was struck by a car driven by Eric Antoine Brown, 28.

"He was 100 percent lucid, I don't understand how this could have happened,'' said Judy Thomas, a nurse who helped Way through rehabilitation several years ago, after he lost a leg to diabetes.

Thomas, who later became friends with Way, said the area is too dangerous for seniors who must walk or ride bicycles or scooters to take care of shopping chores and doctor appointments.

"You've got cars going up and down so fast and not paying attention,'' Thomas said. "If nothing else comes from Joe's passing, maybe people will realize our aging have to go to Walgreens and Winn-Dixie, the bank and the convenience store.''

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kathy Castor, whose district includes the area of Sheldon and Waters, helped spearhead efforts last year to improve the pedestrian crossing there. However, in light of Way's death, she wonders whether the county should increase traffic calming measures at the intersection.

Castor also said the county should consider the area for a "senior zone'' similar to the one being proposed for a stretch of Fletcher Avenue near the retirement community of John Knox Village.

The speed limit in a "senior zone'' would be lower than what is traditionally allowed on a major thoroughfare.

Roberta Downing, who lives in Fountainview, said part of the problem is that traffic signals and pedestrian signals are not synchronized. She said pedestrians get the go-ahead to cross the intersection at Sheldon and Waters at the same time motorists get a green arrow to make a left turn.

"The other thing is the pedestrian light doesn't stay green long enough to get across,'' Downing said.

James Clark, who also lives at Fountainview, has been driving his scooter for the past four years. He frequently traverses the intersections at Sheldon and Waters and Waters and Hanley Road. In that time, Clark, 86, says he has had his share of close calls - and cat calls.

"I've been called everything in the book but a human,'' Clark said. "People think just because we're handicapped and have a scooter we have no right on the road.''