City Ponders Raised Crosswalks Around Lake Morton

swan by lake morton driveRaised crosswalks across Lake Morton Drive might help alleviate the distracted driving thought to be a culprit in a spate of recent accidents around the lake that have killed five swans and injured a pedestrian, a city official said today.

That was one of the potential solutions that came out of a meeting Thursday between city publics works leaders and the Lakeland Police Department, city Communications Director Kevin Cook said today.

In looking for cost-effective solutions that maintain the esthetics of the historic neighborhood, the city is also considering colorized concrete at strategic locations and LED-lighted crosswalks, Cook said.

The meeting was called after vehicles hit seven swans around the lake, killing five of them, during the last four weeks. In addition, a jogger was injured in a crosswalk Wednesday by a driver who told police the jogger was in his blind spot as he turned left, Cook said. The jogger remains in the hospital, he said.

A “full-blown traffic analysis” will be conducted over the next two weeks or so to collect more data about driving patterns before city officials make a recommendation, Cook said.

At the meeting, “Raised crosswalks had some traction” as both a way to suppress speeds and a visual reminder that pedestrians (and birds) frequent the area, he said.

The city recently installed two raised crosswalks across Lime Street near the RP Funding Center, and they have been successful in dampening speeds, Cook said.

lime street crosswalk
New raised crosswalk on Lime Street near the RP Funding Center

“Raised crosswalks were one of several ideas discussed yesterday to address raising driver awareness around Lake Morton,” Public Works Director Heath Frederick said in an email.  “We are taking a look at current crosswalk locations as well as considering locations that may benefit by having a crosswalk.  The idea is to locate raised crosswalks strategically around the lake where we have a large number of users and where motorists will be impacted enough to keep speeds in compliance with posted speed limits.”

The officials at Thursday’s meeting eliminated several suggested alternatives, Cook said. Among them:

  • Making Lake Morton Drive one way
  • Adding speed humps. The road doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for them, Cook said.
  • Adding parking on the lake side of the road.

Driver distraction seems to be a bigger problem than speed, Cook said. The speed limit is 25 mph and a recent LPD traffic enforcement found very few drivers exceeding 27, he said.

“The latest issues that have occurred on Lake Morton Drive seem to be caused by distracted drivers with motorist using their mobile phones and other devices while driving,” Cook said.  “Overall, there has been a 10-15% increase in accidents due to distracted drivers.”

Most of the accidents injuring swans have taken place on the west side of Lake Morton between Success Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue, Cook said.

He said he didn’t know how many accidents took place on the lake side of the road and how many involved swans who had crossed the road.

An accident that injured a swan Thursday happened when a driver turning right from the downtown side of Massachusetts Avenue onto Lake Morton Drive failed to see a swan crossing the roadway, Cook said.

An estimated 4,600 drivers use Lake Morton daily, with about 500 vehicles in the busiest hour, he said.

City staff should have recommendations ready in time for a Sept. 25 meeting of the Lake Morton Neighborhood Association, where the topic is scheduled to be discussed.

Swans by the lake near Massachusetts Avenue.