By William & Mary Ann Grignon, Southwest Florida Council of the Blind
In the last issue of the White Cane Bulletin, we wrote about the intention of the Lee Metropolitan Planning Organization (LMPO) to install roundabouts at several intersections in Lee County. We also wrote that several members of the Southwest Florida Council of the Blind, along with FCB’s own Mike Ulrich, attended an LMPO hearing and expressed our concerns about the challenges and dangers that roundabouts pose to persons with vision loss. Since that publication, the LMPO and local officials have met and have voted to install two roundabouts to start – with more to come. Even more important to our concerns, local officials also voted to fund the installation of the HAWK pedestrian signal, plus audible components at both roundabouts.
After the first meeting, at which the international expert on roundabouts spoke and at which the assembled experts said they did not know whether the HAWK (High-intensity Activated crosswalk system) could be made audible for the benefit of pedestrians with vision loss, SWFCB members did some research. We found out that several municipalities around the country are using the HAWK system, along with audible components that make the roundabout more user-friendly for persons with vision loss (e.g., Washington D.C., Arlington, Virginia, Cambridge (Massachusetts, and Santa Rosa, California). Indeed, as far back as 2010, the Bureau of Highway Operations commissioned a report entitled, “HAWK Pedestrian Signals: A Survey of National Guidance, State Practice and Related Research,” which noted in relevant part the following:
“Some HAWK signals also provide visually impaired pedestrians with audible information when the walk signal is on.”
SWFCB contacted the manufacturer of the HAWK system, LTEC-CORP, at 1-800-227-1734 and online at http://elteccorp.com/warning_systems/hawk-hybrid-pedestrian-crosswalk/
They said that the HAWK can be made audible by using either: Campbell AGPS, http://www.pedsafety.com/, or the Polara XAV system, http://www.polara.com/. LTEC-CORP also said that these audible units are tied into the HAWK and share the HAWK power supply, be it AC/DC or solar.
SWFCB then shared these results with the participants at the LMPO hearing.
On April 7, Mike Ulrich attended a Lee MPO Board meeting in Cape Coral, which was also attended by Lee County Commissioners Kiker, Mann, Manning, and Hammon; Mayors of Cape Coral, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers and Sanibel, City of Fort Myers Council members, and City of Cape Coral Council members, including the members of the MPO and the international roundabout expert.
At this meeting, the issues and concerns raised at the earlier LMPO meeting were restated for the benefit of the assembled politicians. A lively discussion ensued. Then under citizens’ input, Mike spoke on how well the MPO worked with the blind community “in coming up with a viable solution to the plight of the blind pedestrian as it relates to navigating a roundabout.” He gave “a big-time thumbs up” to pairing of technologies of the HAWK system and the Polara APS. He told the board, “I would not be afraid to use this system to help me safely navigate a roundabout.”
The earlier input from SWFCB members, the information provided by SWFCB, and Mike’s comments were well received, and a motion to fund two roundabouts, along with the HAWK and audible system for each, was made and passed unanimously.
This is just another example of how advocacy works.