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Balancing pedestrian and turtle safety on Fort Myers Beach

Posted at 7:43 AM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 10:35:57-04

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla — A new safety survey on Fort Myers Beach shows the number one issue many want to see addressed is pedestrian safety.

However, Mayor Ray Murphy said there’s a unique challenge the town faces in addressing part of that concern.

People want to see more traffic lights added to the crosswalks on Estero Boulevard. But as the mayor explained, changes like that are a balancing act with protecting wildlife.

Turtle nesting season and tourist season are so close together that it creates a tough situation.

We are in turtle season right now, and lights on the boulevard have to be shaded or have to be a different type of light, so that it doesn't attract and endanger hatchlings.

More than 600 people were surveyed about safety on Fort Myers Beach, and close to 80% said they believe flashing lights at crosswalks would make them feel safer. Tourist season directly follows turtle nesting season, which means even more pedestrians will be on the island soon.

“So it's the two T's: turtle, tourist. So we go from protecting the turtles, now we're protecting the tourists. So we have to have sufficient light out there on those poles to protect both groups. The people: more light. The turtles: less light. So that's the act,” he explained.

More than 40% said crosswalks on the island have poor visibility.

Jason Ingream, the owner of Mango Rita's in Times Square said the crosswalk at Old San Carlos Boulevard and Estero Boulevard is a perfect example, and making changes could even improve traffic.

“If they would have an actual crossing sign that would allow folks to build up and cross in a big group versus one after another, creates that backup that we see across the bridge,” said Ingream.

The town's public safety committee just finished this survey. The results are so new, they haven't even made it onto a town council agenda yet.

As leaders get ready to formally discuss this, they've been working with consultants on solutions.

They also have to work with Lee County, since Estero Boulevard is a county road.