Opinion: Aventura's Country Club Drive is dangerous for pedestrians

07/21/2010 9:26 AM

02/08/2011 8:20 PM

Is Aventura's Country Club drive pedestrian friendly? This Aventura resident doesn't think so, and believes the police should do more to protect pedestrians. A lieutenant with the Aventura Police Department disagrees -- see his response below this post from Aventura resident Nancy Lee.
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 An 82-years old Aventura man could have lost his life on March 25. He was crossing Country Club Drive West (near 19333 West Country Club Drive) when he was hit by a car and taken by ambulance to the hospital. The Aventura police report said that, "the pedestrian will be issued a ticket for jaywalking upon his release from the hospital," because he was not in a crosswalk when the incident occurred.

Yikes! I know the police are our friends but I think issuing this ticket was a mistake as crosswalks are totally meaningless on Aventura's Country Club Drive. Just ask junior high school students Jennifer Leizerovich, 14, and Cristina Infante, 14, who cross within the crosswalk - where there is also a traffic light to boot - every school day.

"I feel like I need eyes in the back of my head just to safely cross the street" Leizerovich said. Infante agrees: "I have a hard time crossing the street after school. We have almost been run over a couple of times."

Jennifer's grandfather George Jaskelsonm agrees. He said: "There is never a light for pedestrians."

Indeed, even when pedestrians press the cross button at this light, cars making a left left turn often ignore pedestrians that are trying to cross at the crosswalk. I have had people shake their fists and curse at me when the crossing numbers were counting down. I have even had to dodge cars on my walk to Bally's Total Fitness. .

How do I deal with this dangerous situation? I cross further down in a safe place outside of the crosswalk. It is actually safer!

My husband Bob said the other day: "Nobody ever, ever, ever stopped for me in a crosswalk on Country Club Drive". He and I cross at various locations including within the crosswalk in front of 20529 West Country Club Drive, and the crosswalk near the Mariott and two crosswalks on East Country Club Drive.

In 2006, I called the traffic officer in Aventura when the new light went in at the corner of 34 Avenue and Country Club Drive North and pointed out the danger for pedestrians in this crosswalk. There was no setting for pedestrians only at the light. It's not safe for cars to turn toward pedestrians as they cross. The office forwarded me to the county. The man I spoke to there said he has trouble crossing in his neighborhood too and there was nothing he could do. I gave up trying to fix the problem.

Shlomo Ben David works as a security guard at the corner where the school girls try to cross. He walks to and from his job every day. He says he sees people texting and on their cell phones as he crosses at the corner morning and night. He said: "I think crossing here is as dangerous as crossing U.S. 1 near Gulfstream Park, cars honk their horn at me while I try to cross here."

Until traffic police start giving tickets to motorists for their brazen disregard for pedestrians in crosswalks, Aventura will remain an unfriendly place for pedestrians. I have not been hit by a car....yet. I have dodged hundreds of close calls so far.

Nancy Lee, a former Art teacher, is now a writer/county activist residing in Aventura since 2001. Before that she lived in Keystone Point in North Miami.

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We contacted the Aventura police department to get their side of the issue, and Lt. Michael Bentolila made a few points worth considering. Here are the highlights:

- Bentolila said that the length of time that pedestrians have to cross in Aventura is much longer than other communities. "We've extended the amount of time pedestrians have to walk so they don't have to run and walk and stop in the middle, he said. "We have drivers complain that it's too long." (We'll be fact-checking that point for a follow-up post).

- The Aventura police haven't received any complaints from pedestrians: "We haven't had any complaints or issues with that, it's a non-issue."

- While Nancy Lee believes that cars should not be given a green arrow to make a left and drive through the cross walk, Bentolila points out that when there are pedestrians in the cross walk, the cars have to yield and can't legally make the left turn.

- Nancy Lee thinks that the police should issue more citations for drivers that don't respect pedestrians, but Bentolila said it's hard for police to issue citations because drivers tend to obey the law when they notice police are around. "If I put an office at a stop sign, every single car is going to stop," he said. "It's just a matter of being at the right place at the right time."

Cross posted with cityofaventurablog.com

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