County installs flashing signal at Palm Valley Bridge following death of Nease High School student in July


St. Johns County officials say the fatal traffic death of a Nease High School student at the foot of the Palm Valley Bridge in July influenced the county’s decision to install Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons (RRFBs) at that crosswalk recently.

“We want to make sure our roads are safe for motorists, pedestrians or anybody that uses them,” Public Works Director Neal Shinkre said. “We didn’t think what was there was bad, but because of the fatality and the outcry, we looked at it more.”

On July 6, Christian Meier, 17, was riding his bike eastward on the sidewalk along Palm Valley Road when he was hit and killed by a car as he tried to cross the road near the foot of the bridge.

Prior to the accident and the installation of the flashing signals, there was an existing midblock crosswalk that Shinkre said met traffic standards. Yet after the accident occurred, he said the county addressed public demands and assigned its traffic engineers to conduct a study of this section of Palm Valley road, specifically concerning the number of pedestrians that walk the sidewalks in the area and the grade of the hill descending from the bridge.

Between the engineers’ findings, the accident and the public outcry that followed, Shinkre said it was a necessary and logical decision to implement the RRFBs.

Now, when pedestrians cross the street, they can push a button to activate the flashing signals on the signs, which are supposed to continue flashing for as long as it takes for them to cross the street. In theory, the signals should then alert any incoming motorists to stop and yield for the pedestrians.

Master Sgt. Dylan Bryan, a spokesman from Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), said any additional authorized warning devices can be beneficial.

“These would hopefully reduce the amount of crashes and/or hazardous drivers in our area by grasping the attention of roadway users,” said Bryan.

Feedback from the community, Shinkre said, has been positive so far.“I think feedback has been great,” said Shrinke. “I think the community appreciates that we reviewed the situation and looked for opportunities to upgrade. When a pedestrian is walking there, it (the RRFBS) will make them feel safe.”