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Sidewalk cycling requires increased vigilance

June 19, 2017

Confusing. 

That's about the only way to describe the rules of the road for cyclists on Route 1 in the Cape Region.

Back in 2012-13, a series of deadly crashes sparked a study that eventually led to more than 4 miles of new sidewalks along the highway. The project included improved lighting and numerous pedestrian-activated signals at new crosswalks, all aimed at improving safety.

Despite these improvements, three cycling-related crashes have already occurred since Memorial Day. None was fatal, but it's not at all clear anyone – including police officers who responded – understands where cyclists should ride.

Before the safety improvements, cyclists shared the bus lane with buses and turning traffic – a death-defying mix at best, but still a legal place to ride.

From the beginning, cyclists were encouraged to ride on the new sidewalks. For the most part, that's where they now ride. 

What is less clear is which sidewalk cyclists should use.

Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, who led the safety effort, says cyclists may legally ride on whichever sidewalk they like. Based perhaps on the danger of crossing Route 1, the idea seems to be any sidewalk is better than the roadway.

At the same time, crashes frequently, though not always, occur when a cyclist rides against the flow of traffic. Drivers pulling onto the highway look for tiny breaks in traffic; when they find one, they quickly pull into it, very possibly failing to look the other way for a cyclist or pedestrian.

Police say when cycling on the roadway, always ride with traffic. But even those riding on the sidewalk have to use the roadway to cross intersections - exactly where several accidents have occurred.

Cyclists who ride against traffic on the Route 1 sidewalk would be wise to get off and walk at intersections. It may be slow, but it would give drivers more time to see them.

Delaware invested more than $10 million to make Route 1 safer.

Yet in the end, it's the vigilance of drivers and the cyclists themselves that will reduce crashes in this congested corridor.

 

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Nick Roth, sports editor.

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