Sussex Cyclists voice concerns about Route 1

November 15, 2012

The following letter was sent to Secretary Shailen Bhatt, Delaware Department of Transportation, with a copy submitted to the Cape Gazette for publication.

The Sussex Cyclists Club has long advocated safe cycling in the resort area from Five Points to Fenwick Island.  We championed the width and placement of rumble strips south of Dewey Beach such that they didn’t interfere with cycling on either south and north bound lanes. We worked with DelDOT to ensure that the bike lanes were kept open over the Indian River bridge during the construction of the new bridge and we shared our concerns about cycling accommodations to cross the new span. We initiated the program and now partner with DelDOT and the state police for the summer bike safety stops.

Today we believe DelDOT can play yet another critical role in providing cycling safety on Route One.

The current bus/bike/right turn lanes were created much against our wishes and those of the state police. We went to Dover to meet with our state legislators and our federal legislators in Washington, D.C. In spite of support from many of these legislators the decision was to keep the buses running in the shoulder 24/7. We asked for a compromise to allow buses in the shoulder only at peak times from Thursday through Sunday. DelDOT agreed to this in a letter from then Secretary Wicks dated Aug.10, 2006, but has seldom if ever passed the information on to the drivers.

Today the shoulder lane serves as a fourth, often high speed, traffic lane and the state police have found making the lane work as it was intended is essentially unenforceable.

The lane continues to create problems for cyclists, especially by vehicles entering Route One from the many curb cuts and proceeding though intersections and also buses waiting at intersections preventing right turns by vehicles and cyclists.

We believe that DelDOT can inexpensively make some changes that would improve safety for cyclists and motorists alike. We would like the buses to be kept out of the shoulder entirely. Because a HOV such as a bus carries multiple passengers, its mere presence on the road has a significant effect in reducing traffic. The buses are not run to meet any transfer connections so their timing is not critical. Another problem the bus lane encounters is that all buses use the lane - school buses, paratransit buses, tour buses; often at a high rate of speed. Such use also creates hazardous conditions for cyclists.

If eliminating the bus/bike lane is not an option, we believe that treating Route One in the manner that Route 13 was rehabilitated in Dover could result in creating a vast improvement for cyclists. DelDOT could reduce Route One lane widths to 11 feet or less. This is reasonable since the large truck traffic is very light on this road. If buses must remain in the shoulder lane, use the reduction in lane width to create bike lanes in both north and southbound directions.  Place the lanes according to the MUTCD or more updated cycling accommodation plans.  Also reduce the speed on Route One to 35 mph (It was 35 for some time, but was later increased).

For your information, during the high season, cyclists - seasonal workers, vacationers, commuters, recreational riders - number at times more than 100 per hour. We believe these changes would contribute toward DelDOT’s ongoing pursuit to claim a high rank as a bicycle friendly state, reduce the number of accidents on this section of road, save lives and encourage more cyclists to use the road rather than drive to locations on Route 1.

Pedestrians are also at risk on this stretch of highway.  More crosswalks and bus shelters located adjacent to the crosswalks should be the rule. Right now bus riders stand out in the open for the most part and many stops are far from intersections or controlled crosswalks encouraging the departing riders to cross between intersections in very heavy traffic often in areas with very poor lighting. This should be addressed as well.

We would be pleased to discuss these concerns with you at your convenience.

Michael Tyler
Tony Pezone
Sussex Cyclists Inc.

  • A letter to the editor expresses a reader's opinion and, as such, is not reflective of the editorial opinions of this newspaper.

    To submit a letter to the editor for publishing, send an email to Letters must be signed and include a telephone number for verification. Please keep letters to 650 words or fewer.  We reserve the right to edit for content and length.

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