Route 1 needs more than crosswalks
The sharp rise in accidents on Route 1 has attracted serious attention to the roadway, which serves both as a highway for travelers and as the Main Street of the Cape Region.
Combining those two uses inevitably leads to conflict, and a long-planned $14.4 million pedestrian and safety improvement plan set to be implemented next year only sharpens the focus.
Now that the plan, which calls for as many as 14 crosswalks from Five Points to Rehoboth Beach, is about to be implemented, it has attracted opponents who say it will endlessly snarl traffic, leading to more accidents and angry drivers who will not want to return to the Cape Region.
Then there is the problem of human behavior. On a recent visit to see the issues for himself, Secretary of Transportation Shailen Bhatt watched a driver use the shared rightturn lane as a through traffic lane and saw pedestrians randomly crossing the highway far from any crosswalk.
When it comes to Route 1, as Bhatt said, “It’s almost impossible to put a limit on idiot behavior.”
It’s almost impossible with the current design of the highway. But that’s where design professionals come in. Safety for pedestrians and motorists demands short-term fixes, but they must be paired with a long-term plan to redesign the corridor.
For starters, the shared bus-bicycle-turning lane is a failure; enforcing limited use is impossible, yet when drivers obey the law, the lane is largely unused.
At the very least, investing in a fleet of small public buses or vans to transport shoppers would reduce the number of pedestrians crossing the highway while increasing use of the lane.
But broader changes are needed.
Intense growth demands improvements that go far beyond crosswalks; recent fatalities on Route 1 are a warning of what lies ahead.
The safety of both tourists and residents of the Cape Region demands comprehensive planning and a new investment in innovative solutions.