DelDOT plans metal strips down middle of Savannah Road bridge

Cyclists would ride in middle of travel lane
June 17, 2020

Delaware Department of Transportation has proposed installing 4-foot-wide metal strips in the middle of travel lanes on the grated Savannah Road drawbridge in Lewes. 

Jason Hastings, DelDOT’s chief of bridges and structures, said local cyclist Ray Quillen advocated a safer crossing for bicyclists, and the quarter-inch, textured plates were the best and safest option DelDOT could come up with. By placing the plates in the middle of the travel lanes, he said, cyclists would share the bridge with vehicles.  Vehicles and cyclists already share the road on Savannah Road from Shields Elementary to the east side of the bridge, as indicated by bicycle stencils painted in the middle of the travel lanes. “It made sense to share the bridge,” Hastings said. 

Transportation officials considered installing plates along the shoulder of the bridge, but the narrow width of the bridge – 29 feet from sidewalk to sidewalk – would create safety concerns, he said. Also, cars would likely drive on the strips, resulting in faster wear and tear, Hastings said.

Quillen said his idea was to install the plates on the shoulders, noting many in the cycling community fear crossing the bridge.

“No one wants to fall on that bridge’s grated deck,” he said. “It could be a dangerous fall.” 

Although initially hesitant about DelDOT’s plan, Quillen said he has come to fully support the idea. “After listening to DelDOT people, it’s probably a safer approach than encouraging someone to pass a bicyclist on a narrow bridge,” he said. “Cyclists hugging the curb could be dangerous – crashing into the curb or being hit by a side mirror.”

Adults are prohibited from riding bicycles on the sidewalk in Lewes, and the city has stenciled a message on the sidewalk leading up to the bridge that cyclists should dismount and walk their bicycles across. 

This would be the only bridge in Delaware with metal strips in the middle of travel lanes for bicyclists. There are only eight moveable bridges in the state, Hastings said.

“Because this is a shared-use condition on both sides of the bridge, I think it will be understood,” Hastings said. “Our safety section had input, and they felt this was appropriate.”

Councilwoman Bonnie Osler strongly disagreed with DelDOT’s safety conclusions. 

“Did anyone come down and see how this bridge is actually used by bicyclists or cars?” Osler asked. “It may hypothetically be shared-use, but that’s not how this bridge has ever been used.”

At the request of mayor and city council, Hastings will present the idea to the city’s bike and pedestrian safety committee at 11 a.m., Tuesday, June 23. 

In an email to Hastings, Quillen urged DelDOT to have safety experts on hand to explain why the proposal is the safest option.

“The only thing I’m trying to do is make things safer for all,” Quillen said.  If DelDOT moves forward with the project, the metal strips could be installed as early as August, Hastings said. 

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