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DelDOT to unveil bicycle box in Sussex

Safety measure aims to give cyclists a head start at busy intersections
May 13, 2019

Story Location:
Dartmouth Drive
Lewes  Delaware  19958
United States

Cyclists turning onto Route 1 at Dartmouth Drive will get a headstart when the first bicycle box in the state is installed within the next month.

A biker box is a painted area limited to bicyclists at the front of a turn lane. At Dartmouth Drive, the box will be added to the far right left-turn lane.

Matt Buckley, a traffic consultant with Baltimore-based firm WRA, said bicycle boxes are a new concept in Delaware. At Dartmouth Drive, he said, it would allow bicyclists to clear the intersection ahead of drivers going straight to Wawa or the other stores.

Buckley said the pavement will be striped accordingly and signage will be added.

“It’s definitely an area that has a lot of cyclists, so hopefully there’s enough who utilize it so it becomes more commonplace,” he said. “We have other areas we can potentially explore this in the area too.”

The idea didn’t go over too well with the Five Points Working Group at its April 29 meeting. A critical Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, asked, “At what point do we decide this doesn’t work very well? People drive differently wherever they come from than when they’re here. They leave every bit of common sense on whatever bridge they cross to come here.”

He said his concern isn’t with the behavior of bicyclists, but the drivers who are unfamiliar with bicycle boxes. Putting bicyclists at the front of a large pack of vehicles will irritate impatient drivers, who may be unaware of the bicyclists. They could attempt to go around the lead car and put bicyclists at risk, he said.

“To me, this is an accident waiting to happen,” he said. “It might work someplace else where people aren’t in such a hurry.”

He said the safest option for bicyclists is for them to get off their bicycles and use crosswalks already marked at the intersection.

Buckley said there isn’t a large enough sample size in Delaware to provide statistics on whether it works; however, he said bicycle boxes are being used in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Andrew Bing of consulting firm Kramer & Associates, moderator of the Five Points Working Group meetings, said DelDOT received a lot of feedback from bicyclists about the Dartmouth Drive intersection – and the cyclists supported a bicycle box.

Sussex County Councilman Doug Hudson, a retired Delaware State Police trooper, said his concern isn’t with the experienced bicyclists.

“I can see a 12-year-old kid just blowing through that and getting whacked,” he said. “Pete and I have both scraped a lot of kids up off the roadway, and I just don’t see this making any sense.”

Gail van Gilder, who served as chair of the Lewes byway committee for several years, also raised concerns about the bicycle box plan. She said she uses the Dartmouth Drive intersection frequently, and there’s already a lot of confusion at that light. Adding a bicycle box will only add to the problem.

“A lot of people going through that intersection are new,” she said. “They aren’t doing it every day like I am. Those people aren’t going to figure it out.”

She added that DelDOT not only needs to think about children, but also the many foreign workers who ride Route 1 throughout the summer season.

Bing said DelDOT officials would review the working group’s comments before moving ahead with the bicycle box.

C.R. McLeod, DelDOT’s director of community relations, said the state plans to install a bicycle box on the new Senator Bikeway in Dover. The bikeway is a 3.5-mile route for bicyclists that will stretch from Dover High School to Route 13. McLeod said DelDOT is also considering bicycle boxes in Wilmington and Newark.