Editorial: Tragic cycling death must spark serious change

September 25, 2018

The recent trial of a Lewes man charged in the death of local media businessman Tom Draper, who was struck while cycling, shines a bright light on the problem of ensuring our roads are safe for everyone.

Some question why charges were filed in this case, given the driver stopped, rendered aid, called 911 and insisted, even during that call, that Draper had suddenly swerved in front of him. The jury in this case found differently.

An incident like this raises important questions, yet the underlying issue remains. Bicycles are permitted on local roadways. More and more people are cycling, many on narrow back roads not designed for the traffic now using them.

Cyclists are required to ride as far to the right as they can, but just like other drivers, cyclists may swerve at any second to avoid potholes, trash or other obstacles.

Riding toward the right is in no way an invitation for drivers to speed by or crowd the cyclist off the roadway. Drivers must slow down and wait for a safe opportunity to pass. And by law they must give cyclists at least three feet of space, not unlike passing any other slow-moving vehicle.

As Delaware promotes cycling and invests in more trails, steps must also be taken to improve safety. Let’s start with driver education, including education for cyclists. But why not back up a campaign by ticketing drivers who fail to slow down and give cyclists a wide berth?

To get attention and change behavior, tickets would have to be established with significant fines and points.

Let us hope the tragedy that claimed Draper’s life can spark renewed attention from individual drivers and cyclists as well as lawmakers, to make Delaware roads safer for everyone.


  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, publisher emeritus, and Laura Ritter, news editor, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, CoPublisher and Editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, CoPublisher and General Manager.

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