In the name of bicycle and pedestrian safety, the Rehoboth Beach Street and Transportation Committee has begun discussing one-way streets and the creation of a pedestrian mall in the city’s commercial district.
During a committee meeting Feb. 1, committee member Dennis Diehl presented a proposal that closes off First Street to all vehicles, from Baltimore to Wilmington avenues. He then proposed turning the second block of Baltimore and Wilmington avenues into one-way streets, both heading west.
Diehl said the city would lose revenue from 17 parking spaces on First Street, but if Baltimore and Wilmington avenues were one-way, then parking could be angled instead of parallel. He estimated the city would actually gain spaces, and he said almost every street corner affected by this change becomes safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Diehl’s committee members liked the proposal.
Member Dan Miller said First Street would be a lot safer, but he’ll be interested to see if anyone wants the change.
This isn’t the first time streets with one-way traffic have been discussed in Rehoboth.
Committee Chair Kathy Osterholm reminded everyone the idea of turning some streets in downtown Rehoboth into one-ways was first broached with the city’s bike and pedestrian plan in 2012. Rehoboth hired consultant Delaware Greenways to prepare the plan because green modes of transportation, and improving pedestrian and bike safety were part of the city’s 2010 comprehensive development plan.
In 2014, there was a proposal to turn Baltimore, Wilmington and First into one-way streets, the difference being Baltimore would be one-way heading east, First Street would be one-way heading south, between Baltimore and Wilmington, and Wilmington would be one-way heading east. That plan did not happen.
Osterholm, who was on the transportation committee when the consultant’s plan was unveiled, tasked Diehl with coming up with the recent proposals. She said there continues to be a problem getting bicyclists north and south of Rehoboth Avenue safely.
Atlantic Cycles owner Frank Cole opposed one-way streets in the commercial district in 2014, and he was at the Feb. 1 committee meeting to oppose them again. Among the things he said he had concerns about were studies showing one-way streets lead to increased vehicular speeds and how it would create a virtual maze for navigation.
Cole said he’s spoken with business owners on Baltimore and Wilmington, and residential owners on Maryland and Delaware avenues who would now have commercial vehicles coming down their streets to get onto Baltimore and Wilmington. He said everyone he spoke with is overwhelmingly opposed to the idea.
Cole also said he didn’t think creating a pedestrian mall on First Street was a good idea.
Diehl also presented an idea that would turn Henlopen Avenue into a one-way street heading west. He said Henlopen Avenue is heavily used by bicyclists as a connection between Junction & Breakwater and Gordons Pond trails.
Again, Miller said he thought it was a good idea, but, he said, the property owners on Henlopen Avenue will probably have something to say about that.
The committee did not send any recommendations to city commissioners, but Osterholm did say the topic would continue to be discussed at future meetings.
Stop sign proposed at Oak Avenue and Gerar Street
A property owner near the intersection of Oak Avenue and Gerar Street requested the committee discuss the possibility of adding a stop sign on Oak Avenue to slow traffic. Osterholm said that portion of Oak Avenue isn’t heavily used, but there is a blind turn on either side of the intersection.
Miller said he uses that road frequently when riding his bike and he didn’t think it was that much of an issue. He said he just uses caution because he’s aware of the curves.
Ultimately, the committee delayed a recommendation to council until a future meeting because the meeting agenda had the wrong intersection.