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Pedals and peds power panel’s plans

Lewes bike group tackles connectivity, safety
June 11, 2024

As executive director of Delaware Greenways, Mary Roth is familiar with keeping Lewes looking good. Now, she has an expanded role in keeping the city moving for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Roth is the newly appointed chair of the Lewes Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. The panel is charged with making the city safe and friendly for those on two wheels and two feet. Roth previously served as a member of the panel.

“We’re all focused on the same thing. Byways are supposed to be safe modes of transportation for all,” Roth said. “Lewes gets a large influx of people four or five months a year. How do we keep them safe?”

The committee has a lot on its agenda, including updating bike maps, expanding bike parking and implementing safety infrastructure improvements.

One project underway is the addition of a picnic table and trash cans to the popular bike corral on Gills Neck Road, near the Savannah Road drawbridge. 

The committee was also recently able to have larger “No Turn On Red” signs installed at the Savannah Road, Gills Neck Road, Front Street intersection, a major crossing for bikes and people on foot. Roth said the previous signs were too small and placed in a way that made it hard for drivers to see them.

“Hanging them [higher] on the mast arm was a challenge,” she said. “So at least we said let’s make them identical on all four [corners] and hope people see them.”

New committee member Aaron Huertas recently took the lead in updating the city’s online resources. They can be found at ci.lewes.de.us/gettingaround. The city added a QR code to its printed maps that links to the website.

“People can access the map and resources for cycling and walking on their phones,” Huertas said. “In addition to paper maps, they’ll be able to make those references on the go.”

Ray Quillen also recently joined the panel, alongside Roth, Sumner Crosby and Glenn Dunnington. They are still looking for two more members to round out the seven-member group.

“Filling those openings is important,” Roth said. “Doing subcommittees, tackling some of the bigger infrastructure issues, we need more people.”

She said public engagement is also key to finding the best solutions. “Come to our meetings. We want to hear what people have to say. We want to improve what’s happening in the city, but we want to do it collectively, not just the five of us,” Roth said.

The committee’s role in planning connectivity was raised earlier this year in public meetings regarding the proposed Henlopen Bluff subdivision. The development would have 79 lots located on Gills Neck Road, south of the Freeman Highway bridge. 

Future residents of Henlopen Bluff would have to navigate a precarious stretch of Gills Neck Road that does not have a sidewalk or bike path in order to walk or ride into downtown. That stretch is located at the Lewes-Georgetown Trail and Junction-Breakwater Trail intersection. People using those trails are now left on the street.

In February, Lewes Mayor and City Council recommended that the planning commission consider sidewalk connectivity from the proposed community into downtown.

“The bike-ped committee has historically not been engaged in development reviews or site plans,” Roth said. “As far as Henlopen Bluff, we’re not going to weigh in on that. But as far as sidewalks, collectively around the city, it’s important, it has to happen. The only way we’re going to deal with traffic is to get people on foot.”

The committee has been actively working with DelDOT on a comprehensive bike master plan. The final version is expected by June 30. A draft version is available at deldotinteract.org/d5548.

The plan includes low-stress bicycle and pedestrian routes, traffic-calming measures and education.

“The city can take a look at it; we can recommend it for adoption. Then we can jump in and pick some of the short-term, long-term recommendations to sink our teeth into,” Roth said.

She said one of the committee’s biggest challenges is human nature.

“We have people riding bikes on sidewalks, riding electric bikes on sidewalks. Is it education? Is it signage? How do you kindly and gently encourage people to do the right thing? We haven’t figure that one out yet,” Roth said.

 

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