Lewes Beach residents are concerned about pedestrian safety crossing Cedar Street.
The busy road becomes busier in the summer, with residents, visitors and delivery trucks driving along Cedar Street from Savannah Road to as far as Roosevelt Inlet. Residents Khalil Saliba and Mark Schaeffer think a step in the right direction would be crosswalks.
“We don’t want to wait until someone gets hit and has serious injuries to force action on this,” Saliba said. “We want to prevent that.”
Saliba said his concerns are purely about public safety.
“As a motorist, once you see crosswalks, you’re going to be more cognizant,” he said. “You’re reminded that people do walk across the street here.”
Earlier this year, mayor and city council accepted recommendations from the beach parking committee. Among the top recommendations was designating spaces in front of Children’s Beach House, Lewes Yacht Club and in the Roosevelt Inlet parking lot. They also recommended beefed up police presence on the beach and on the streets between Savannah Road and Roosevelt Inlet. Crosswalks were not among the recommendations.
Saliba surveyed many neighbors and presented his findings to the beach parking committee. The survey did not ask specifically about crosswalks, but it did tackle issues such as clearly marked parking space, police presence and parking permits.
“What we’ve been trying to do the last year is just try to raise awareness about safety issues,” Saliba said.
Schaeffer said he appreciates the work the committee has done, but wishes they would’ve taken a more macro approach.
“Lewes Beach could really be a gem with a little proper planning,” he said.
He believes crosswalks are a cheap, noninvasive way to improve safety for everyone.
“They’re not aesthetically detrimental to the area,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, they don’t really cost that much. And they have a proven scientific calming effect on vehicular traffic and saving lives.”
Sidewalks are preferred but not required for crosswalks, said C.R. McLeod, DelDOT’s community relations director. However, if no sidewalks exist, he said, the Federal Highway Administration requires DelDOT to install landing areas, sort of a concrete square, on either side of the street.
Earlier this year, a report called Dangerous by Design 2019 found that more than 49,000 pedestrians were struck and killed from 2008 to 2017 in the U.S. The report also features a Pedestrian Danger Index and ranks all 50 states. Delaware ranks as the third-most dangerous state for pedestrians behind Florida and Alabama.
Schaeffer said he lived on the canal side of Cedar for six years before moving closer to the beach. Because of that experience of crossing Cedar, he said, he and his entire family always stop when people are trying to cross Cedar.
“It’s a death-defying act sometimes in the summer time,” he said. “People get in the zone. It’s a straight shot from Savannah to Roosevelt, so boom they’re off to the races.”
The city installed radar speed signs on Cedar, and both Saliba and Schaeffer said they are working, but, “Lewes Beach is changing, and it’s changing very rapidly,” Schaeffer said. “It’s not what it was four years ago, and it will never be what it was four years ago. That’s just reality. I think it’s a shame that council doesn’t embrace the idea of hiring a professional to come in and [consider] putting in bike and pedestrian paths, crosswalks and maybe some treescaping for public safety, aesthetics and property values.”