Small Town News
Route 1 improvements not automatic win
A recent Cape Gazette article reported Gov. Jack Markell's concern about the increasing number of pedestrian fatalities in Delaware. While the state has risen rapidly in rankings of bicycle-friendly states, the rate of pedestrian deaths places Delaware in an unenviable position among the nation's most pedestrian-dangerous states. At this point in 2016, overall highway-related deaths in Delaware are running more than 25 percent ahead of this time in 2015.
Part of the increase in pedestrian deaths comes from upstate, where people attempt to cross major highways on foot. A few years back, however, it was pedestrian deaths in the Coastal Highway area of Sussex that led the statistics. Improvements along Coastal Highway between Nassau and Dewey Beach have created a safer environment for cyclists and walkers.
Sidewalks have been installed along the highway from Nassau to Dewey Beach; new, signaled crosswalks decrease the need for cyclists and walkers to play Russian roulette when trying to get across the main stream of our major traffic river; and overhead lighting at major intersections has enhanced visibility, so drivers can see walkers and cyclists. Local legislators have been at the forefront of those improvements.
Still, we can't assume these improvements will automatically reduce crashes. The impact on Route 1 traffic flow from the new signalized crosswalks is a major uncertainty. They will provide the needed breaks, but will they also increase drivers' impatience to the point of potentially deadly decisions? DelDOT typically places large electronic message boards informing drivers of new traffic patterns and letting drivers know they have arrived and it's time to slow down. Safety success will also depend on walkers and cyclists using designated crosswalks and following the rules of the road. Just this week, a cyclist was charged after riding into the path of a northbound motorist at the Route 1 and Dartmouth Drive intersection. Police say the cyclist wasn't riding where cyclists are supposed to ride and failed to use proper hand signals. All the improvements in the world won't work if drivers, walkers and cyclists don't observe the rules and take advantage of what's been provided to make their travels safer.
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