Resident takes on bike safety issues

Ocean View bicyclists, beware!

Special to the Coastal Point • George Walter  : This bike lane on Central Avenue abruptly ends, with an arrow implying the lane continues on. This is just one of several concerns for bicyclists in the area brought up by George Walter.Special to the Coastal Point • George Walter
This bike lane on Central Avenue abruptly ends, with an arrow implying the lane continues on. This is just one of several concerns for bicyclists in the area brought up by George Walter.

How would you feel about driving a car on a road designed by engineers who do not know how to drive and do not understand the rules of the road? The bicyclists face this situation every day in Ocean View. Such misunderstanding causes serious mistakes.

I was very surprised to see a photo in the Coastal Point of a new bike lane that had a bike logo painted at the very end of the bike lane. This is giving a bicyclist the impression the bike lane continues when in reality it abruptly ends.

I imagine the photographer realized that the marking is so impractical that it would be an interesting photo. A red flag of any design is when something does not look practical. If it is not practical, it is probably wrong. I realize that road-marking mistakes can be made, but this mistake has been made in the past many times by DelDOT and apparently is still being over looked and not corrected. Others and I have brought this to DelDOT’s attention years ago, and the incorrect bike logo and arrow markings continue.

It was over two years ago that I noticed this mistake at the intersection of Central Avenue and Woodland Avenue in Ocean View. The arrow of this bike lane marking actually extends beyond the bike lane and into the intersection on the northbound lane of Central Avenue south of Woodland Avenue.

Not only does this marking misguide the cyclist into believing the lane continues, but it is also leading the cyclist into the busiest, narrowest and most confined section of Central Avenue. There is not even a shoulder along Central Avenue after the bike lane ends. On the outside of the road is a rough turf, sometimes mud, bumps, holes and gravel that can take a bicyclist down in a second.

The cyclist has only seconds to merge over into the road. The merge has to take place in the intersection. Does the cyclist have time to look behind to his left to see if it is safe before swerving to the left? I think not — especially with the logo markings telling him the bike lane continues.

To make matters more dangerous, where bike lanes exist, motorists expect bicyclists to be to the right of the stripe. So the motorists will not expect the bicyclist to be merging. This can be a big surprise for a bicyclist leaving the Bear Trap development, as the bicyclist will be seeing the logo over and over, becoming confident that the markings are true.

Providing an inherently spotty bike lane network is a poor strategy that is inconsistent with the expectations of all road users. All lane markings should be predictable and never surprise the cyclist or motorist, let alone misguide them.

Another major concern with this type of bike lane marking and striping is that it makes it appear safe and encourages an amateur bicyclist to get out and ride. No study has ever shown this type of lane striping and marking makes it safer.

If a tourist is riding his bike from the Bear Trap development, it will appear as if there is a nice bike lane to the beach, but in reality it is leading him into some of the most dangerous situations I have ever seen. It can be argued that bicyclists should not be misled by bike lane stripes to feel safer than they actually are.

After bringing this dangerous situation to the attention of the Ocean View council at two different meetings, I realized I had to contact DelDOT myself. It has been over two years since I meet with DelDOT’s bike coordinator, Mr. Anthony Aglio, at this intersection. Anthony seemed surprised to see the markings and agreed it misled the bicyclist. He felt the existing condition needed to be corrected. We agreed the bike logo and arrow should be removed and a warning sign should be placed, informing bicyclists that the lane ends.

I suggested some diagonal striping inside the lane and also to make the stripe dotted, rather than solid, for a length of a hundred feet, to give fair warning. In fact, while we were at the intersection, we saw a close call of a couple bicyclists that appeared to be a grandfather and grandson riding into this intersection.

After a few weeks, I saw that DelDOT erected a small sign saying, “Bike Lane Ends,” but they did not remove the logo and arrow. I was not happy with the sign location so close to the end of bike lane and almost hidden by tree branches. It does not give enough warning for the bicyclist to prepare for his merge.

I contacted Anthony again and questioned when the bike logo would be removed. He informed me he was told DelDOT does not like to remove paint from the road, and the bike logo would stay.

I have contacted others at DelDOT and explained to them many bicyclists ride with their heads down for less wind resistance, looking at road conditions and looking for debris, just like the drawings and photos in DelDOT’s Bike Safety Brochure. I have asked and had Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin contact DelDOT about this dangerous situation. He told me he basically gets the same response I do.

I decided to take a ride and see if any other bike lanes had misleading markings painted. I only had to continue south on Central Avenue about a quarter of a mile to find another. Then I traveled east at Parker House Road and Hickory Street to find another dangerous marking. At this one, the painted arrow actually leads the bicyclists into a ditch within a few feet. At night, this area is very dark and the bicyclist will have no warning that the bike lane ends at a stormwater ditch. If the bicyclist is looking down during the day, he will have no warning.

If DelDOT would just leave the logos off at the end of the lanes, it would be much safer. If DelDOT painted “BIKE LANE ENDS 100’” at a hundred feet before the lane ends, that would help. If DelDOT painted diagonal lines 3 feet apart at the lane end, that would help. If DelDOT painted the lane line dashed for the last 50 feet, that would help.

The logo that tells the bicyclists the lane continues and the logo they see over and over during their ride along the bike lane is not the logo to paint at the end of the lane.

If you look at the total fatalities of bicyclists in Delaware, it may seem low. Do not let this fool you. The fatality count is low because of the low population. If you take the percentage of bicyclist fatalities according to population, Delaware is the most dangerous state in the country. (Source: Fatalities — Fatality Analysis Reporting System, NHTSA. Population — Bureau of the Census)

Bicyclists are considered vehicle operators; they are required to obey the same rules of the road as other vehicle operators, including obeying traffic signs, signals, and lane markings. Let’s not mislead them into dangerous situations by inaccurate markings.