Annual Ocean View bike safety checkpoint set for July 12

The 7th Annual Ocean View Bicycle Safety Checkpoint will take place on Thursday, July 12, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Taylor Bank in Ocean View.

“We started a number of years ago, and that was in response to a number of bike-related accidents that happened in Ocean View and the surrounding areas,” explained Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin. “We had started to see a big increase in the number of foreign students in the area, and their primary means of transportation was bicycles.”

McLaughlin said that the road conditions in many parts of the area are not conducive to bike travel, and numerous accidents have occurred in the past.

“We have a large number of people, in our case, traveling the roads at night. Route 26 is in absolute terrible condition. It’s unsafe for bicycle use. It’s a dangerous situation. We have a roadway with a high volume of traffic; it doesn’t have appropriate shoulders. Then we’ve got foreign students who may not have the appropriate lights on their bikes. It’s dark in a lot of areas… It’s just dangerous. All those factors combined are really a recipe for disaster.”

The Ocean View Police Department partners with the Delaware Department of Transportation, the University of Delaware and the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce to hold the summertime checkpoints.

“We always have incidents every year, and we would like to see those drastically go down,” said Carrie Subity, executive director of the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce. “And, hopefully, we’re making an impact by doing the bike safety checkpoints, as well as the foreign kids’ orientation and bike safety training.”

McLaughlin said that Ocean View holds the only nighttime bike safety checkpoint in the state of Delaware, and he said it will continue to do so because of the large amount of bike traffic at night.

“We did it because that’s when the accidents were occurring,” he said of the nighttime event. “The collisions were occurring at night. On July 30, 2006, when we had our first checkpoint, we had, between the hours of 10 at night and 2 in the morning, 130 bicyclists pass through the checkpoint — 130 in four hours… It’s unbelievable if you’re not out there to see it yourself. That’s a lot of bike traffic. It’s all in that short window of time when people are getting off of work down in Bethany.”

During the checkpoints, McLaughlin said bikes are stopped and inspected, and safety items, including lights, reflectors and helmets, are given out free of charge.

“A safety inspection is done on the bike. Lights are provided for all the bikes that don’t have lights. We fix brakes, put air in tires. Reflectors and bike helmets are provided to the students. And bike safety literature that is printed in several different languages is provided to the students.”

“I think it’s really important, and I think it’s a huge help,” added Subity of the checkpoints. “A lot of folks don’t know Delaware laws and some of the important safety rules that have to do with riding a bike. With our visitors who are sometimes coming here for the first time, motorists aren’t always keeping an eye out for cyclists or pedestrians or runners. So it’s really important for the folks that are on their bike to be sure they are doing everything they can to be safe, like wearing light-colored clothes and having their lights on — things like that, which the checkpoints all cover.”

He added that the officers who run the checkpoint try to show those who attend how dangerous it can be to ride a bike without reflectors or a light.

“Then we’ll shine a flashlight on them, and say, ‘Look — there you are. That’s you. That’s what you look like to a car when you don’t have a light on.’”

McLaughlin said that the majority of those who go through the checkpoints are foreign student-workers.

“The majority of the traffic — 95 percent of the bike traffic we encounter during our checkpoint is comprised of foreign students — with the 5 percent being local folks. But the vast, vast majority are the foreign students.”

McLaughlin said the number of bike-related traffic accidents have decreased over the years, but there is still work to be done.

“The efforts that folks like Carrie Subity and people in ResortQuest have invested in hosting the seminars has paid off big-time. Over the years, it has gotten better, but I attribute that primarily to the success of the Quiet Resorts International Student Committee,” he said. “All the efforts combined really help to make things safer.

“With all that being said,” he added, “we still have folks coming through that aren’t using lights, that aren’t using the proper safety equipment, and those are the ones that we’re targeting in these checkpoints.”

Subity said the Chamber has taken a special interest in the foreign students because of what they bring to the local community.

“I think they help keep our summer season a positive one here,” she said of the students. “By them being here and working these jobs, they help our economy and help our local business owners thrive when we are at our busiest.”

McLaughlin added that he hoped that residents and visitors alike will visit the checkpoint and get that added knowledge of bike safety that will help keep them safe on the road.

“It’s dangerous out there,” said McLaughlin. “And, for these kids, it’s their only mode of transportation and they’re forced to be out there. This is just an attempt to make it a little bit safer.”

“If anybody is out on the road during the checkpoint, definitely stop by and make sure everything is running as it should be and just be safe out there on the roads,” added Subity.