In an ongoing effort to educate cyclists about safety and the rules of the road, the Ocean View Police Department held a bicycle safety checkpoint Thursday, July 9, between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Route 26 in Ocean View.
Members of the OVPD, representatives of the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDoT), University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Millville Volunteers and volunteers from the Quiet Resorts International Student Committee teamed up to provide bike safety inspections and distribute safety equipment and information.
“The nighttime checkpoint is designed to target international students traveling the Route 26 corridor,” explained OVPD Chief Ken McLaughlin. “Many of the international students reside in Ocean View and Millville and work at the beach.”
McLaughlin said Ocean View police have, in the past, documented as many as 130 bicyclists traveling on Route 26 in Ocean View between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
“These seasonal workers leave their place of employment later in the evening and ride bikes home,” he said.
McLaughlin noted that, in addition to the obvious public safety concerns addressed by the checkpoints, police are given the opportunity to interact with the international students in a very positive way.
“Our goal is for these kids to have a fun, safe summer and to leave here with a better understanding of what it means to be an American,” he said.
In addition to the checkpoint, OVPD is stepping up enforcement of all regulations regarding bicycles, McLaughlin added. All cyclists in Delaware are required to follow the same laws as motorists, including stopping at stop signs and yielding to pedestrians and to vehicular traffic with the right-of-way.
South Bethany looking at stronger enforcement of cycling laws
The Ocean View effort got the attention of some South Bethany residents, who discussed the checkpoint – and the town’s own problems with bicycle safety, particularly regarding child cyclists – at South Bethany’s July 10 council meeting.
South Bethany officials acknowledged that the town can’t add reminders about helmet use and traffic regulations to heavily-cycled Route 1, which is state-controlled and has in the past seen the town asked by state officials to remove signs it had put up. But there was some interest in better enforcement.
“If the police see kids without their helmets on, they’ll stop them,” emphasized South Bethany Mayor Gary Jayne.
But the one South Bethany enforcement official who may be most likely to see infractions can’t issue citations. The town’s parking enforcement officer isn’t a full-fledged police officer and can’t enforce traffic law.
Still, Councilwoman Diane Matera recommended getting serious about enforcement, and maybe generating some revenue along the way.
“I recommend we enforce this strongly,” she said. “It’s a way for us to make some money off the tourists.”
In the past, the town has avoided major campaigns on the subject, citing the high turnover rate for summer visitors, who are frequently in the town for just a week or two out of the year.
“It’s kind of like putting your finger in the dam,” said SBPD Lt. Linda O’Malley,” because we have a different group of people every week.”
O’Malley said she’d forward the idea to SBPD Chief Joe Deloach, though.
Councilman Timothy Saxton said he, too, supported stronger enforcement efforts.
“Whether we issue tickets or not is irrelevant,” he said, suggesting some kind of officer action be taken when violations are spotted. “If we do it enough, if we do it year in and year out, the word will spread.”
Cyclists reminded to follow the law
Leading up to the OVPD checkpoint McLaughlin reminded all cyclists to:
• Use hand signals.
• Always ride in the same direction as traffic, even when riding in a bicycle lane.
• Use proper safety equipment. (Anyone younger than 18 is required by law to wear an approved helmet, by state law; and any guardian who fails to cause his child to wear a bicycle helmet can be fined $25 for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense.)
• Obey all traffic signals.
• Ensure any headphones do not cover both ears.
• Don’t drink and ride.
State law also requires cyclists to:
• Ride no more than two abreast only within a single lane and when not impeding the normal and reasonable movement of roadway traffic.
• Not carry more passengers than the bicycle was designed to carry, except an adult rider may carry a child securely attached in a back pack or sling.
• When riding at night, equip their bicycle with a front, white light visible for at least 500 feet and with reflective material visible from both sides for at least 600 feet.
• Fit their bicycle with a rear, red reflector visible for at least 600 feet.