Late Friday evening, June 6, and into the wee hours of Saturday morning, the Ocean View Police Department (OVPD), members of the department’s Civilian Auxiliary Patrol, and representatives from the University of Delaware and DelDOT held the first of two summer bicycle safety checkpoints along Route 26.
Some 60 cyclists — mainly foreign students — passed through rigorous safety inspections conducted by the OVPD and its cooperating groups, and were outfitted with the proper lights, reflectors and brake pads if their bicycles were not up to par.
And though the number of cyclists passing through the checkpoint had decreased from 138 during this point last year, ultimately, it was deemed a success in the name of safety.
“It was a little slow,” OVPD Chief Kenneth McLaughlin said. “A little slower than last year, but we did have 60 bikes go through our bike safety inspection. And any bike that was deficient in lights, reflectors or brake pads, then we installed them.
“And, all in all, we think that the public will notice the difference in the evening hours,” he continued. “I know I have, and I know all the guys [OVPD officers] in the field have said that the lights are being used. And that is a sign of improvement.”
In addition to putting the students’ bicycles to a rigorous inspection, the OVPD and its cooperating partners handed out bike safety literature printed in half a dozen different languages, to ensure there is a complete understanding of the area’s traffic laws and the proper procedures for riding alongside traffic.
Thus far this summer, two Russian students have been involved in accidents because they failed to properly yield to traffic and were riding east-bound in the west-bound lane. The OVPD hopes that this initiative will make the foreign students better aware of what is expected of them on the roadways — primarily heavily-trafficked Route 26 — and ultimately will stem any unnecessary accidents.
The OVPD will conduct its second scheduled bike safety checkpoint later this month. After that, they’ll begin an aggressive enforcement policy geared towards non-compliance with the proper bike safety. McLaughlin stated that the goal of the enforcement policy “wasn’t to write a bunch of tickets but was to generate voluntary compliance.”
“By the end of July we’ll be done going out [conducting safety checkpoints] and everyone will have had a fair warning,” he stated. “We’ve given out free equipment and educational material and will have gone to great lengths to get the word out. So our enforcement policy will target those who refuse to comply.
“Unfortunately, in every circle [of people] there are those who refuse to comply,” McLaughlin said.
University of Delaware Bike Safety Coordinator Mike Love noted that “word would get around” and that the numbers of bicyclists would increase at the next checkpoint. But, in the meantime, he noted that the first checkpoint was “worthwhile and that the result would be noticeable.”
Last summer, the OVPD and its cooperating partners installed safety equipment on 210 bicycles during their checkpoints.