Roadway safety critical at this time of year

With summer having arrived, traffic in coastal Delaware has spiked. While travelers use various modes of transportation to get from Point A to Point B, the Ocean View Police Department is reminding the public to always use caution.

“With all the building, the year-round traffic is even getting heavier. But the summer — Memorial Day weekend is usually our first little tease as how bad it’s going to be,” said OVPD Sgt. Rhys Bradshaw. “Memorial Day weekend, I couldn’t make a left-hand turn on Atlantic Avenue because traffic was so thick.”

With that in mind, Ocean View officers want residents and visitors to be as safe as possible.

Bicycle safety

After a fatal bike accident on Memorial Day weekend that remains under investigation, OVPD officers emphasized that it is important for motorists and bicyclists to be extra-alert while traversing the roads.

“When possible, wear bright clothes,” said OVPD OFC AnnMarie Dalton, who heads the department’s bike-patrol program. “Make sure that you have a front light and a back light and rear reflector. The front light should be visible from a distance of at least 500 feet.”

Cyclists who don’t have a bicycle light may stop by the Bethany Beach Police Department adjacent to Bethany Beach Town Hall for a free lamp.

“I’ve stopped people before for not having lights,” said Dalton. “That’s the biggest thing, more or less because of safety. There are so many times where I’ve seen kids with no lights at all, and they’re riding on these dark roads. It scares me. I try to keep lights in my truck to give to them.”

“Especially at this time of year, we have a lot of foreign exchange students. We’re not looking to write tickets — we like to stop them, inspect their bikes and give them lights if they don’t have them,” Bradshaw added.

While the law only requires cyclists younger than 18 to wear a helmet while on the road, Bradshaw said he strongly recommends all cyclists don headgear, no matter their age.

Those who own helmets but are unsure of the proper fit may visit the OVPD for an inspection.

“The biggest thing with the helmets — the strap can’t just be loose-hanging, because then it could fall off,” said Dalton. “You want it to fit perfectly tight around your head. You should have a little bit of space [between the strap and your chin] but not a lot — maybe two fingers.”

Cyclists using correct hand signals is also critical. Hand signals must be given no fewer than 100 feet before a turn. Cyclists also need to remember to travel with the flow of traffic, not against it.

“There’s no reason for you to be riding against the flow of traffic,” said Dalton. “Signs go with the flow of traffic. If they’re on the opposite side of the road, they’re not going to be able to see the traffic signs.”

“Bicyclists have to obey all traffic laws. You have to stop at stop signs. You have to stop at red lights, yield — all that,” added Bradshaw.

And it is illegal in most municipalities, including Bethany Beach and Ocean View, to ride bicycles on the sidewalk.

“We’ve had people walking on sidewalks get hit by bicyclists,” said Bradshaw. “It can really hurt someone. The sidewalks are meant to keep pedestrians safe from bikes and cars.”

“If there is not a bike lane, they should be using the roadway,” said Dalton. “In each designated lane, they should be in the right third of that lane. Stay as close to the shoulder as possible. When a cyclist is riding, the road is broken up into three quadrants — right, middle and left.

“When you’re trying to go straight or make a turn, technically you’re supposed to be in the left portion of that left lane, but I always say stay in the middle, because people can kind of push you off the road.”

Even if a cyclist is traveling legally on a sidewalk, they are still required to yield to pedestrians. If they intend to pass a pedestrian, they must give an audible signal, such as a bell ring or whistle, before doing so.

It is also illegal for cyclists to travel with headphones covering both ears, as it can prevent them from being tuned in to their surroundings.

Cyclists are allowed to park their bikes on a sidewalk, as long as it doesn’t prohibit or restrict the flow of traffic.

A bicycle may not carry more people than what it was designed for, with the exception of a child carrier. Riders should not transport others via pegs, handlebars, et cetera.

“If you’re going to ride with kids, keep one adult in the front and one in the back. That way you have constant eyes on the kids,” added Dalton.

Dalton urges cyclists to be keenly aware of their surroundings.

“You have to be more aware riding a bicycle than you do driving a vehicle. You always have to remember you’re not paying attention for yourself but for every other driver,” she said. “When a vehicle is slowing down, maybe there’s a reason for that, so consider slowing down as well.

“Be aware of what’s going on around you. There’s always that chance the vehicle ahead isn’t going to use their turn signal, they whip that right and you’re coming up the bike lane…”

Pedestrian safety

Pedestrians should always walk against traffic and wear brightly colored clothes, Dalton advised.

“If there is a sidewalk, please use the sidewalk and not the road. Carry a light at night,” advised Dalton. (In fact, Delaware state law requires all pedestrians walking outside municipal limits at night to carry a light or reflective item.) “Be very cognizant of traffic — especially turning vehicles.

“Same with runners,” added Bradshaw, noting there is sidewalk all down Route 26 now, from Millville through Bethany Beach. “Runners like to run with their headphones on, but they should always try to keep one ear open.”

If possible, pedestrians should use the buddy system and walk with someone.

Pedestrians must, by law, cross roadways at designated crosswalks. Bradshaw said there are crosswalks at all major intersections on Atlantic Avenue (Route 26).

“It’s very dangerous to be crossing in the summertime where there is no designated crosswalk,” said Dalton.

When crossing a roadway, they advised, pedestrians should be cautious and use common sense.

“Vehicles have to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. That being said, pedestrians have to safely check the roadway to make sure it is safe for them to cross,” said Bradshaw. “They can’t just walk into the middle of traffic and expect a car that’s 20 feet away to slam on their brakes and stop.”

Delaware law states that pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway when they are crossing outside of a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

Moped safety

Any low-powered, motorized bicycle tagged as a moped, or “MP,” must be operated in the bicycle lane, even if it has a license plate.

Moped drivers must have a valid driver’s license in order to operate the vehicle. While no helmet is required to be worn by moped drivers unless the person is younger than 16, Bradshaw emphasized the importance of wearing a helmet for safety.

Additional summer safety tips

With temperatures on the rise, everyone should remember to drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen.

Those who go swimming in the ocean should stay near a lifeguard stand and not go too far out.

“The surf and riptides can be very hazardous if you’re not used to swimming in the ocean,” said Bradshaw.

Those who frequent pools should be cognizant of small children and make sure they do not run while around the pool deck.

Skateboarders and those who roller-skate should wear all proper safety equipment. Tricks or stunts should not be attempted on public streets or sidewalks.

And while Bradshaw said he knows it is sometimes unavoidable, he recommends cyclists stay off of Route 26.

“Try your best to stay off of Atlantic Avenue. I know sometimes that’s hard, but that road is our main road — and same thing through Bethany — and is extremely congested.”

“We know there are designated areas for bicycles, but it’s just so busy,” added Dalton.

No matter what the mode of transportation is this summer, people should also remember to leave plenty of time to get where they need to go and be aware of those who are traveling around them.

“Take your time, and leave plenty of time to get there,” added Bradshaw. “The beach isn’t going anywhere. It’ll be there when you get there.”

For more information regarding bicycle or pedestrian traffic safety, contact the Ocean View Police Department at (302) 539-1111.

By Maria Counts
Staff Reporter