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Bike safety comes to the boardwalk

Delaware Online: Bike safety comes to the boardwalk

Delaware Greenways conducts workshop to talk about Rehoboth's options

Nov. 20, 2011 

Written by
MOLLY MURRAY
The News Journal

Their day at the beach complete, Cindy Lovett and her husband strapped on their backpack chairs, climbed on their bikes and headed home along Lake Avenue in Rehoboth Beach.

All of a sudden, a car door opened, caught the edge of Lovett's beach chair and sent her flying off her bike and onto the pavement.

"I didn't see him, and he didn't see me," she said of the vehicle's driver. "I was very fortunate. ... I was fine."

In any given year, there are dozens of incidents involving cyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicles in Rehoboth Beach.

"Thank goodness, none of them are serious," said Jeff Greene, a transportation planner with Delaware Greenways.

The organization is working with Rehoboth officials to improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety, figure out ways to link existing multiuse trails for city users and encourage biking and walking in Rehoboth to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The city received $100,000 from the Delaware Greenhouse Gas Reduction program to develop a pedestrian and bicycle master plan, replace 105 pedestrian traffic signals along Rehoboth Avenue and develop a brochure to explain the project.

Delaware Greenways, which is working with the city to write the master plan, held a workshop Saturday designed to get city officials, stakeholders and residents to think about the problems they see with pedestrian and bicycle access, connectivity and safety.

Greene started the workshop by sharing some statistics.

From 2002 to Aug. 31 of this year, there were 561 vehicle crashes in Rehoboth Beach. Of those, 14 involved pedestrians, and 38 involved bikes. The majority occurred in the downtown business district, Greene said.

When he looked at the data more closely, "it was clear to me that somebody was careless."

Preston Littleton, chairman of the city planning commission, said he believes there are three types of cyclists in the city: those who log 100 miles or so in a day; those who are purposeful and use their bikes to shop, get to the beach or commute; and those he described as "wanderers" who may be visiting the community for the first time or may have little cycling experience.

"This is the one you've got to really figure out," he said.

For the serious cyclist, one key may be figuring out the best way to make connections between the Junction & Breakwater Trail and a proposed new trail that would link Gordons Pond with the main section of Cape Henlopen State Park, Littleton said.

Lovett, a member of the city's transportation committee, said that for the wanderer, better education on safety and bike routes is important.

Visitors often "don't know where they are going. They don't know what they are doing," she said.

Lovett said one reason so many people may ride bikes in Rehoboth is because it's so flat -- an advantage they may not have at home.

The group of about 40 people brainstormed to identify problems -- including places in the city where they felt unsafe riding a bike -- during the hour-and-a-half workshop Saturday at Rehoboth's Convention Hall.

Among the issues the group identified were finding an alternative bike route into Rehoboth other than busy Rehoboth Avenue, making better connections with existing trails and finding a way to better educate residents and visitors about pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

Mark Chura, executive director of Delaware Greenways, said the timing of the Rehoboth study fits perfectly with Gov. Jack Markell's initiative to create new trails and make improvements to existing ones throughout the state.

An extension of the Gordons Pond trail, the existing Junction & Breakwater Trail and a proposal to build a new trail along the railroad right of way from Lewes to Georgetown would result in some 30 miles of pedestrian and bike trails in the area, he said.