Rep. Schwartzkopf: Improving Safety Along Route 1 at our Beaches

 

We have seen many changes to the Route 1 corridor in the past few years. We are fortunate that our communities are a destination for millions of visitors each year, but those visitors also create challenges for us. The most obvious is the increase in traffic as we are no longer a secret to the outside world. Since my time as Delaware State Police Troop 7 commander, I have seen the steady increase of traffic along Route 1, and what that’s meant for people walking and biking along the road. The increased traffic not only brings congestion but an increased danger for pedestrians and cyclists traveling along a very busy Route 1.

Three years ago, I chaired a Route 1 Pedestrian Safety Task Force that spent months examining the busy highway from Five Points to Dewey Beach town limits, discussing various improvements with stakeholders. I’m proud to say that our group’s work has produced some very real results. We were able to build six miles of continuous five-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides of the road running from Nassau Bridge to the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal Bridge. Obviously, getting pedestrians off of the road was a top priority, but the sidewalks can accommodate bicyclists also. It is perfectly legal and I have been encouraging bicyclists, especially the kids trying to go back and forth to work, to get on the sidewalks and ride either direction they need to go. Bicyclists on a sidewalk do not have to follow the rules of the road as a car does, but they do need to yield the right of way to pedestrians.

I also want to stress that motorists use caution when entering and exiting from parking lots along Route 1. With more people using the new sidewalks, that means there will be people walking or riding across entrances into some of the many stores and shopping centers along the highway.

Drivers, look both ways in anticipation that bicyclists will be riding in both directions.

Another recommendation of the committee was the installation of two new signalized crosswalks along Route 1 known as the High-intensity Activated Crosswalk, or the HAWK system. This crosswalk is only activated when a pedestrian approaches the signal and presses a button. That sends the signal through a series of stages requiring cars to slow down (flashing yellow), stop (solid red) and stop and proceed if clear (flashing red), allowing pedestrians to safely cross Route 1.

 DelDOT will be installing new signs that better explain that drivers must stop on a flashing red but then they may proceed through the flashing red if it is safe to do so. The HAWK systems have been in use for some time now and have been working pretty well.

 The last big change to Route 1 that I want to mention is the opening of the Fresh Market store next to the Holiday Inn. This is a very popular store and the increased traffic is causing some safety issues turning from Shuttle Road into the new store.

I went there and watched the traffic flow, and a large number of cars are coming southbound on Route 1 and turning by County Bank onto Shuttle Road and then trying to make a quick left turn into the Fresh Market. This is an easy fix. We need to be aware of the problem areas and avoid them if possible. In this case, drivers should continue southbound past Shuttle Road and use the entrance off Route 1 to access the Fresh Market store or any of the other stores on that site.

As a state trooper serving this community, I saw more than my share of serious pedestrian and bike accidents along Route 1. It’s been a top goal of mine to reduce those crashes as much as possible, and it’s my hope that with these improvements and some vigilance and safe driving, we will make our community that much safer for those of us who live here and for those who wish they lived here.