Keep safety in mind when traveling by car, bike or foot

With the summer season in full swing, it is important to take the time to be extra cautious when traveling on area roads, for the safety of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists alike.

After a number of crashes in the area last year involving cyclists and pedestrians, at least one such accident has already been added to the tally for 2014.

On Saturday, June 21, around 10 a.m., a 55-year-old Wilmington man was bicycling southbound in the bicycle lane of Route 1, just north of Sunrise Court, while Dawn L. Davis, 42, of Georgetown, was driving her car southbound on Route 1, just north of Sunrise Court, preparing to make a right turn.

As the car began making the right turn, Davis failed to see the bicyclist and struck him on the left side with the front right bumper of her car.

Davis was uninjured in the collision and was cited for inattentive driving. The cyclist, who was wearing a helmet and reflective clothing, was transported to Beebe Healthcare in Lewes, where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries and released.

That Wilmington man was lucky when compared to some of last year’s accident victims, as several of them died. So, this season, officials are emphasizing the importance of attentive driving and knowing the rules of the road.

“If we see a pedestrian violating pedestrian laws, we’ll stop them, bring it to their attention, and give them a pedestrian flashlight,” said Fenwick Island Police Chief William Boyden, referencing state law that requires pedestrians to carry an illuminated flashlight when walking along roadways at night.

“We try not to make it hard for the bicyclists; we’d rather educate them. When you have someone on vacation here, riding their bicycle for morning exercise, and they blow through a stop sign, we’d rather stop them and bring it to their attention than issue a ticket.”

Every year, the Fenwick Island Police Department works in conjunction with the Office of Highway Safety and Delaware Bicycle Safety Council to hold a bicycle safety checkpoint in town. This year, the checkpoint will be held on July 15, from 8 to 11 a.m.

“This is probably our fifth year. We’ll have a pavilion set up where we’ll be handing out brochures, helmets. Sometimes they hand out reflective armbands, flashlights.”

Boyden said the checkpoints are always held in the summer months, in an effort to try to educate as many people as possible regarding how to safely traverse the area’s roadways.

“Our biggest problem is just pedestrians and bicyclists not following the rules. It’s a big problem with the foreign students, because the rules in Europe and former Soviet republics are totally different than they are in the United States,” he explained. “On Coastal Highway and on Bunting Avenue, there are markings clearly on the roadway telling pedestrians where to walk and markings clearly showing bicycles where to ride.

“That’s one of our biggest problems — the bicyclists going on the wrong side of the road and the pedestrians walking wherever they want to. They just walk right out. They don’t use crosswalks. We have some people who have had a few things to drink and decided, instead of driving, which we appreciate, they will walk out into the roadway.”

Boyden also recommends that those out on the roads during the evening hours wear bright-colored clothing, avoiding black or brown.

“It’s education,” said Boyden of the checkpoints, which can draw a couple hundred people. “They’ve been very successful.”

Bethany Beach resident Bob Parsons, who is a certified instructor for the League of American Bicyclists, assists with a bicycle safety course for Sea Colony employees. Parsons also loans out bicycles of his own to foreign students through Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church’s Assist Bike Commuters Program.

Last year, the program loaned out 93 bicycles, and it has loaned out more than already 70 this year. In order to use one of the program’s bikes for the summer season, Parsons noted, taking his bicycle safety course is mandatory.

“Last year, one boy and three girls refused to take my course. They said they didn’t need to because they’ve ridden bicycles all their lives,” he recalled. “There’s no guarantee that if you’ve been riding all your life, that you’ve been riding safely.”

During his course, Parsons reviews Delaware law and the rules of the road for bicycles.

“Under Delaware law, bikes are treated just like vehicles,” he said. “I made up this poem, ‘Ride on the right, use your lights at night, lock ’em up tight.’ If you follow those, it really cuts down on the accident exposure.”

Parsons added that it’s important to be predictable and conspicuous when traveling on a bike.

“Those two together can help keep people from getting hurt.”

Parsons noted that a simple way employers can help keep their employees safe on their bikes is by purchasing a small air compressor and extension cord, to ensure bike tires are properly inflated or can be replaced on-site.

During the courses, bicyclists are also instructed as to what back roads are advisable to travel on, appropriate footwear, “Don’t go barefoot. Don’t wear flip-flops,” and more.

Other topics covered include how to communicate with drivers and how to properly signal and turn.

‘We’ll even teach them how to ride, if they want to learn,” he added.

As for bicyclists wanting to cross the road when not being at a proper intersection, Parsons said he understands the desire to go, but reminds travelers that it’s illegal.

“It’s illegal and unsafe,” he said. “If they don’t want to wait, I understand, but you just have to wait.”

Parsons added that he was thankful for the community support the program has received.

“For my bicycle program, I’ve been very fortunate to work with the State. The Town of Bethany gives varying levels of support to the program that I operate,” he noted. “There are a couple of people who live here who have volunteered to subsidize helmets. A couple bought lights.”

He added that he’s grateful to Mariner’s, which provides him space and small budget, along with Bethany Bike Shop.

“They have been very good about teaching me how to do things. I get a preferred-customer price on the parts that I buy,” he said. “It’s really nice that we have people who are willing to donate, and we would be very willing to accept more donations.”