• Rebuttal

    by  • January 25, 2006 • Injuries and Fatalities, Safety, Traffic Control • 0 Comments

    Note: Our responses to the letter are in Italics

    The Delaware Department of transportation’s planned Third Lane construction project on Route 1 between Five Points and Route 24 has recently generated a good amount of negative comments from some cyclists. In addition, some have taken the discussion a step further stating incorrectly that DelDOT has failed to address the needs of cyclists statewide.

    This seems like a tactic to avoid the real issue which is only Route 1.

    I’d like to shed some light on just exactly what DelDOT plans to do for cyclists during the construction of the Third Lane. and how the agency works with cyclists in general. First, however it must be pointed out that unless noted or signed otherwise all state-maintained roadways in Delaware, Including Route 1 through the Beach Area are legal bikeways. Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists and we try our best to accommodate them as part of each project that we do.

    Right and since these are legal bikeways the needs of cyclists deserved to be accommodated.

    The term “Third Lane Project” is a bit misleading. In 2005 DelDOT deleted a 3/4 mile stretch of southbound shoulder to create the third lane. This project will create a fourth lane that will be designated as special use, shared by bikes, buses and right turning vehicles.

    We will be asking FHWA to look into the deletion of the shoulder for non-compliance with Title 23 Section 109 (m)

    23109(m)Protection of Nonmotorized Transportation Traffic.— The Secretary shall not approve any project or take any regulatory action under this title that will result in the severance of an existing major route or have significant adverse impact on the safety for nonmotorized transportation traffic and light motorcycles, unless such project or regulatory action provides for a reasonable alternate route or such a route exists.

    In addressing DelDOT’s commitment to cyclists some of our efforts include:

    · Partnering with other businesses to give out thousands of free helmets and safety equipment each year;

    · Distributing cycling safety brochures in several languages to businesses and others;

    Great! Bike Education is sorely needed everywhere in the state.

    · Creation of a first ever statewide Bicycle Facilities Master Plan, which identifies roadways statewide that could have bicycle lanes incorporated into future improvements;

    Could? How effective is a plan if the if the agency is already giving itself lots of wiggle room? Besides bike lanes are only one tool to aid bicyclists travel along and across a corridor. How about “DelDOT shall safely address the needs of all road users including bicyclists in all future improvements”.

    DelDOT should be taking a complete streets approach to each and every project.

    · Serving as technical staff to the Delaware Bicycle Council; This includes providing information and

    Planning is well represented at Bicycle Council meetings, but where is engineering?

    · answering questions about ongoing DelDOT activities and projects, and bring issues to the attention of the Council for its review and comment .

    Oops? This one has to be worked on. The Bicycle Council should have played a role in the design of this project. Instead they were faced with tough last minute choices after the contract was put up for bid.

    · Creation this year of the Adopt-A-Bike-path program
    A Good first step. For the first time someone is thinking about keeping the paths clean. But Adopt-A-Path does not resolve the most basic maintenance problems of these aging facilities. For example Route 72 outside Newark was repaved a couple of years back, but its crumbling sidepath was ignored much to the ire of bicycle commuters who rely on it every day.

    · The installation of bicycle racks on all DART buses statewide.
    Great! Perhaps the biggest improvement for cyclists in recent memory.

    We do much more but of course we’d like to do more still. The reality we face are budgetary and manpower constraints and balancing the needs of the motoring public with public transportation, pedestrians and cyclists.

    While this list of wondrous things done by the Department for bicyclists is greatly appreciated, not one of them has ANY guaranteed impact on a single inch of Delaware roads

    While cyclists have the same rights to the roadways as motorists, we remain hesitant about encouraging bicycling along Route 1 . The reason is simple: it’s unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians due to heavy traffic volume and the propensity for motorists to pay little attention to cyclists and pedestrians.

    This statement sounds like an abdication of responsibility. So much for the bike plan, which designates Route 1 as bicycle route.

    Having said that, we realize cyclists will continue to utilize Route 1, so we have done our best to provide education in a variety of ways.

    Here’s what we are doing or planning to do before and during the Route 1 construction project:

    · Through a major public outreach effort, reach motorists, visiting students that work in the area, businesses, cyclists organizations and residents. Information will be provided about project details, timelines and bicycle and motorist education.

    · Through other media, attempt to educate the motoring and cycling public about the project.

    · Look into the placement of innovative symbols for new bicycle pavement markers from Five Points to Rehoboth canal.

    Note: The Bicycle symbols were a last minute recommendation from the Bicycle Council. The original plan called for no bicycle pavement markings, which is out of compliance with the MUTCD.

    · Look into modifying the striping between the travel lane and the shared use lane to make it clear that the shared use lane is not a travel lane.

    Again the original striping plan called for a dashed line. The special use lane will be as narrow as 10 feet wide. Not much wider than a typical transit bus.

    · Look into additional cyclist-specific signage from Five Points to Route 24.

    · Provide cyclists a safer way to transport their bicycles and themselves through the work zone.

    Which will probably have to be a shuttle. It needs to be very frequent to be effective or cyclists are going to run the gauntlet. We would also like to see a signed bicycle detour along Plantations Road 1/2 mile west of Route 1. This road will likely be choked in traffic.

    · Plan to have bicycle pit stops outside the construction areas providing Free helmets and educational materials.

    · Plans call for 27 new ”Right Lane Buses Bikes & Right Turn Only” and ”Bike Wrong Way” signs to encourage cyclists to ride with traffic. There’s also been several points presented in various letters abut the Third Lane project related to cycling.

    Regarding bicycle traffic counts concluded by a Philadelphia bicycle advocate, he fails to mention that the counts were made from a traffic camera located two miles south of the Third Lane project limits. Regardless, we acknowledge there is still a large amount of bicycle traffic.

    DelDOT fails to mention that the entire corridor from Five Points to the Canal will be repaved and restriped to match the configuration in the third lane project. So it is very relevent.

    A proposal by the same Philadelphia advocate to narrow the lanes and reduce the speed limit to 35 mph to allow bicycle lane is unacceptable for a principal roadway (average daily traffic in the summer is approximately 60,000) like Route 1.

    Traffic speed studies indicate that average speeds along some of that roomy reach 55 mph and lowering it would only cause more congestion and crashes.

    This is an arguable premise. For all the the traffic studies DelDot has on its shelf saying one thing there are just as many saying slower speeds reduce crashes and improve flow (less space needed between vehicles) and there are plenty of examples of multilane roads carrying large volumes of traffic at posted speeds of 35 mph or even lower.

    On the topic of state owned property along Route 1, there is little room for expansion While it would have been possible 20 years ago to add a dedicated bicycle lane on route 1, it is not now. DelDOT simply doesn’t have the tens of millions of dollars needed to undertake the massive Right of Way purchase such a project would require, Along the same lines, the idea of sacrificing bus lanes for bicycle lanes is not a logical choice given that thousands of bus riders rely on that service every day, and results in fewer vehicles on one of the more congested roadways in the state.

    There is no need to purchase right of way or give up the bus lane if the road is striped as urban arterial with narrower lanes at reduced speeds. More than anything else reducing speed is the number one element that can significantly improve the safety of the road.

    The same Philadelphia advocate lists two crashes and one fatality that he insinuates are the result of DelDOT engineering. While we in no way want to minimize the seriousness of these issues we also won’t sit bad and be blamed for deaths and serious injuries. The fatality pointed to was the result of an inattentive motorist talking on a cell phone and subsequently hitting the cyclist at night. The other two crashes were caused by a dangerous lane change and a hit and run where the motorist was eventually caught.

    What? Certainly no one is holding DelDOT culpable for the errors of the motorists and the victims.

    Route 1 is a legacy design that fails to address the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians and by DelDOT’s own admission puts them at risk.

    The 22 y.o. female who was fatally injured was killed in a high speed right turn lane. These facilities are particularly hazardous for bicyclists as collisions with right turning vehicles are one of the most common type of bicycle-motor vehicle crashes.

    The 19 y.o. male who sustained severe head injuries was crossing highway illegally. There are no legal crossings for pedestrians. For a bicyclists to cross legally requires a merge across three high speed lanes to access the left turn lane. A skill that is only performed by the most advanced cyclists.

    As we move forward, we will continue to discuss project details with cyclists and all others affected by the Third Lane Project. We are willing to discuss anything and everything but we realize that pleasing everyone will not be possible.

    The Third Lane Project has been on the books for years and during construction it will be difficult on motorists. businesses, tourists, cyclists and residents. It is time to move forward, not back. As it is now, the configuration is less than ideal, The new design will be better for all.

    If anyone would like to discuss these topics, feel free to call DelDOT Public relations at 302-760-2080, Thanks for hearing us out,

    Darrel Cole,
    Director Public Relations
    Delaware Department of Transportation

    Its time to think forward with a vision for a safer and more attractive Route 1 that accommodates the needs of motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders and persons with disabilities. The lack of a vision guarantees a future of more blight, pollution and noise. Which are exactly the reasons why people escape to the beach in the first place.

    One only has to continue 4 miles south to Dewey Beach where the town and DelDOT have done great things to tame and beautify Route 1, with only two lanes in each direction. Route 1 is a complete street with sidewalks, well marked crosswalks, pedestrian refuges and bike lanes. Dewey Beach’s throughway has become their main street. And yet people can still get to Bethany Beach.

    A study by the North Carolina Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation determined that bicycle tourism in the Outer Banks provides 1400 jobs and yields $60 million dollars in return every year. Much of this is a result of a meager $6.7 million dollars in investment in bicycle facilities. Given the hundreds of bicycle commuters in Lewes and Rehoboth the true impact of bicycling at the Delaware beaches is probably much greater than that with a much lesser investment.

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