• Letter from Secretary Wicks to State Legislators

    by  • August 22, 2006 • Legislation and Policy, Traffic Control, Transit • 0 Comments

    From:
    Carolann Wicks P.E.
    Secretary

    To:
    The Honorable George H. Bunting Jr.

    PO Box 1497
    Bethany Beach, DE

    The Honorable Peter C. Schwartzkopf
    24 Coventry Road
    Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971

    The Honorable F. Gary Simpson
    6 W. Clarke Avenue
    Milford DE 19963

    The Honorable David P. Sokola
    24 Beech Hill Drive
    Newark, DE 19711

    Dear Senators Bunting, Simpson, Sokola, and Representative Schwartzkopf:

    Thank You for your letter dated April 12, 2006, which included a copy of a list of comments and suggestions made by cycling advocates regarding the upcoming Third Lane Project on Route 1 and in turn the recently completed resurfacing project south of Route 24. I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. As you know we have been working to resolve or further review some of the issues you and others raised over the past several months through various meetings and correspondence. I hope this letter answers your questions and questions raised by the community.

    As you requested in your letter, I have looked into the possibility of barring buses from the right lane/shared use lane, on Route 1. While for reasons I state below that is not an option. We are however recommending a limited use of the right lane during non-peak travel times. More specifically DART First State buses will limit their use of the far right lanes pull over at designated bus stops on Monday through Thursday while continuing to share the lanes Friday through Sunday. In addition we will continue our policy of education our bus drivers about safety, namely being aware of cyclists and and pedestrians and following the speed limit. If at any time you or a resident witnesses a bus traveling at unsafe speeds I encourage you to immediately call 911.

    We could not entirely restrict buses from the right lane because it would create a hazardous condition for cyclists, bus drivers and motorists. During high traffic periods, buses weaving in and out of the lanes to get to bus stops would most likely increase the number of rear-end collisions with vehicles and pose an even greater hazard for cyclists In fact I am concerned that during heavy traffic times Monday through Friday, the buses will pull into the lane and not be able to return to the regular travel lanes due to traffic volumes. Aside from the significant safety issues, restricting buses from the right lane would result in performance time delays causing the need for more equipment and operators in order to offer the same frequency of service. Regardless, we will implement the above restriction in an attempt to compromise space needs for all the modes presently in the corridor

    Public Transportation is relied upon by its riders, helps keep vehicles off the roadways, reduces air pollution, and is one of the most economical ways to get somewhere fast. In 2005 in the beach area, DART First State provided 301,000 passenger trips, including 281,412 trips during the busy summer season. In Sussex County, transit ridership increased by 31.2%, an increase of 64,787 compared to 2004. We expect those numbers to climb in 2006, due to the high price of gasoline and ease of use.

    For background, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) makes a concerted effort to work with motorists, bus riders, pedestrians and cyclists as we put together projects in the Route 1 Corridor. We have done this through meetings and public workshops, many of which have been productive sessions resulting in solutions that have made our roadways safer for all. We have also done this through the very active Delaware Bicycle Council, and through a variety of outreach efforts that include teaming up with cycling advocates, businesses, legislators and law enforcement.

    Now I would like to explain what we are doing to address cyclist needs in this corridor, and statewide efforts to support cycling. Finally I will address each of the comments/suggestions made by cycling advocates.

    On the issue of the Expansion Project (which will result in a new right lane/shared use lane) in general, we have recently communicated with cycling advocates and others in a variety of ways. I have personally met with them and several of you. My staff has also met with and corresponded with them and many others on the issues they raise. We have also discussed their concerns with the Governor’s Constituent Relations Office; Kate Finnerty, Director of the Governor’s Washington DC office, the staffs of US Senators Joseph R. Biden Jr., US Senator Thomas R. Carper and Congressman Michael R. Castle and Federal Highway Administration Representatives. Internally we have discussed and re-discussed the issues raised and made changes when possible. Still, we come to the conclusion that our plans for this project are sound. We believe it is the right plan for this unique corridor and with modifications to the bus usage of the shared use lane it will serve the needs of all who utilize it.

    Having said that, DelDOT has already implemented and included in pending projects several suggestions from the the Delaware Bicycle Council regarding the shared lane project.

    Those include:

    • Placing innovative symbols for new bicycle pavement markers from Five Points south
    • 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.
    • Adding cyclist-specific signage from Five Points south
    • Placing 27 new “Right Lane Buses Bikes & Right Turn Only” and Bike Wrong Way Ride With Traffic” signs to encourage cyclists to ride with traffic.

    Following the recommendations of the Bicycle Council, we initiated discussion with the Delaware State Police to determine if there were other ways to assist them in enforcing road laws. In order to draw more attention to the travel restrictions for automobiles in the shared lane, we installed this week bright orange sign plates to the top of the existing signs. These will be removed at the end of September until next season. These supplemental sign blanks will further aid enforcement efforts.

    Also we will initiate a major public outreach effort to reach motorists, visiting students that work in the area, businesses, cycling organizations and residents. Information will be provided about project details, timelines and bicycle and motorist education throughout the duration of the two year project.

    (Bike DE has already been contacted and will be sending postings to the Bike Delaware list.)

    While we welcome differing opinions and will continue to listen, some have taken the discussion further, stating incorrectly that DelDOT has failed to address the needs of cyclists statewide. Just some of our efforts include:

    • Partnering with other businesses and cyclists groups to give out thousands of free helmets and safety equipment each year:
    • Distributing cycling safety brochures in several languages to businesses and others
    • Support of Use Your Head, Bike Safety Fair held June 19, 2006
    • Creating two radio public service announcements (PSAs) from the League of American Bicyclist(s) through DelDOT public relations. One gives cyclist tips and the other focuses on motorists tips. Broadcast dates began May 26, 2006
    • Creating a first ever Bicycle Facilities Master Plan, which identifies roadways statewide could have bicycle lanes incorporated into future improvements;
    • Serving as technical staff to the Delaware Bicycle Council. This includes providing information and answering questions about ongoing DelDOT activities and projects, bringing issues to the attention of the Council for its review and comment and supporting the publishing of a regular cycling newsletter.
    • Founding last year of the Adopt-A-Bike-Path program.
    • Installing bicycle racks on all DART buses statewide
    • Initiating the statewide Rails to Trail/Rails with Trail program. This planning study focuses on abandoned or disused railroad corridors. DelDOT initiated this effort in response to public interest in developing facilities for cyclists and pedestrians
    • Initiating Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, with a major press event held May 16, 2006
    • Training of DART bus drivers to be cognizant and cautious when cyclists are near.
    • Building sidewalk, bike lanes, pedestrian crossings, medians along Route 1 from Dewey Beach to the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, known as the Forgotten Mile Project.
    • Planning over the next several years to build sidewalks from the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal to Nassau
    • Promoted Delaware Bike Month in May
    • Partnered with Chambers of Commerce and others to conduct a summer employee and foreign student orientation.

    Finally concerning the attachment you sent from the cyclists dated April 5, 2006, titled “Rt. 1 3rd Lane Discussion” I will address point by point their comments and offer my response

    Cyclists Statement: 1 cyclist death and multiple injuries in 2005 many unreported

    Reponse: The statements insinuate these injuries and fatalities are the result of DelDOT engineering. While we in no way want to minimize the seriousness of these issues, we also will not be blamed for deaths and serious injuries. The fatality referenced was the result of an inattentive motorist subsequently hitting the cyclist at night. There was also another cyclist fatality reported by the State Police in 2005, which was alcohol related.


    Cyclist Statement: “ More deaths and injuries to pedestrians and cyclists in previous years.”

    Response: This is not true. According to statistics from the Delaware State Police the number of (reported) cyclist involved crashes (all bicyclists injured regardless of classification of crash) statewide decreased 43 percent (150 to 86) between 2000 and 2005, and pedestrian involved crashes decreased from 34 in 2004 to 26 in 2005. Meanwhile in that same time period, average daily traffic on Route 1 near the outlet stores increased as much as 40 percent during peak periods.

    Some point to information from area hospitals as evidence that that bicycle injuries are on the rise. While it’s true the Beebe Hospital emergency room visits for bicycle injuries went from 9 in 2000 to 17 in 2005 there was actually a drop in bicycle injury visits between 2003 and 2005.

    While cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities to the roadways as motorists we remain hesitant about encouraging bicycling along Route 1 due to heavy traffic volume and the propensity for motorists to pay little attention to cyclists and pedestrians.


    Cyclist Statement: “DelDOT has no data on cyclist and pedestrian use of Rt. 1, but yet redesigned a road that must handle both.”

    Response: We agree there are cyclists that utilize Route 1. In every design we undertake, however, we must balance the needs of the motoring public with public transportation, pedestrians and cyclists. As it is now then configuration is less than ideal. The new design will be better for all, but in saying this I understand it is not perfect. Also important to note that during the time the concept package was develop was developed in 2002, bicyclists were not permitted on Route 1 from Five Points to Route 24, and were instead encouraged to travel along Beaver Dam Road/Plantations Road. At the time, the bus lanes were only for buses


    Cyclist Statement: “Two non-DelDOT counts have cyclists from 40 to 100 per hour in a single location. Could be well over 1500 bicyclists) per day for the entire road.”

    Response: We do not have official counts, but agree this road is heavily used by cyclists


    Cyclist Statement: “DART bus counts show no more than 700 per day over a longer day”

    Response: Our daily ridership along Route 1 is approximately 2,794 passenger trips per day. The 2005 year total represents ridership increase of about 31.2 over the previous year. Bus service is a vital part of a multimodal transportation system. Regardless of numbers, we would continue to provide bus service on Route 1.

    (Bike DE Question: – do DelDOT’s ridership numbers exclude the Route 201 Park Ride shuttle, which only crosses Route 1?)


    Cyclists Statement: “Most agreed that traffic moved well in 2004 without a separate bus lane from Wescoats Road to Route 24.”

    Response: This is the first time in many years when someone has said traffic “worked well”. I believe the Third Lane Project will improve conditions but not solve the problems.


    Cyclist Statement: New Route 1 does nothing to make the road safer”
    Response: This project will be built in accordance with Title 17, section 132(f) of the Delaware Code, which states, “Whenever the Department of Transportation widens, constructs or reconstructs any major arterial, minor arterial, collector or proposed road in an urbanized area of the State, the Department shall incorporate within such plan, layout, widening, construction or reconstruction the construction of sidewalk, provided there is need for sidewalk that can be reasonably anticipated that the need for sidewalk will exist.”

    (Bike DE Note: this sidewalk policy sounds a lot stronger than DelDOT Bicycle Policy although both lack a signoff by a high ranking official)

    Despite resistance from some attendees at the two previous public workshops regarding the installation of sidewalk on the west side of Route 1, we made the decision to install the sidewalk and have done so. A follow-up project will install sidewalk on the east side of Route 1, from the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal to Nassau. The project also incorporates bus service and there are other accommodations made for pedestrians.


    Cyclist Statement: Does not meet Safe Routes to School nor Complete Streets requirements.”

    Response: Neither the Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) Program nor the Complete Streets program is a federal requirement, however, we support both efforts and implement them whenever possible.

    The SRTS Program, which we proudly kicked off at a major press event May 26th 2006, requires that an analysis be done and a plan be developed to increase the number of children that walk or bike to school. I do not believe parents would allow their children to bicycle to school from Route 1. We would not promote an SRTS along Route 1 as we already recommend cyclists avoid it due to safety issues. Because we have limited money for the SRTS, we need to focus the funding to areas where we actually have a chance of making a difference.

    The Complete Streets program is another way of implementing context sensitive design, which is about fitting the appropriate transportation system in the right area. In the case of Route 1 Third Lane Project, the context does not warrant a complete streets treatment for the reasons we have stated, including traffic volumes and limited space to expand the Right-of-Way. However, we always consider context sensitive design in our projects and the most recent example is the sidewalk, bike lanes, pedestrian crossings and medians we built along Route 1 from Dewey Beach to the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, known as the Forgotten Mile project. We did this because the context warranted it and the circumstances (available Right-of-Way etc.) allowed it. Route 1 along the Forgotten Mile and Route 1 between Lewes and Rehoboth are extremely different road systems.

    Our view of the Complete Streets program is validated by information on the Complete Streets web site which states:

    “While the idea of complete streets is based on consistency-every time you build or reconstruct a road, make it multimodal-in practice every project is unique. Finding enough right-of-way can be the biggest challenge for a complete streets program. In response many communities have begun to create complete streets where it is easiest-at a location where a wide travel lane can be narrowed or where traffic volume allows a four lane road to be converted to two lanes with the addition of a center turn lane and bike lanes. Fear of high cost is an equally great obstacle. Most complete streets policies don’t come with special funding attached…street policies commonly cite “disproportionate cost”-defined by U.S. DOT as 20 percent of the project budget – as a reason for exemption”


    Cyclist Statement: “The road is designed to rural arterial standards not urban standards.”

    Response: “The road is designed using American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) guidelines for divided principle arterials, while incorporating the characteristics of the current and projected traffic volumes and roadway use. These characteristics also make the roadway unique.


    Cyclist Statement: “The shared bike/bus/right turn lane is not wide enough in some areas to allow a bus pass a cyclist safely.”

    Response: The shared use lane varies in width from 10 feet to 14.5 feet. The majority of the shared use lane width is 12 feet. This dimension does not include the 2 foot gutter pan. Generally we do not include gutter pan width into the dimension.
    (Bike DE Note: Riding on the gutter pan is very dangerous)

    The majority of locations that have less than 12 feet of multi-use lane are areas where there is a double left turn lane, such as the Rehoboth Outlet to Postal Lane and Dartmouth Drive. At those locations we reduced the travel lane to provide as much room as possible for the shared use lane.

    A bus is 8.5 feet wide and a cyclist requires 3.33 feet of room according to Delaware’s bicycle facility mast plan. Buses and cyclists need a minimum of 11.83 feet of usable space. We acknowledge that AASHTO points out a bicycle facility on a roadway requires a width of 14 feet, but, again, this section of roadway is unique in that there are major right-of-way constraints, and while it is not perfect, it is the best we can do.


    Cyclist Statement: “No pedestrian crosswalks are being added—there are no pedestrian crossings on Route 1 although a few have been added to cross streets”

    Response: The Third Lane Project will provide pedestrian signals at the Rehoboth Outlet and at Postal/Melson Road. Adding crosswalks at other locations would greatly increase the signal timing for all four directions at the intersections at an intersection. Providing for walk times long enough for pedestrians to cross six to eight lanes would be unworkable. If such a task were undertaken, there would have to be adequate space in the middle for them to safely pause. Along Route 1 there is no space to install such medians.


    Cyclist Statement: “Signage and markings were added on the road only after much pressure from local cycling groups and federal requirements.”

    Response: Suggestions for the improved signage and markings were requested by the Delaware Bicycle Council, which of course includes cyclists. We were glad to discuss and finally agree to the Bicycle Council’s recommendations. We are also looking into additional striping and markings where appropriate. There are no federal requirements to do what we propose.


    Cyclist Statement: “All safety programs claimed by DelDOT were initiated by Sussex Cyclists.”

    Response:I am grateful for the advocacy role played by Sussex Cyclists and I know my staff will continue to partner with this organization and others on transportation projects


    Cyclist Statement: Reduce the speed limit from Five Points to Dewey to 35mph to meet urban arterial standards.

    Response: Narrowing the lanes and reducing the speed limit to 35mph to allow for a bicycle lane is unacceptable for a principal roadway such as Route 1 in this area (in July 2005, as many as 74,000 vehicles a day). Traffic speed studies indicate that average speeds along some of that roadway reach 55 mph, and lowering it would only cause more congestion and crashes. According to the Institute of Transportation, many studies conducted over several decades in all parts of the country have shown that a driver’s speed is influenced more by the appearance of the roadway and the prevailing traffic conditions than it is by the posted speed limit. Some drivers will obey the lower posted speed limit while others will feel it is unreasonable and simply ignore it. This disrupts the uniform traffic flow and increases crash potential between the faster and slower drivers. When traffic is traveling at different speeds, the number of breaks in traffic to permit safe crossing is reduced. Pedestrians also have a greater difficulty in judging the speed of approaching vehicles.

    (Bike DE Note: Speed kills especially cyclists and pedestrians, to state that faster traffic is better for crossing pedestrians is ludicrous, a pedestrian struck at 35 mph has about 40-50% chance of survival while one struck at 50mph has a near zero chance)


    Cyclist Statement: “Add crosswalks at high pedestrian traffic locations and program lights to allow safe crossing.”

    Response: The project will provide pedestrian signals at the Rehoboth Outlet and at Postal/Melson Road. The development of the conceptual plan identified this area as having “higher” pedestrian traffic. Adding crosswalks at other locations would greatly increase the signal timing for all four directions at an intersection. Providing for walk times long enough for pedestrians to cross six to eight lanes would be unworkable. If such a task were undertaken, there would have to be adequate space in the middle for them to safely pause. Along Route 1 there is no space to install such medians.


    Cyclist Statement: Remove buses from the new right lane to make this a cycling lane as it was pre-90’s. A secondary less safe solution is to make the lanes narrower and add a bike lane.”

    Response: We will limit the use of the right lane at non-peak travel times. From now on, DART First State buses will be restricted Monday through Thursday to only utilize the far right lane to pull over at designated bus stops, returning to full shared use Friday through Sunday. In addition we will continue our policy of educating our bus drivers about safety, namely being aware of cyclists and pedestrians, and following the speed limit. 2002, During the time that plan’s concept package was developed in 2002 bicyclists were not permitted on Route 1 from Five Points to Route 24, and were instead encouraged to travel along Beaver Dam Road/Plantations Road.

    (Bike DE Note: There were no bike bans signs on Route 1. Beaver Dam/Plantations Road was signed as Bicycle Route 1, although not consistently)

    At the time bus lanes were only for buses. We can’t recall how the roadway was in the 1990’s but we know from traffic counts, residential and economic development pressures, and other measurements that it is a vastly different roadway now. The high speed and large volumes associated with divided arterials justify the construction of 12-foot lanes. Also, for “Urban Principal Arterials” – 12-foot lane widths are most desirable and should be used, where practical on high speed, free-flowing Principal Arterials.

    I trust this answers all of your questions or concerns on this topic, We welcome your comments.

    Sincerely
    Carolann Wicks
    Secretary

    Cw:dcs

    Cc:
    Joseph R. Biden, Jr, U.S. Senator
    Thomas R. Carper, U.S. Senator
    Michael N. Castle, U.S. Congressman
    Ralph Reeb, Director, Planning
    Robert Taylor, Chief Engineer
    Stephen Kingsberry, Executive Director, Delaware Transit Corporation
    Barbara Brown, Constituent Relations, Governor’s Office
    Kate Finnerty, Governor’s Office
    Darrell Cole, Director, Public Relations,
    Joe Cantalupo, Assistant Director, Planning
    Anthony Aglio, Bike/Pedestrian Coordinator, Planning
    George Spadafino, Project Manager, Quality Management
    Terry Petrucci, Legislative Liaison, Public Relations
    Jason Gleockler, Community Relations Officer, Public Relations
    Tina Shockley, Community Relations Officer, Public Relations
    Mike Williams, Manager, Public Relations
    Jim Satterfield, Engineer V, Transportation Solutions
    Donald Weber, Assistant Director, Transportation Solutions, Chief Traffic Engineer
    John McGinnis, Operations Director, Delaware Transit Corporation
    Delaware Bicycle Council
    Sussex Cyclists

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