• DelDOT Pushes the Envelope for Bicycle-Friendly Traffic Signal System in Fenwick Island

    by  • December 21, 2013 • Traffic Control • 2 Comments

    A traffic signal in Fenwick Island...just for bicycles!

    A traffic signal in Fenwick Island…just for bicycles!

    Video/Thermal Detection of Bicycles.

    An Exclusive Bicycle Left-Turn Signal Phase.

    An Exclusive Bicycle Signal Head.

    Creative, innovative and bicycle-friendly traffic engineering. In Delaware.

    DelDOT_best_squareYes, it’s geeky technology! That makes engineers swoon! But even non-engineer cyclists can understand this much: DelDOT is pushing the envelope of traffic control devices to make Delaware more bicycle-friendly.

    DelDOT recently installed an exclusive bicycle detection and signal west of Fenwick Island.  A different type of detection system is being tested at Rt. 141 and Faulkland Rd in New Castle County.  A similar detection/signal solution is being considered at Kirkwood Highway and Milltown Rd., also in New Castle County.

    What does all this mean? It means a Department of Transportation which is thinking, specifically, about how to better serve cyclists.

    According to Matt Buckley, a DelDOT Traffic Consultant, the SR 54 (Lighthouse Rd) and Cape Windsor (Lincoln Dr) project involved several geometric and operational constraints that ultimately led to this rather innovative solution –  video + thermal detection, bicycle detection roadway signing and pavement markings, exclusive bicycle signal head, and exclusive bicycle left-turn signal phase.

    Part of the bicycle detection system at Lighthouse Road and Lincoln Drive in Fenwick Island

    Part of the bicycle detection system at Lighthouse Road and Lincoln Drive in Fenwick Island

    Matt shared this information:

    • “The project’s goal was to address a safety issue where a westbound SR 54 left-turning bicyclist (into the residential community) was a “sitting duck” when queued in the high-speed through lane – i.e., there isn’t an exclusive westbound left-turn lane, nor could one be provided without widening the bridge.”
    • The existing marked westbound bike lane is to the right-hand side of a vehicular bypass lane, which meant that crossing during the westbound vehicular left-turn phase (green arrow) could be in conflict with through traffic in the bypass lane.
    • The guardrail, wetlands, bridge, etc. along the north side of SR 54 prevented DelDOT from installing traditional signalized pedestrian crosswalk/signals that could be utilized by a queued bicyclist.
    • Traditional pedestrian signals/crosswalk could be perceived as encouraging wrong-way bicycle entries into the neighborhood (i.e., SB bicycles would be in conflict with NB vehicles).
    • The implemented operation detects bicyclists in the westbound bike lane using a thermal video card. Once a bicyclist is detected, a “call” is placed in the traffic signal controller and, after waiting for its turn in the signal cycle, the exclusive westbound bicycle phase is served while all conflicting vehicular displays are steady red.”

    After being ranked in the 30s just a few years ago, last May Delaware was ranked as the 5th most bicycle-friendly state in America. And the most bicycle-friendly state of all states east of the Mississippi River. Our amazing leap in the ratings reflects remarkable leadership from both Governor Markell and the Delaware General Assembly. But it is also a recognition of a new determination by DelDOT to both better serve current cyclists and to grow cycling as a family-friendly mode of transportation. So Fenwick Island may be just the beginning for detectors and signals specifically for bicycles.  Matt indicated that DelDOT Traffic is also testing/utilizing another type of bicycle detection (microwave) at the intersection of SR 141 at Faulkland Rd.  Amy Wilburn, Delaware Bike Council chair and avid cyclist, confirmed that experimental microwave detectors were installed at this intersection in early November.  They still need adjustment, but Amy says “this is a really exciting development.  I ride through this intersection fairly often, as it’s on my standard route to and from Wilmington.  The detector ‘saw’ me when I was westbound but not when I was eastbound.”

    If Bike DE readers have a chance to travel through that intersection, or at the Fenwick Island installation, please let us know in the comments section below how it worked for you. We’ll make sure that DelDOT gets the feedback.

    Carol on Bike





      Carol Ireland is a board member and officer of Bike Delaware.





    • Bike Delaware Archive Category: Traffic Control


    2 Responses to DelDOT Pushes the Envelope for Bicycle-Friendly Traffic Signal System in Fenwick Island

    1. peter koonce
      January 4, 2014 at 11:42 pm

      Install detection for cyclists: check. Confirming that it works requires. double check and some monitoring, our experience in Portland has been that we are not completely satisfied with the detection technology.

      • January 7, 2014 at 12:35 am

        Peter, thanks for the input. This is exotic new territory for Delaware! Not just this specific intersection and its detection system but bicycle-specific signal technology in general. We are more excited by the idea that our state department of transportation is starting to develop expertise in this are than we are concerned with the specific merits or demerits of their 1st tentative steps in this direction. We’re sure there will be fumbles but we are just plain impressed by the initiative that agency engineers are showing. Going forward, we hope they will learn a lot from other places – like Portland – that have a few more years of experience in this area.

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