A 24-year-old female foreign exchange student was struck by a Subaru Forester while riding this DelDOT bicycle on Coastal Highway at Holland Glade Road around 5:45 p.m. last Tuesday. She was reportedly struck in the intersection as the Subaru made a low-speed turn. She was taken to Beebe Hospital with a cut to the head. According to MCpl. Melissa Jaffe, state police spokeswoman, no charges were filed against the 18-year-old male driver of the Subaru from Baltimore.
Another foreign student bicyclist was struck by a hit-and-run driver around 8:30 p.m. this past Thursday at the HAWK crossing near this same intersection. According to MCpl. Michael Austin, the 21-year-old woman was utilizing the pedestrian crosswalk and signal while walking her bicycle across northbound Coastal Highway. A dark-colored Jeep Cherokee was headed north on Coastal Highway and failed to yield to the pedestrian, striking the rear tire of the bicycle, which in turn knocked her to the ground. The Jeep then fled with no further description being obtained. The woman suffered scrapes to her lower body but declined an ambulance.
Fortunately, according to data provided by Beebe Hospital’s Patricia Matsko, bicycle accidents are down in the Cape region compared with this date last year. She provides these totals for the last three years:
2016 (Jan 1st – August 8th): 69 bicycle-related injuries
2017 (Jan 1st – August 8th): 102 bicycle-related injuries
2018 (Jan 1st – August 9th): 70 bicycle-related injuries
With regard to the injuries so far this year, Matsko noted that bicyclists wore no helmet in 22 of the accidents, 31 wore a helmet and in 17 other accidents it was unknown if a helmet was in use.
Matsko also added that when it comes to location, most bicycle accidents, 40, happened on the street this year. Four others occurred on a trail, six at “other” locations and the remaining 20 were undetermined.
Sussex County has had two fatal bike accidents so far this year, one in the Milton area and the other in Ocean View. Hopefully as more bicyclists take to the road, recent improvements will keep them safer.
One of the contributing factors in reducing the number of accidents in this area, says John Fiori, DelDOT bicycle coordinator, has been the completion of the Coastal Highway pedestrian improvement project from Nassau to the Rehoboth Canal. This project, he points out, “filled in the gaps” by installing sidewalks to make a continuous network from Nassau to the canal.
When this project was completed, he says, it provided an option for bicyclists to use the bike lane or the sidewalk. “Typically the experienced bicyclists will use the bike lane while the casual rider feels comfortable on the sidewalk,” he says, noting that the rules of the road are different for each.
He also credits recent amendments to the current bicycle laws, specifically last year’s Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act, for helping improve the state roadways for bicyclists.
The International Student Outreach Program conducts orientations to the J1 students that include a bicycle safety component, Fiori points out. The bikes with the blue and white DelDOT sticker are only loaned to the J1 students who complete the safety orientation.
Maryanne Kauffman, International Student Outreach Program director, says her husband, Bruce, helped prepare 170 bikes this summer to loan to foreign students. She says 158 students who requested bikes and took the safety class have received the DelDOT bikes. Next summer they plan to loan out 200 bikes. “Obviously the program would not exist without the tremendous support of the community,” she points out. They stress safety and track bicycle accidents.
Here are the Kauffmans at St. Edmond Catholic Church in downtown Rehoboth Beach during a bike safety checkpoint. They were joined with the Sussex Cyclists and DelDOT personnel installing lights on bicycles, distributing helmets and biking literature, while making minor bike repairs. Experts credit these projects for helping reduce bicycle-related accidents.
“By having support beginning with the Governor, the legislators, various state agencies (DelDOT, state police, highway safety) and the Delaware Bicycle Council, my vision is to reduce and possibly eliminate bicycle injuries and fatalities along Delaware roads and in order for this to occur, motorists and bicyclists should be aware of the current bicycle laws, stay alert and be patient with each other using the roads,” Fiori adds.