Police: Please practice prudence while peddling

Summertime is in full swing, and many have been heading to the shore for a relaxing getaway and time with family and friends. But the increased number of vacationers inevitably leads to higher volume of traffic on the roadways. And while cycling can be a great way to get some exercise and avoid the price at the pump, it is crucial that riders stay safe, alert and aware when traveling or crossing the busy roads this season.

“In Bethany Beach,” noted Bethany Police Chief Mike Redmon, “we take a proactive approach toward bicycle safety. Fortunately, this year was aided by the Criminal Justice Council, who provided us with $9,500 for our bicycle safety program. The State of Delaware funded us $2,500, too, and with that we were able to purchase additional signage, 500 bike lights and 350 bicycle helmets to be given out to the community.”

Last week, a cyclist suffered head trauma and was airlifted to Christiana Hospital after he was struck by an SUV while riding along southbound Route 1 at the entrance to Sea Colony near Bethany Beach.

According to Delaware State Public Information Officer Cpl. Bruce Harris, the cyclist made a full recovery, but he was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. At 61, he was not legally required to do so, but taking that optional step might have prevented injury.

The incident was the second bicycle-automobile accident of the season, after a young woman suffered minor injuries last month when she collided with a vehicle.

Though the number of injuries reported so far in the summer of 2010 may be fewer than in some past years, cyclists still make up a large portion of the summertime commute, and both cyclists and motorists are being urged to stay cautious.

“Bicycles have become more popular with rising price of fuel,” said Redmon, “and they are the most common form of transportation for many of our international students who are here on summer visas. Because of that, we have to ensure safety for cyclists.”

Local towns, including Bethany Beach, Ocean View and Fenwick Island, have held checkpoints throughout the summer months to help inform riders about cycling laws and regulations, and to get them properly equipped.

“We’ve had assistance from the University of Delaware Community Outreach Program and DelDOT,” noted Redmon. “In terms of the grants we’ve attained, it’s been one of the best years we’ve seen in a while, and we’d like to be even more successful.”

Bicycle safety starts with responsibility on the part of the rider. Delaware state law mandates that anyone younger than 18 is required to wear a bicycle helmet. Reflectors and lights help motorists identify bicycles after dark, and could save a life.

“We have a full-time bicycle unit at the Bethany Beach Police Department,” Redmon noted, “and we focus on not just using safety equipment, but focusing on violations, too. When traffic is passing you at 55 miles an hour, you’ve got to respect the rules, too. We offer pamphlets and give overviews of the rules of the road.”

Cyclists are reminded to ride with the flow of traffic, along the right side of the road, and should obey all regular traffic laws, including following traffic lights, and should use proper hand or electronic signals.

“Visibility is key,” Redmon added. “You have to make sure people can see you, whether you’re walking or on a bike.”

For more information about bicycle safety and proper procedures, visit www.deldot.gov/information/community_programs_and_services/bike/ or www.bikede.org.