Fenwick Symposium Highlights Safety Concerns

FENWICK ISLAND – Discussions on crosswalks, bike lanes and other roadway improvements highlighted a symposium this week on bike and pedestrian safety in Fenwick Island.

On Tuesday, the Fenwick Island Planning Commission hosted a mini symposium in support of the town’s comprehensive plan. Committee Chair Amy Kyle said the goal of the forum was to give community members an opportunity to share concerns and ideas relating to bike and pedestrian safety along Coastal Highway.

“Our goal for today is to learn about what is being done elsewhere, discuss these ideas and see what is needed in this town …,” she told attendees. “It’s a town meeting where everybody’s views are welcomed.”

The symposium, entitled “How We Can Make Fenwick Safer For Walking & Biking,” kicked off this week with comments from the public. Councilwoman Jacque Napolitano told officials Tuesday she would like to see additional crosswalks along Coastal Highway, as well as changes to U-turn signage in front of town hall.

“People come down to take a U-turn and they will come into our town hall lot or the Sea Shell City lot,” she said. “It’s dangerous to pedestrians.”

Resident John Nason said he was most concerned with bike safety along Coastal Highway.

“Trying to cross Coastal Highway on foot or on bike is a life-threatening measure …,” he said. “Another issue is the highway itself. It’s become somewhat dangerous for biking.”

Nason suggested the creation of a protected bike lane, as well as state legislation making it a traffic offense for bikers who travel in the wrong direction.

“About 95% of bikers will ride with traffic,” he explained. “A small number, generally tourists, will ride against the traffic, which creates real problems.”

Scott Mumford, owner of Warren’s Station restaurant, said he was concerned about safety at the Coastal Highway and Route 54 intersection.

“The Route 54 and Route 1 interchange is a pedestrian nightmare …,” he said. “I think it needs to be addressed.”

He also recommended a separate walkway for bikes and pedestrians along Route 54.

“Along 54, more pedestrians and bikers are using it to come in and out of Fenwick Island,” he said. “I’d love to see a pedestrian causeway coming from the bayside into Fenwick.”

Resident Julie Lee added that more needed to be done to make crosswalks visible. She argued that most cars do not stop when a pedestrian enters the crosswalk.

“We need to have crosswalks that are available, accessible and safe,” she said. “That’s done by clear signage and lighting.”

Resident Vicki Carmean, who has spearheaded the town’s efforts to install sidewalks along Coastal Highway, noted that Fenwick Island is taking steps to make the town safer and more accessible for pedestrians. In an update this week, she said Fenwick Island was currently in the bidding process to install five blocks of sidewalk from Dagsboro Street to Indian Street.

“There is also a bigger plan in place to have sidewalks on both sides of the highway,” she added.

Representatives from the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), the University of Delaware, Bike DE and the Town of Dewey Beach also attended this week’s symposium to inform residents of ways to improve bike and pedestrian safety in town.

Jennifer Cinelli-Miller, DelDOT’s transportation planner for Sussex County, noted that Fenwick Island is one of many municipalities facing challenges when it comes to bike and pedestrian safety. She said that the town’s proximity to other resort areas was particularly troublesome.

“While your municipality is just within your boundaries, everything happening outside those boundaries will impact you …,” she said. “You will continue to be hit by people coming through or into your town.”

B.J. DeCoursey, associate policy scientist at the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration, agreed, noting that roadway improvement projects should be looked at holistically.

“Transportation improvements don’t happen in a vacuum …,” he said. “You need to look at these outside areas.”

Dewey Beach Town Manager Bill Zolper noted his community had also encountered issues with pedestrian safety. As a result, he explained, the town had reduced its speed limit and secured funding to install rapid flashing beacons and a rope-and-post barrier in the median of Coastal Highway.

“We’re directing them to our crosswalks,” he explained.

Bike DE Executive Director James Wilson told symposium attendees this week Coastal Highway is Fenwick Island’s main street and encouraged officials to consider roadway changes that would address bike and pedestrian safety.

“If you decide you really want something fundamentally different than what you have on Coastal Highway, you can …,” he said. “When you are talking about your city or town, the key insight is to design for the traffic you want.”

Kyle said ideas and suggestions presented at Tuesday’s symposium will be discussed in the coming months.

“We’re going to try and move this whole thing forward …,” she said. “You aren’t hearing the last of this. This discussion will carry us well into the spring.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.