Early last month Beebe Hospital issued a press release reporting an increase in serious injuries from bicycle crashes in May and June in its emergency department for those months compared to 2018. Local press outlets in Sussex County ran with the story, not infrequently choosing alarming headlines like the one above. Other than that they…
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Early last month Beebe Hospital issued a press release reporting an increase in serious injuries from bicycle crashes in May and June in its emergency department for those months compared to 2018. Local press outlets in Sussex County ran with the story, not infrequently choosing alarming headlines like the one above.

Other than that they were serious enough to merit a trip to Beebe's emergency room, Beebe's press release does't tell us anything about these crashes. Where did they happen? What were the circumstances? Are there any common patterns or themes? Is this just normal statistical fluctuation? (Beebe reported in 2018 that bicycle crashes were way down compared to 2017.)

The best source of information to answer these questions are police crash reports. These reports are not available to the public but they are available to traffic safety agencies. Within days of Beebe's press release, Bike Delaware asked the Delaware Office of Highway Safety (OHS) to pull all the police reports and conduct an analysis.  

Beebe's press release is just one thing driving press coverage. Since the opening of Lewes' amazing new trail (phase II of the Lewes-Georgetown Trail), there has been a lot of passionate discussion of bicycle safety. What we learned yesterday from the Delaware Office of Highway Safety, however, is that none (zero) of the 19 bicycle crashes in the Lewes area in 2019 that were serious enough to generate a police report happened on a trail or where a trail crosses a road.

Even though there has been a spectacular explosion of bicycle use on Lewes' new trail, Lewes' most serious bicycle safety problem, by far, continues to be bicycle crashes on Route 1.

As much as possible, we should direct our passion about bicycle safety in Lewes to where it's needed most: Route 1.

We can make a difference – and make the Lewes area safer for bicycles – if we direct our passion in the right direction.