Thursday, December 18, 2014

Another superb annual report, this time Bike Pittsburgh

BikePGH: A monumental year of change and growth!
  • Reached 2800 members with 638 people becoming first-time members of BikePGH this year.
  • Pittsburgh has seen a 408% bike commuter rate increase since the year 2000 – the largest jump in the nation. The numbers also show a doubling of our bike commuter rate since 2007.
  • 350 volunteers worked the equivalent hours of a full time staff person! From office work to pop-up events to major events like Open Streets.
  • Etc. Etc.
Check out BikePGH's Annual Report webpage HERE.

Poster's note: In Delaware, where do your bicycle advocacy donation dollars go, especially those solicited in memorial donations? We encourage our readers to contact Bike Delaware, and ask them to publish an Annual Report, that should include relevant information as seen both in Pittsburgh, and here in Philadelphia. Ask them to cultivate a culture of accountability and transparency, including the availability of their meeting minutes.

DelDOT: Too late to add 4th crosswalk at Elkton Rd/Christina Parkway

Delaware Bikes advocates asked DelDOT to install a crosswalk on the SW side of the Elkton Road/Christina Parkway intersection, but it appears those efforts have failed. The plans have already been drawn up, and the project should begin next year. Read all about it here, including photos.

According to Mark Luszcz, Chief Traffic Engineer:

"Summer 2015 is best case, and ADA or other issues could further delay the repaving project. I understand your concerns with the proposed crosswalks at 4/Elkton Rd, but design is (and has been) complete and there is not the time or money to redesign at this point. After we get this implemented we can consider if the 4th crosswalk can be added, or if it can be added as part of the widening project."

We cannot really predict how popular the Christina Parkway parallel bike path will be among the hundreds of students housed at "The Retreat". Time will tell how many will want or need to use it, and the only thing we can do is hope that safety will not be a problem.

In the map above, bicyclists wishing to exit "The Retreat" to the north and west of this intersection will find themselves dealing with an array of pedestrian facilities and a curb-hugging bike lane that does nothing to help them navigate through the intersection. The 3 sides of crosswalk are not likely until Summer or Fall of 2015 - well after Retreat students are moved in. Legend: Orange: Sidewalks, which are technically illegal (and dangerous) to ride on . Green: Existing parallel bike path facilities. Red: non-crosswalk side and direct connection to Christina Parkway bike path.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

How Wal-Mart destroyed the Huffy Bicycle Corporation


Excerpts from Wikipedia: Huffy Bicycles had manufacturing and assembly facilities in Azusa, California (closed in the late 1970s), and Ponca City Oklahoma (closed in the early 1980s), but largely manufactured most of their bicycles in Celina, Ohio, and at one time was Celina's largest employer. At their peak, the bicycle division manufactured over two million bicycles per year and were the free world's largest bike company.

Angela Connolly, riding her 2003 Huffy Prospect - made in China.
By the mid 1990s, Huffy was in deep financial trouble. The U.S. Bicycle industry had consolidated, sharply reducing the number of channels for selling bikes. High-volume retailers had claimed three fourths of the U.S. market, gaining tremendous leverage over bicycle makers. Wal Mart in particular was pressuring Huffy: it ordered 900,000 bikes at one time, but insisted that Huffy lower its prices significantly. To remain a major player in the bicycle market, the Ohio company had little choice but to agree. Even with Huffy's other non-unionized manufacturing plants, it could not make a profit selling bicycles at the prices Wal Mart, its biggest customer, was willing to pay. After requesting and getting a pay cut for its unionized workforce in Ohio, Huffy returned to profitability for two years only to again crumple under the pricing pressure applied by Wal Mart. This forced Huffy to close its Celina, Ohio plant and lay off all 935 employees. Their other two factories in Missouri and Mississippi soon fell to the same fate for the same reason. Even after subcontracting production to China, where plant workers earned only 25 to 41 cents per hour, it remained unable to operate at a profit.

In federal banktruptcy court in Dayton, Ohio, in 2004, Huffy's assets were turned over to its Chinese creditors. After years of struggling against the cut-rate Chinese bicycles that set the price target guiding Wal-Mart, Huffy essentially had become a Chinese-owned company. [Full article ...]

Poster's note:
Well, there you have it, folks. Check out Big Box Swindle for more details.

In 1998, Huffy Corporation produced the high quality M600 Mountain Bike for Raleigh, the frame manufactured here in the USA. It was a last gasp effort at solvency before collapsing under pressure from Wal-Mart. Hundreds of American jobs paying a living wage were swapped for poverty class wages in China. 

 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Car-nage in one of Newark's most un-bike friendly areas

Delaware On-line -- A bicyclist was hit by a car Friday evening in Newark and critically injured, authorities said.

The incident was reported just before 6 p.m. in the 600 block of S. College Ave.

New Castle County Paramedics found the bicyclist – identified only as a 23-year-old man – with possible head and back injuries, Paramedic Cpl. Abigail E. Haas said.

Paramedics treated him at the scene before he was transported to Christiana Hospital, where he was admitted in critical condition, she said. [Full article ...]


View Larger Map

Poster's note:  In this area of Newark, the sidewalk is the only refuge against the onslaught of cars and trucks. There is no place to ride except in the lane of traffic, ruling it out for all but the most skillful and brazen among us. To make matters worse, the Newark Bicycle Plan fails to include this area for future safety improvements. Another example is the Library Ave (Route 72) corridor between Route 273 and Wyoming Road.

The crash area is circled in red above. Note the proposed pathway to the west, however, this adds hills and does not service destinations along the Route 896/College Ave corridor. Hence, the need for a balanced approach to bicycle advocacy; one that includes on-road facilities in addition to Trails and Pathways.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bike Maryland's 2014 Annual Report & Strategic Plan

Bike Maryland is the U.S. model for balance, transparency, and a big tent. Every facet of bicycle advocacy is covered under one umbrella, with a structure that encourages and achieves a broad level of participation.

Learn all about Bike Maryland on their About Us page. Check out their strategic plan "Looking Back and Moving Forward". Access their 2014 Annual Rreport below in pdf.



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Action Alert: Route 72 "Improvement" Project a threat to bicycle safety


Back in November of 2012, while serving with Bike Delaware, I posted a notice calling on bicyclists to attend a public workshop for "Route 72 Intersection Improvements". It is not clear how many bicyclists showed up, or what their comments were, because such information is (normally) not published or followed up. In fact, the biggest complaint we have about these workshops is that nobody really knows if their comments are even considered. In any case, in my own experience attending that night, public turnout appeared to be light.

Now, 2 years later, we find ourselves surprised to learn that this project is moving forward, expanding this very popular bicycle route from 2 lanes to 4. Bike lanes are included, but what is now an 8'-10' shoulder will be effectively reduced to 4' (5' through intersections) for most of the length. The project also calls for curbs, which means that debris collection could be a problem, minus frequent sweeping of the corridor. In other words, even with marked bike lanes, the experience riding on Route 72 (Wrangle Hill Road) could end up even more stressful than it already is.

Advocates from the White Clay Bicycle Club and Delaware Bikes recently met with Anthony Aglio, our trusted Bicycle Coordinator within DelDOT, to discuss what - if anything can be done at this late juncture. We were relieved to find out that DelDOT is still open to suggestions to improve bicycle safety, and will take in our concerns.

In a formal letter, we included the following:
  • Narrow the center turn lane from 15' to 11', thereby adding 2' to the bike lanes on both sides. The result will now be 6' bike lanes, 8' when including the curb offset (which normally doesn't count).
  • Instead of vertical curbs, use the standard sloped curb (or mounted, gutter pan, etc.) allowing bicyclists the option to bail out under extreme or threatening circumstances.
  • Use bicycle-friendly rumble "stripes", as opposed to rumble strips. The latter tend to be offset from the white line, thus robbing valuable shoulder space, while the former are part of the white line itself.
  • To accommodate the many bicyclists that ride to and from Delaware City and points east, connect the bike lanes through the SR1 ramps to the project limits, connecting them to the existing shoulders.
  • Provide a 5' bike lane on McCoy. Where bike lanes transition back to the travel lane, place a Bikes May Use Full Lane Sign.

 
View Larger Map

Above: Curbside bike lanes can be found in Centerville along Route 52, what may be the most popular bicycle route in Delaware. 2 lanes at 35 mph, however, is a much safer environment than a 4 lane 50 mph arterial highway. Hence, the need for a carefully considered Complete Streets design on Route 72.

Manslaughter charge in Hockessin bicyclist's death


Delaware On-line -- Gabriel F. Pardo, the DuPont Co. manager who police said killed a Hockessin bicyclist in September and fled the scene, now faces manslaughter and child endangerment charges.

The indictment recently handed down by a New Castle County grand jury is the first public disclosure that the 44-year-old Pardo had his children in the car when his black Audi sedan struck Phillip Bishop on Brackenville Road about 8:45 p.m. on Sept. 12.

The indictment doesn't say how many children were in the car, but Pardo's attorney Joseph A. Hurley said his client's three sons, whose ages are about 5 to 10, were inside his car.

Pardon's sons knew "either by sight or sound'' that their father had killed Bishop, and "failed to immediately stop and render aid.''

Hurley also said Prado had been drinking "earlier in the day'' but there were no indications he was intoxicated when his sons' mother met him at the Hockessin Acme to exchange the children. [Full story ...]

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Extend the Northern Delaware Greenway West, Part 2

Continued from Part 1 -- Our proposed western terminus at the intersection of North DuPont Road and Route 52 plugs into a small police station that shares the parking lot with a row of free DART bike storage lockers and a DART park-and-ride. Additionally, the old railway runs underneath Route 52, via a tunnel. This route would provide a way for cyclists and pedestrians to avoid the danger that is involved in crossing and riding along that road, and providing a safer and easier-to-ride way to and from the trail. At present, the NDG ends shortly after crossing the Brandywine River at Bancroft Mills Road, which has on-site parking. Bancroft Mills Road is a dead-end roadway. Its entrance branch is shared with another dead-end, Brandywine Falls Road. These short roadways could serve as extensions of the NDG. As both roads handle only local and slow-moving residential automobile traffic, very minimal work would be necessary, such as some signage to mark the continuation of the NDG. However, accessibility to the proposed extension from the NDG is right now cut off abruptly at the end of Brandywine Falls Road by a locked gate and vegetation. If the remainder of the abandoned railway that once served Bancroft Mills were opened up to foot traffic and bicyclists, it would extend the trail for almost three more miles.


The NDG is already one of the most beautiful and heavily used trails in Delaware. The trail would connect high school students at Wilmington Charter and Cab Calloway School of the Arts via neighborhood roads, giving them a safe way to commute to school without clogging up the already traffic-heavy North DuPont Road. The trail would also run along the property boundary of Alexis DuPont Middle School; there’s even an entrance with stairs from the school that enters the abandoned rail bed.

There is a Wilmington to Newark pathway being developed that would greatly benefit by shrinking the gap in trails between the intersection of Route 141/Route 52 and where Route 52 now plugs into the NDG. Our proposal would also provide the means for bicyclists and pedestrians to avoid climbing the very steep hill along Rockford Road.

At various points along the NDG are spurs that connect large businesses, research facilities, and office buildings, such as the DuPont Experimental Station, AstraZeneca, A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital, among others. There are also several recreational areas and parks, such as the Can-Do Playground & soccer fields, Alapocas Run, Rockford Park, Rockwood Manor, The Blue Ball Barn Banquet Hall, Bellevue State Park, and many more. The NDG's Northeastern Terminus is along the bike-friendly Business Route 13, situated between Bellefonte and Claymont, and can be used to reach the SEPTA station. SEPTA trains accept folding bikes at all hours, and non-folding bikes at all hours headed into Delaware, and all bikes into Philly on non-peak hours.

Neighborhoods such as Alapocas Woods, Greenville, Fairfax, Weldin Ridge, and Pennyhill all have direct access to the NDG. It already serves as a commuter route for workers and locals near the trail, and extending it further into more neighborhoods and businesses, such as those at Chestnut Run, would provide even greater access to commuters. The Chestnut Run area has several major businesses inside, such as a DuPont facility. Commuters could also use DART’s bus services at the proposed terminus at North DuPont Road/Route 52, in conjunction with their commute, utilizing the free bike lockers.

Potential Risks: There were some potential problems with this proposal that we wanted to address ahead of time, should questions arise. Among the questions asked of us:

a) Will rail companies want to use this railway again?

Not likely. The risk of a railway ever wanting to re-open the abandoned line is nonexistent because Bancroft Mills has been converted into apartments and a State Park – there is no further use for the rail line here as a result.

b) What will the trail surface be like?

The trail’s surface is the perfect width and grade for cyclists and hikers, as railroads are generally flat and built to withstand erosion. Ideally, it will be paved with asphalt.

c) What about trail security?

For security reasons, Bancroft Mills locks the bridge between the Brandywine River and its development at sunset, and a similar measure could be taken with regard to guarding this trail to keep residential housing along the trail safe and secure. Brandywine Falls Road already ends at a locked gate, marking the differentiation of abandoned railway and active neighborhood roadway. Closing the trail from the Park-and-Ride section at sunset should be possible as well.

d) What about trail maintenance?

The existing embankment created by the railway is solid, with the earth already compacted. The bridges over small creeks are intact and in excellent condition.

e) What about the bridge over Rising Sun Lane?

Engineers would need to conduct a study as to its structural condition, but the bridge does seem solidly in place, and wouldn't need to support much weight in addition to itself, considering it was designed to support steam locomotives and freight trains.

 f) What about the tunnel under Route 52?

Re-creating the concrete walkway to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists would be necessary. The remnants of the old pathway still exist but are in very poor condition.

g) Who owns the land that the trail is on?

As far as we can tell, it is not owned by any private entity. It was formerly owned by the Reading Railroad and Penn Central, which went into bankruptcy and was then bought out by CONRAIL (government railroad). Markers have been found marking private property boundaries, but are well short of the railway’s right-of-way.

In Summary, our proposal would extend one of the most popular trails in Delaware along the scenic Brandywine River. It would connect the NDG to additional schools and neighborhoods, and bypass steep climbs and hazardous roads for those whose destination is along the proposed Newark-Wilmington Pathway. All of this could be done with minimal labor and a small budget, as most of right of way is in tact and already cleared of vegetation.

The trail extension we are proposing is ideal for commuter bicyclists, recreational bikers and hikers alike. We would like to see it completed to enhance the NDG and promote active transportation and recreation in Northern Delaware.

You can also visit Abandoned Rails for more photos and a history of the Kentmere Branch Railroad.
 
Joel Schwaber lives in North Wilmington. A caring advocate, he operates the Wilmington Bike Recycling co-op. Joel's only goal is to put more people on bikes, at little or no cost. Email Joel at schwabthedeck@gmail.com if you would like to volunteer to help, or donate a bicycle(s). Anne G. of Newark, advocate and co-author, is also pictured.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Extend the Northern Delaware Greenway West, Part 1

The Northern Delaware Greenway (NDG) is perhaps one of the most beautiful trails in the state of Delaware, extending from the Brandywine Creek in North Wilmington all the way to Governor Printz Boulevard. The image below shows the NDG as it exists presently. You may notice to the far left, there is a separate trail that continues as part of the bicycle route to Newark.


There is a small section of overgrown abandoned railway near Bancroft Mills on Route 52 that, if cleared out and utilized, would extend the NDG and offer a host of benefits to cyclists and pedestrians in the area.

Photo by Mario Nappa
The Problem: Delaware Route 52 (near where Pennsylvania Avenue becomes Kennett Pike) is dangerous to cross, and even more perilous to ride or walk along. There is no bike lane or shoulder available, and the road has a high speed limit and high volumes of traffic. Exiting the NDG at its terminus at Bancroft Mills requires climbing a very steep hill along Rockford Road before merging onto Route 52, which serves to exhaust the cyclist along Route 52, and lengthens the time they spend on this dangerous road.
Nothing is worse than being screwed!
The Northern Delaware Greenway’s public crossing over the Brandywine River is in Bancroft Mills, and it is open only to bicyclists and pedestrians. It is an absolute necessity to safely cross the river, and it is commonly used as part of a bicycle commuter route that runs between Newark and Wilmington. The nearest other bridges, New Bridge Road and the Tyler McConnell Bridge, are very unsafe to travel on for a bicycle or pedestrian, as is the roadway (Powder Mill Road) that these two bridges connect to. Powder Mill Road has neither a shoulder nor sidewalk. As Delaware Bikes advocates can attest, the Tyler McConnell Bridge has hazardous pits of sand and gravel hiding screws and other roadway debris. Therefore, the Bancroft Mill Bridge is a preferred destination for those seeking to cross the Brandywine River. However, once on the west side of the Brandywine River, the safe options for egress from the trail are limited.

The Solution: We propose that the three-mile portion of abandoned railway near Route 52 and Bancroft Mills be utilized as an extension of the NDG in order to provide a safe, scenic and convenient trail for cyclists and pedestrians. This would bypass quite a lot of Route 52 for those headed to or from Newark. Opening this trail would involve clearing away any vegetation that would impede trail-users; stabilizing the trail as necessary using ballast, stone dust, etc; creating a platform through the tunnel underneath of Route 52, and resurfacing the old railroad bridge over Rising Sun Lane so as to be pedestrian and bicyclist friendly.


There are two railways that once serviced Bancroft Mills and what is now the Hagley Museum, and each is in remarkably intact condition many decades after abandonment. The proposed trail uses the upper railway, which primarily serviced Bancroft Mills.

The proposed NDG trail extension includes many wonderful sights, such as Delaware's only railway tunnel.

A scenic bridge over Rising Sun Lane (photo by Joe Sharretts)
 
And stunning scenery of the Brandywine River and valley!

Stay tuned for the second and final part of this series, where we'll discuss the NDG's many valuable connections, and a recommendation for the western terminus followed by a Q&A session.

Joel Schwaber lives in North Wilmington. A caring advocate, he operates the Wilmington Bike Recycling co-op. Joel's only goal is to put more people on bikes, at little or no cost. Email Joel at schwabthedeck@gmail.com if you would like to volunteer to help, or donate a bicycle(s). Anne G. of Newark, advocate and co-author, is also pictured.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Delaware Today: Bike lanes make top 10 reasons to love the 1st State


Posted from Delaware Today's website -- Here are the first 25 picks for our 101 Reasons to Love the First State! What do you think? David Amado, Music Director of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra agrees that there is a lot to enjoy about the First State. "I love that Delaware is small enough to feel cozy and big enough to have great amenities. It’s wonderful to live in a place where everyone seems to know each other, and equally great to be in a place that boasts great live music, art, theater, dance, opera, museums, gardens, etc. It’s a special place snuggled in between busier, grimier worlds," Amado says.


Poster's note: Yes, we have lots of bike lanes compared to other states. But many are improperly designed, show up in pieces, fail to make connections, and/or terminate before intersections. With Bike Delaware's record against bike lanes as viable infrastructure, stay tuned to Delaware Bikes for all the latest news and information on how you can help us fill this crucial void in bicycle advocacy.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Momentum: 5 reasons why riding a bicycle is safe

Courtesy of Momentum Magazine -- In North America, concerns about safety consistently rank as the top deterrents to bicycling. Most of us don’t like the idea of riding in traffic next to heavier vehicles that are traveling at higher speeds. Our perceptions about these routes are right – on busy streets, Dutch and Danish-style protected bike lanes are safer than riding in mixed traffic. And in places with abundant separated lanes, cycling is much more common.

Given that safety concerns affect our choice of travel mode, I often wonder about these perceptions about the relative safety of bicycling, driving, motorcycling, transit, and walking. Do our perceptions about these modes match the data?  [Full article ...]

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why being the neighborhood “bike guy” is so nice!

-- By Joel Schwaber

I’m my neighborhood’s “bike guy.” The advantages of being “that bike guy” are actually really numerous. The more bikes you have, the more inexpensive it is to own and use your bike from a maintenance and acquisition standpoint.

How inexpensive? Wholesale made it so that the total restoration of my commuter bike (the tires were the most expensive part) cost me under $30, including tubes, gel handlebar tape, rim tape, grease, cables, and brake pads. Yes, it was mostly DIY and took some time with labor, but that’s why being the bike guy has its perks: I can do it myself. I’d bought my tools for various restorations in the previous years that I’d long since let go.

What floored me recently was that for $30, I had bought a means of transit that I utilized to get from where I was living to my place of work. This was a trip of almost twenty miles, and I did it while paying nothing, even as I enjoyed the outdoor exercise. What strikes me as amazing is that I could do that for twenty years on the same bike, and after those twenty years, the bike would still be rideable. The maintenance and upkeep cost is very, very low. For a basic ten speed steel bike like this one, component failure is rare, and on the occasion that something should break, the component cost is miniscule. There are no parts on the bike that would cost more than $20 to replace with a brand new (and better) component, including the rims. Even if I hit a curb dead-on, replacing the fork costs me a mere $17.50, while a similar component with a car or motorcycle is much more expensive. The lack of proprietary parts is a huge reason as to why it’s so easy to keep this bicycle going forever; an antique car will eventually become hard to find parts for, as an example, but a lot of brands are still manufacturing decent classic components for these antique bikes, and each brand will work if paired with another.

What was weird to me was that I encountered so few other people on bicycles on the beautiful trail that I used to get to and from work. I felt like I had discovered the secret to economic frugality, a way to get outdoors, ecological friendliness, and found a quick-and-easy fitness regimen all in one, and that nobody else had found it yet. I felt liberated from all the obligations of driving a multi-ton machine that could maim or kill if I looked away to enjoy the scenery for even a second. I also didn’t have to deal with the hassle of worrying about a license, my registration, tolls, speed limits, vehicle inspection, odd clicking noises from the engine, or ever getting stuck in traffic. Encountering the morning rush and leaving work at 5:00 was no longer a worry for me, either, because I would just ride past cars that were stuck in traffic up the shoulder. Sure, there was the occasional person clad entirely in lycra who was out to train for a sporting event that I might encounter on a weekend, but there were almost no other cyclists on the trail with me. Funnily enough, by riding to work every day, I became a very strong cyclist- when I did encounter someone out there, no one on these trails could keep up with me. Yet whenever I got into the shop and someone asked for ‘ways to go faster,’ if I recommended riding to work to become a stronger rider, they would look at me like I had just suggested soaking their heads in ammonia.

I occasionally see one of my fixed up classic bikes out on the road, and when I see that, it makes me very happy. I’m sure some ended up back in someone’s garage gathering dust, or a few end up only being used for sporting events like triathlons, but when I see a bike of mine chained up outside an office, I feel like this is all a part of the house that I built. One more rider.

Joel Schwaber lives in North Wilmington. A caring advocate, he operates the Wilmington Bike Recycling co-op. Joel's only goal is to put more people on bikes, at little or no cost. Email Joel at schwabthedeck@gmail.com if you would like to volunteer to help, or donate a bicycle(s).