Thursday, August 21, 2014

In Delaware, yielding to pedestrians is a joke

Photo by John Jankowski, Delaware Online
Excerpt from USA Today:

These are the 10 most dangerous states for pedestrians.

1. Delaware
  • Pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 people: 2.94
  • Total pedestrian fatalities: 27 (15th lowest)
  • Total traffic fatalities: 114 (5th lowest)
Nowhere in America was it more dangerous to cross the street than in Delaware, where nearly three pedestrians died in traffic accidents per 100,000 residents in 2012. While Delaware led the nation in pedestrian fatalities in 2012, the chance of being killed walking in the state has fluctuated considerably. There were just 27 pedestrian fatalities in 2012, so a slight change in the number of major accidents, or a particularly safe year, will have a large impact on the state's fatality rate. Unsurprisingly, the pedestrian death rate fell by nearly 20% in 2010, but spiked by nearly 50% the following year. Nevertheless, pedestrians seem to be more especially vulnerable in Delaware. A pedestrian was the victim of nearly one in every five fatal traffic-related accidents, a greater proportion than in all but two other states. [Full article ...]

Poster's note:  The last thing in the world any State wants is the #1 spot on this list. Delaware, however, is at a disadvantage in this survey, as our numbers can fluctuate wildly given a relatively low population.

Regardless of this horrible statistic, we still give kudos to DelDOT for actively assessing major corridors for pedestrian safety, and installing crosswalks (and bike lanes) at known dangerous intersections. Sadly, even with these improvements, many such roads still lack safe infrastructure for the non-motorized.

A largely forgotten issue includes driver education and enforcement. Where we have crosswalks, drivers routinely ignore them, and blow through them even when pedestrians are present or waiting to cross. Delaware carries virtually no penalty for these potentially deadly actions, and enforcement is rare, if at all.


Above: It's as though users of the Pomeroy Trail in Newark don't even exist at the crossing of Wyoming Avenue. Here, we see a bicyclist that is clearly visible and waiting to cross the road in a wide zebra striped crosswalk, yet motorists continue through despite having more than adequate time to stop. The "Don't Join the Walking Dead" campaign should also focus on driver education and enforcement, and include hefty fines for crosswalk incursions that are commensurate with other states that score far better in pedestrian safety.

In progressive States like Massachusetts, it is an entirely different story. Motorists rarely fail to stop (never mind yield), even as a pedestrian approaches a crosswalk. Better enforcement and fines of up to $200 go a long way toward increased safety and respect of trail and pathway users. This, in turn, results in fewer injuries and fatalities, and promotes a culture of awareness and responsibility.
See also: Why crosswalks are so dangerous in Delaware

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Newark Post: Cycle track continues to gain City's support

By Karie Simmons -- The city's Traffic Committee has decided to get behind a protected, two-way bike lane that would allow cyclists to travel safely from east to west on Delaware Avenue.

The proposed “cycle track” was included in this year's Newark Bicycle Plan and approved unanimously by council on Feb. 24 as an overall vision and concept for where efforts will be focused over the next several years.

Two years in the making, the 2014 Newark Bicycle Plan was created by the Newark Bicycle Committee and was a collaboration between area residents, city officials, the Wilmington Area Planning Council, the Delaware Department of Transportation and local bicycle advocacy organizations.

One area the plan focuses on is Delaware Avenue, and on Tuesday, Mark Deshon, chair of the Newark Bicycle Committee, explained to members of the Traffic Committee that although Delaware Avenue currently has one bike lane, the one-way street is rampant with wrong-way riding, motorists driving in the bike lanes and cyclists riding on the sidewalks.

“In terms of safety, we don't have a good east-to-west route through the city,” he said.
[Full article ...]

A more rural version of a cycletrack is depicted here, using striped buffering and flexible bollards (aka "Duckies") for separation. Given such limited space on Delaware Avenue, the degree of separation remains a question mark.

Monday, August 18, 2014

OECD: U.S. Tanking on Road and Highway Safety

The latest OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), the authoritative source for cross-international highway fatality data, recently reported their 2012 statistics. The results of U.S. performance versus 23 other nations reporting is, in a word, horrible.

Not only has the U.S. fallen from 6th of 24 nations in fatality rates to 15th since 2000, six nations have roughly half the fatality rates of the U.S. now. In other words, we have at least 15,000 EXCESS fatalities than the "best six" -- Iceland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the UK. In the U.S., performance can be be seen by looking at the longer trend. We were number one - with the safest roads - among the 14 nations reporting in 1970. The rate in France was just over three times the U.S. rate in 1970, while in 2012 it comes in at 10% less than the U.S.

The rates per mile/km of vehicle travel represent the best data, and are buried deep in the report for a reason; they are embarrassing to any nation dropping through the ranks like the U.S. And show superior performance by nations at the bottom decades ago.

Access the full report in PDF.

U.S. bikeshares have killed a shocking number of people

Grist -- That number is zero: Since the nation’s first bikeshare program launched in 2007 in Tulsa, Okla., 36 U.S. cities have followed suit and started sharing programs of their own. Not a single death has been recorded.

Remarkably, that statistic holds true even in major cities like New York where helmets aren’t provided with bikes, says Barbara Goldberg at Reuters. While there isn’t a central database for bikeshare accidents, Goldberg spoke to a range of transportation experts who confirmed the lack of fatalities.

Accident rates from bikeshares are low, too. In New York, out of 10.3 million Citi Bike rides, only 40 people have required medical attention after accidents [Full article ...]

Newark Principle Planner Mike Fortner poses with the Bike Pottstown (PA) bike share, which may just be the closest system to Newark. It is tremendously successful and sees thousands of trips annually - and Pottstown isn't even a university town. Will Newark ever get on board with a bike sharing?

Friday, August 15, 2014

2014 Our Town Forum: Funding our Transportation System

Join WILMAPCO at the Embassy Suite Hotel (654 College Ave.) in Newark, DE on Wednesday, September 3 from 4-7 p.m., for their biannual Our Town Forum. This year’s Our Town will focus on Transportation Funding and addressing the shortfalls that exist in our regional and nation.

Due to funding shortfalls in recent years, many projects have been delayed, placed on hold, or have lost funding altogether. Rising material and labor costs, increased demand for new infrastructure, Transportation Trust Fund not keeping pace with infrastructure needs, and unsustainable growth in para-transit have all contributed to the instability of transportation funding in our region.

But what can be done about it? During Our Town you’ll hear from local and national experts, and elected representatives, what can be done to adequately fund our transportation system now and in the future. [Visit the event webpage for full details and pre-registration ...]

Check out these neat info-graphics:
To grow the economy, invest in biking and walking, not cars
Who Pays For Our Roads?
 

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An unjust war on "Share The Road"

By Amy Wilburn, Chair, Delaware Bicycle Council -- There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the phrase “share the road”. In fact, when it’s used in an educational setting where other information is provided as opposed to on road signage, it’s not confusing at all. It imparts a positive sentiment about caring and respect which we would do well to propagate. We do after all want motorists and bicyclists to share the road, don’t we? We want to impart the idea that one form of transportation doesn’t dominate the others. It’s an important concept to get across, and one that makes biking viable in other countries. So how has a simple phasing out of the signs turned “share the road” into public enemy number one? Why are some advocates urging DelDOT to spend the time and money to completely eliminate the phrase from all promotional and instructional materials?

What transpired with the signage was that some cyclists experienced evidence that the signs were being misunderstood by some motorists (whether due to ignorance or as a willful attempt to target cyclists). These motorists decided that the signs were meant for cyclists and not motorists, and that the signs indicated that cyclists need to move over and to get out of the way of the motorists. No studies were conducted to determine whether and how often the signs were being misinterpreted. We have no quantifiable evidence one way or the other, only anecdotal reports.

Over the past several years, some Delaware cyclists reported concerns about the signs. Mark Luszcz, Chief Traffic Engineer at DelDOT, became aware of these concerns and that some cyclists held a strong negative opinion of the signs. He conscientiously reached out to the cycling community to seek our input on the matter. Feedback received was not extensive but indicated that cyclists would prefer to retire the signs.  Because the signs could not be justified as a positive and there was evidence that they were being misinterpreted, and because they added to expense and sign clutter, it was decided to discontinue their use.

It makes sense to discontinue the use of “share the road” signs, which no matter how well meaning, appear to be misinterpreted by some motorists. Of course, they may have a positive impact on others, but we don’t have evidence of this. The proverbial squeaky wheel gets the grease after all. Cyclists and motorists should not split lanes that are not wide enough to accommodate both vehicles safely. So I agree that it does make more sense to use either a simple bike symbol, or when appropriate, a sign stating “bikes may use full lane”.  But in no way did DelDOT endorse a complete elimination of the phrase from our vocabulary. And in no way do we have evidence that all, or even most, members of the cycling community endorse total elimination of the phrase. That was not the question that Mark was asking, and not the question to which cyclists provided a response. In addition, DelDOT decided to stop installing the “share the road” signs and to slowly phase out existing ones. DelDOT did not propose an all out campaign to remove the signs ASAP with the associated cost and effort. And frankly, that makes sense. This is far from the most urgent matter facing cyclists. Time and money would be far better used in other areas.

In the end, we have to make every effort to encourage our fellow citizens, whether they are driving motor vehicles, horse-drawn vehicles, or people powered vehicles, to share our roads just as we need to share our communities, and yes, our lives. When we begin to treat each other with respect and to think of each other more as fellow travelers and less as adversaries, we will take a big step towards bringing our transportation crash rates more in line with the substantially lower rates experienced in much of Europe. So here’s a toast to “sharing the road”.

A bicycle warning sign with "share the road" is included with a new CVS Drug Store, at the corner of Route 4 and Marrows Road in South Newark. According to the NCC building code, there should have been bike lanes as well.

As of August 11 (possibly earlier), the share the road sign was removed. This has been the trend with many other existing signs around the State. The goal should have been a slower phasing out of the sign, not an all out war on the saying. Put simply, we should not be urging DelDOT to spend the time and money to completely eliminate the phrase from all promotional and instructional materials. It is frivolous and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Poster's note: It is ridiculous that Bike Delaware is pushing DelDOT in a campaign to completely eliminate Share the Road. It was originally understood that implementation was going forward with new sign installations and maintenance, not the active removal of existing signs. Put simply, there are much bigger fish to fry.

Susquehanna Rail Bridge Meeting Tonight


Bike Maryland -- Standing in Perryville along the banks of the Susquehanna River you can see Havre de Grace. Standing in Havre de Grace along the banks of the Susquehanna River, you can see Perryville.  From one city hall to the next, by car, it is only 3.4 miles, but the closest bridge for pedestrian or bicycle access makes the trek over 23 miles. To make matters worse, that car ride is along toll roads, so that short car ride costs a disproportionate amount for its length. While we understand that tolls are the price you pay to use the roads, there should be a non-toll option that does not degrade the roads as quickly as cars, such as a bicycle. Bicycle access between these two towns will allow them more freedom for shopping, entertainment, and recreation.

Bicycle advocates are fighting to make sure that with the construction of a new railway bridge over the Susquehanna at those two towns there is bicycle and pedestrian access. This access is not just important for connecting two towns that are too close together to be artificially separated by tolls, but it is also an important feature on the East Coast Greenway. Currently bicycle tourists have to either call a taxi or bike out of their way to cross the Susquehanna River. Furthermore, the crossing up river is along the Conowingo Dam, a crossing that makes even experienced cyclists nervous. This is a deterrent for both bicycle tourists and local cyclists who use the route. Perryville and Havre de Grace deserve the economic benefit of hungry and tired cyclists stopping over and spending money at their shops and hotels.

On Wednesday, August 13th from 5 pm to 8 pm there will be an Public Outreach Information Session at the Community Fire Company of Perryville, MD. It is an open house and is designed for visitors to meet the people working on the project, learn about the project, and share ideas. The East Coast Greenway and its allies will be in attendance. [View webpage for more ...]
 

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why does DelDOT repave good, smooth roads?

A major concern among our followers is DelDOT's penchant for repaving roads that show few signs of wear or distress. Several examples have been noted over the past several years, including some where we collected before and after photos. Among the most recent is Harmony Road in Ogletown, currently being stripped (milled) of its surface, in preparation for fresh blacktop.

A wide angle view of the Harmony Road/Ruthar Drive intersection reveals little, if anything in the way of potholes, cracks, or uneven road surface. Area readers are at a loss to understand how or why this road needs repaving, but it is currently being done.

A closer look at the lanes on Harmony Road shows an excellent road surface. What few potholes or cracks there are could easily be patched, as opposed to repaving the entire road.

Old Ogletown Road, undergoing the milling (surface grinding) process a few years back. What appears to be a perfectly smooth surface was stripped and replaced.

Marrows Road in Newark also had its nice and smooth surface removed a few years ago, and replaced with fresh blacktop. In the photo above, the shoulders still remained - in perfect condition - but these too were milled and resurfaced shortly thereafter.

So why are they doing this? Removal and replacement of a road's surface is very costly, yet funding is supposed to be tight. Advocates are routinely told there is little money available for desperately needed projects like the Route 72 sidepath. And, not to mention, DelDOT's solvency is in question right now given a lack of reliable income.

So, we contacted DelDOT to inquire, and received this very thoughtful response:

In order to determine which roads will be worked on, a condition survey of every state-maintained road segment is performed every other year. This survey, which uses both computer based and visual measurements, that evaluates the condition of the roadway segment based on the severity and extent of pavement distresses such as cracking or rutting. The pavement management section prioritizes roadways using this condition data as well as other factors which include the amount of traffic on the road, the functional classification of the road, the facilities that are accessed from that road (employment centers, schools, fire houses, etc), and other circumstances that must be considered (project linkage, overall route continuity). A survey is performed by Pavement Management staff evaluating the roadway and a numerical value is assigned in each category.  We have a priority formula which uses these values to give each roadway segment a score. Road segments with a higher score are given higher priority. The highest scoring segments are reviewed in the field a second time by representatives throughout the department and a final treatment/plan for rehab is decided.

The Pavement and Rehabilitation program strives to maintain the condition of Delaware's roadways by systematically identifying candidates for rehabilitation and determining the most cost effective treatment. The program provides rehabilitation in the form of pavement preservation (patching, sealing, micro-surfacing, thinner overlays), replacement (mill and overlay), or reconstruction (cold in-place recycling, or full-depth reclamation). Because the cost of repairs increases disproportionately as the pavement condition worsens, it is important to balance rehabilitation work such that roads that may be in fair to good condition receive cost-effective preservation treatments, and poor condition roads are more substantially rehabilitated each year. The preservation treatments extend the life of the pavement, and result in not spending the annual budget on fixing only a few roads that are rated "poor".


To which I responded:

Thank you so much for the very thoughtful response. I have lived in several states, and traveled most others at some point, and can honestly say that I have never seen a system that pre-empts future deterioration and spending by replacing a good existing surface. It's usually moderate to severe deterioration and then act. North Jersey in particular is very bad, with roads rarely repaved until the surface is cratered throughout. Wheel alignment is all but a racket up there, yet property taxes are 5-7x higher than here in DE.
 

Even with your detailed explanation, it is still hard to wrap our heads around the removal and replacement of a smooth road surface. I have taken many pictures before and after, even the milling machine at one point on Old Ogletown Rd. As walking and bicycling advocates, we are routinely advised that funds are insufficient to include, i.e., the re-surfacing of parallel side paths as part of a road rehab project even when said paths are a safety hazard. This is our primary motivation for getting in touch on this issue.

Above: Sunset Lake Road/Route 72. Now here's a road that is far more in need of repaving than Harmony Road. Yet, DelDOT only recently installed rumble strips, which seems to indicate that the road is not on the schedule - at least for this year. Additionally, the rumble strips in the area of Reybold Road leave far less than the required shoulder width (4') to safely ride behind them. This issue was addressed and fixed in Sussex County, but so far it appears, not in New Castle County.
4 Seasons Parkway in Bear is also in desperate need. This road is an excellent bike lane candidate, with many key connections to schools and services. Again, much worse condition than Harmony Road.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Newark's LAB Report Card for 2014: Almost Silver

The League of American Bicyclists just released Newark's Bicycle-Friendly Communities (BFC) ranking . This program provides a roadmap to improve conditions for bicycling and the guidance to create a distinct vision for a better, bikeable community a reality. Building such a community can translate into a more connected, physically active, and environmentally sustainable citizenry that enjoys increased property values, business growth, increased tourism, and more transportation choices. Among the recommendations made to Newark:
  • Continue to work with DelDOT to expand the bike network and to increase network connectivity, especially through the use of trails, protected bike lanes and bicycle boulevards. On-street improvements coupled with the expansion of the off- road system will encourage more people to cycle and will improve safety. Ensure smooth transitions for bicyclists between the local and regional trail network, and the street network.Implement the Newark Bicycle Plan. To move Newark ahead, focus especially on the more ambitious projects in the plan, including a protected bike lane for Delaware Avenue in downtown Newark.
  • Ensure that all bicycle facilities conform to current best practices and guidelines.
  • Bicycle-safety education should be a routine part of secondary education, and schools and the surrounding neighborhoods should be particularly safe and convenient for biking and walking.
  • Offer bicycling skills training opportunities for adults more frequently and encourage the White Clay Bicycle Club and Newark Bike Project to help. There are options from short videos and 1-2 hour courses to more in-depth training incorporating in-classroom and on-bike instruction.
  • Ask police officers to target both motorist and cyclist infractions to ensure that laws are being followed by all road users. Ensure that bicycle/motor vehicle crashes are investigated thoroughly and that citations are given fairly.
It appears Newark was oh so close to achieving a "Silver" award designation. Among the City's weaknesses is an advocacy group who's main focus is bicycling in Newark. Nonetheless, according to the report card, it won't take much to tip the award to Silver!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Come join the BEST

By Ceci McCormick -- The next B.E.S.T. (Bringing Safety and Education Together) meeting will be held on Wednesday, August 20th, at 7:00 PM, in the Conference Room at Woodlawn Library, in Wilmington.

If you are a P.E. Teacher interested in adding a bicycle-pedestrian component to your curriculum and/or someone interested in supporting the addition of an Active Transportation Component to the K-12 school curriculum, please consider attending.

The August meeting will include updates on:
  • An evaluation tool for the B.E.S.T. Curriculum.
  • Schools interested in piloting the curriculum.
 If you'd like additional information, send an email to johnandcecimcc@gmail.com

 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Introducing the Newark Residents Alliance Project


From NRAP's "About" page -- The Newark Residents’ Alliance Project was founded in 2014 with the goal of supporting and encouraging civic engagement by providing residents with useful resources and information. The Project was created by Jen Wallace and Amy Roe. Including Jen and Amy, there are a couple other contributors to the site (with plans to add more) who share posts in their particular areas of interest and expertise on topics of importance to Newarkers.

The idea for this project came out of the recent power plant/data center controversy in Newark, which highlighted the need for more transparency on the part of our City government and more engagement on the part of Newark residents. This site is not about the power plant/data center project, instead it will focus on many topics facing our town. [Continue reading ...]

Poster's note: I will be writing for NRAP at least once per month under the Transportation Issues category. There is much to cover in the City of Newark, especially with the implementation of a robust Bicycle Plan and the quest for a Bicycle-Friendly Community designation. The enactment of anti-idling laws, defeating a proposed WaWa on South Main Street, and rallying against a proposed gas Power Plant on the STAR Campus have all been remarkable victories for sustainability. Easy to forget, however, is that carbon based transportation is 2nd only to power generation as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. By U.S. standards, Newark's bicycle modeshare is a respectable 4.7%. We have a long way to go, however, if we're to match other cities around the world that have truly sustainable transportation systems.

Visit our Newark category for all past and present articles related to the City of Newark.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

No crosswalks in sight for latest pedestrian fatality


Delaware on-line -- State police say a pedestrian has been killed after being hit by a vehicle Tuuesday evening near New Castle.

Cpl. Jeffrey Hale says Del. 9 is closed from Rogers Road to Lambson’s Lane as police investigate the incident. [Full story ...]

Poster's note: I am not that familiar with the area, but using Google Earth, there are no visible crosswalks on Route 9 the entire length between I495 and I295. What a horrible tragedy.