Monday, October 20, 2014

MDOT: Install Share the Road signs on Route 896


Newark area bicyclists that enjoy riding northwest into Chester County PA all know that Route 896 (New London Road) is the most practical way to get there. In Delaware, 896 has generous shoulders between the City of Newark and the Maryland State line. Once in Pennsylvania, the shoulders are marginal, but offer some safety for those using it as a connector between rural and known bicycle-friendly roads. However .... the short stretch in Maryland between the two states (approximately 1/3 of a mile) has no shoulders, despite a recent repaving. It is circled in red above.


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As seen in the Streetview above, it is downright scary, and unsafe, when your comfortably wide shoulder suddenly disappears and the lane is all you have on a busy corridor. Most intermediate to advanced cyclists will continue on, because it is relatively short and the connection to beautiful horse country (via Elbow, Strickersville, etc) is well worth it. But it is never a pleasant experience when cars begin to cue up behind, and the risk of aggressive behavior or a road rage incident increases.

We believe that Share the Road signs are long overdue along this stretch, and we respectfully ask the Maryland Department of Transportation to honor its commitment to safety and provide these much needed features ASAP. We will also call on their Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee to address this issue, if necessary.

The appropriate excerpt from the State Highway Administration's Complete Streets policy is below.


Michael Jackson, MDOT
Cecil County has been virtually disregarded when it comes to Maryland Complete Streets. Maybe this will be a first, one that will benefit bicyclists throughout the tri-state area.

If you agree with Delaware Bikes on this issue, please email MDOT's Michael Jackson (right), Director of Bicycle and Pedestrian Access, at mjackson3@mdot.state.md.us. Be sure to include a link to this article. In the past, Michael has proven himself as a valuable ally to advocates. He answered the call to revise the SHA's rumble strip design guidance to accommodate bicyclists. A history of that effort can be viewed HERE.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Take part in Bike Delaware's candidate survey

Segregated facilities are a key component in the planning of bicycle-friendly communities, if the right connections are made (services, safe roads, etc). We urge our readers to email their representatives - if they are contested - and ask them to participate in Bike Delaware's candidate survey. Excerpts From their website:

This week Bike Delaware, along with its campaign partners Sussex Outdoors and Delaware Greenways, is conducting a survey of all the folks running for state senator and state representative (who have an opponent in their race). We have conducted similar surveys in the last two elections (in 2010 and 2012). In those previous surveys, we heard back from about half of the candidates we surveyed. Can you help us get an even better response rate this election cycle? If the candidates running to represent you get an email or phone call from you (their registered-to-vote potential constituent!) asking if they have responded to the Bike Delaware / Sussex Outdoors / Delaware Greenways candidate survey, that communication from you will make it more likely that they will read, and respond to, the survey.

One way of finding out who is running to represent you is to just look around your neighborhood at the signs on the streets. If you see a lot of those signs, there is probably a contested election. Or you can email us with your home address and we’ll email you back letting you know if you are in a contested election and the contact information for the candidates. Or you can do this:

1) Lookup your senatorial district number and representative district number (enter your address, click “Find” and click on the map)

2) Find your senator and representative districts in this list to see if you are in contested race

If you do live in a district with a contested race, the next next few days are a golden opportunity to send an email or make a phone call to the candidates running to represent you. Tell them you support more walkable and bikeable communities!  Let the people running to represent you know that waking and cycling are important to you! And help make our democracy work!

If you’re having any trouble figuring out if you live in a district with a contested election or with finding contact information for candidates, just email Bike Delaware (at survey@bikede.org), tell us your home address and we’ll email you back and let you know. [Read the article in its entirety ...]

Saturday, October 18, 2014

2014 Mountain Bike Jamboree on October 25

The 2014 MTB Jamboree at Fair Hill is NEXT SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25TH. Join the Trailspinners for…
  • Group rides on marked trails with 3 distance options ranging from 8 miles to almost 30 miles. Trails will be marked with waypoints at major intersections and bright colored ribbons after intersections. And we will be distributing detailed maps to show you the way.
  • Bike demos from Scott, Niner and Breezer
  • Bike shop and other industry vendors such as Klean Kanteen, Garrison's Cyclery, Lazy Athlete, Henry's Bikes and more
  • Beer from Dogfish and the Homebrewers Beer Garden
  • Live music from Lost & Found
  • Food trucks - I Don't Give a Fork and The Wandering Chef
  • Bike Games
  • Raffle including a K√ľat hitch rack, Pedros tool kit, Oakleys, Twin Six apparel, Dogfish apparel, Lazy Athlete gift certificate, Gates/Osprey Pack
And more! Visit the 2014 Mountain Bike Jamboree event webpage for complete details, including links to the vendors listed above.


Above and below: Scenes from the 2011 Jamboree. The event has grown significantly since then. Please consider riding your bike to the event!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sarah Buttner for State Senate, District 4

From Sarah's website -- A long time resident of Dstrict 4, Sarah (aka "Sally") Buttner is experienced, energetic, and hard working and seeks the honor of serving the 4th District in the Delaware State Senate.

Sarah had a career at the DuPont Company, much of it in the legislative and regulatory arena focused on employee benefit issues. She had the opportunity to represent DuPont on Washington trade groups, to testify to the IRS, and work on a number of legislative and regulatory issues. She also led a number of committees in the trade associations.

Sarah was Policy Advisor to the Commissioners of the Public Service Commission, the agency that regulates certain public utilities. From there, she established her own consultancy and works with Delaware State agencies on energy policy issues.

Sarah is active in her community. She is a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church and has served as Deacon. She is a member of her neighborhood's maintenance, sign and by-laws committees. She is a past civic association president. She was co-chair of White Clay Bicycle Club's fund raising Shore Fire Century and member of its Executive Committee. She is a member of the Delaware Nature Society, and the Nature Conservancy. She is Treasurer of the Delaware Chapter of the Energy Services Coalition, and a member of the Delaware Valley Green Building Council.

Sarah holds a Masters in Energy and Environmental Policy from the University of Delaware, a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Delaware, and a Bachelors Degree, Cum Laude, in Economics from Randolph College.

Sarah is an avid bicyclist and rode from the border with Canada back to her house this past June. You can read all about the adventure in this 2 part series on Delaware Bikes.

Sally, firmly in control on the climbs during the 2014 Hawk Mountain Weekend in May. This 3 day tour included two days of approximately 100 miles, and a lesser day in the 80± range.

Bicycling Skill-Share at the Urban Bike Project



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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The role of transportation in promoting physical activity

Active Living Research -- Neighborhoods designed for active travel can increase routine physical activity for residents of all ages. This infographic highlights evidence that sidewalks, connected bike facilities, public transportation and traffic calming are strategies that can make it easier for people to reach their destination without the use of a private vehicle.


In 2010, the Campaign for Active Transportation was launched, but like 99% of other bills introduced in Congress, it had virtually no chance of passing.

Wilmapco wrote the following in their case statement: Imagine a future where fitness and transportation are intertwined in our daily lives and bicycling and walking are safe, convenient, and desirable transportation choices for short trips. Mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods are the preferred places to live, as people seek lower energy costs, shorter commutes and more quality time in their own communities; residents take pride in knowing their neighbors and socializing on daily walks. Traffic congestion is eased, as more people find transit, pedestrian and cycling trips cost-effective and enjoyable; air quality is bolstered with fewer cars on the road. Children gain a sense of independence from having safe routes to schools, libraries and parks; seniors too remain active, healthy and independent by walking and bicycling regularly. In this future, our economy benefits too from fewer costly roadway improvements and a flourishing industry of active recreation and heritage tourism.

Related: No hope Congress passed fewer than 1% of bills introduced in 2013

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

3 ways that parklets could help [Newark] businesses


Cross-posted from CityLab -- How you feel about parklets - street-parking spaces converted into temporary gathering spots - depends in large part on how you get around the city. If you walk or take a bike, and generally prefer a more human scale to the urban environment, you probably love these little plazas and sitting places. If you drive and spend much of your life in the endless Costanzian battle that is finding a parking spot, you probably don't.

Those positions aren't likely to budge anytime soon. So the real tiebreaking question, at least in terms of public opinion, is how businesses themselves feel about repurposing their storefront parking spots for pedestrians. If Chicago retailers are any indication, get ready for the parklets.

Chicago started allowing businesses to create parklets called People Spots a few years ago. Nine emerged across the city: two in Andersonville, four in Lake View, one in the downtown Loop, and two in Bronzeville. This past summer, the local Metropolitan Planning Council evaluated the business impact of these spots by recording a full day's activity at each and interviewing parklet users and retailer owners alike. [Full article ...]

Poster's note: This could be a wonderful opportunity for Newark if the space was available for proper buffering - and some kind of noise protection. According to the Newark Post, City staff is currently discussing the concept. With sidewalk space already tight, parklets would have to occupy parallel parking spaces between the curb and lane of traffic. With drivers texting and on cell phones, and deafening noise from modified exhaust systems in motorcycles and cars, it's doubtful many will want to sit immediately adjacent to the traffic lanes. At least one instance of a vehicle crashing into a parklet has been recorded. Unless the Newark police start enforcing the law where quality of life is concerned, including vehicle noise ordinances, a better use would be to install a few bicycle parking corrals. This would help maintain space on the sidewalk, while providing the same benefit of greater pedestrian visibility.

“Like locusts eating the fields, so do cars take possession of our streets and squares”  ~ W. Forst

Of course, true progress would mean full or at least partial pedestrianization of Main Street, as seen below in the City of Charlottesville VA. Here, residents relax and enjoy a peaceful, non-threatening 8 blocks of totally car-free space. On Main Street in Newark, that is anything but the case, and may never be.


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Monday, October 13, 2014

It's time to take back the streets in Wilmington

Better Block Wilmington brings new life to Union Street

Cross-posted from Bike Delaware -- For three days last month, the 600 block of Union Street in West Side Wilmington looked a bit different than usual. For these three days (August 11-13), one lane of traffic was closed to vehicles and converted into a lively, vibrant public space where residents could sit, eat, relax, listen to music, and enjoy the re-purposing of an otherwise abrasive environment. This temporary transformation was the doing of Better Block Wilmington, Delaware’s first incarnation of the Better Block Project.

The Better Block Project is a nationally-recognized demonstration tool in which residents temporarily modify the looks and functionality of a small part of their neighborhood. Better Block Projects aim to identify and offer solutions to community concerns of pedestrian safety, livability, and aesthetics. Exhibited over a short period of time and organized with a minimal budget, these projects show how small changes can yield large impacts for businesses, individuals and the community as a whole. [Full article ...]


In other news, it appears that Wilmington's Transportation Enhancements Grant has finally been approved. With it, Bike Wilmington (WBAC) will successfully attain $200,000 to implement bike infrastructure improvements within the City. The effort will address four (4) primary corridors that will serve to connect the City’s neighborhoods to the downtown commercial district. Additionally, the Committee will be working with its consultant McCormick Taylor, DART, Wilmington Initiatives and the Challenge Program to develop a cutting edge, multi-modal bus shelter prototype that will serve the needs of transit riders and bicyclists.


The above improvements were criticized by Bike Delaware, and slow to gain traction within City government. However, Wilmapco Council voted on May 8th to give these improvements the highest priority in the TIP (Transportation Improvement Plan).

The use of sharrows and signage isn’t perfect, but the City will get miles of visible routes on a very small budget, providing for an excellent start. It is important to note that the project was developed and supported by the community itself. You can also visit Wilmington's Bicycle Plan, developed in conjunction with Wilmapco.

The City of Wilmington has an awful lot going for it, including a spectacular Grand Prix every May. Don't miss it in 2015! Visit the event website for details.

In addition, Bike Wilmington has been coordinating and assisting the Department of Public Works to determine logical and safe locations for bike parking (racks) throughout the City. Phase I of a City-wide rack install effort is complete; phase II is under research and development; and a final phase is set to occur next Spring. Sharrows have already been installed on Market Street with the above mentioned sharrows to follow in the near future. If you are aware of a location that is in need of bike parking, please contact Leah Kacanda at lvkacanda@WilmingtonDE.gov.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Crossing I95 in the Newark Area: Route 896 (College Avenue)

 

The 3rd of an eight part series, we are examining every I95 overpass/underpass in the greater Newark area from a bicycling safety perspective. Crossing I95 is a major impediment for City and area bicyclists, and a show stopper for many who might otherwise consider commuting or riding for basic transportation. Of the eight, we already know the following:
  • 2 are equipped with a truly safe, segregated pathway intended for non-motorized use - but are not necessarily safe to reach on a bike.
  • 2, including this one, contain access ramps to and from I95 in both directions, rendering them totally unsafe.
  • 6 are direct crossings with no I95 access, but contain little or no bikeable shoulder space.
  • By request of Delaware Bikes Advocates, 4 are under consideration for Bicycle Warning Signs.

The Route 896/College Avenue I95 overpass
is just east of Welsh Tract Road, and is very dangerous for bicycles. A safe crossing of I95 here has been the wish of Newark area bicyclists for decades. As a result, bicycle warning signs were recently installed leading up to, along, and beyond the span.

Tips for crossing I95 on Route 896:
  • None. In the interest of safety, avoid this crossing. Try and use Welsh Tract or Route 72 instead.
  • If you must do it, south to north is slightly less dangerous, only because it doesn't contain a cloverleaf merge.
  • If at all convenient, consider using DART Transit. The 55 bus crosses I95 between Newark and Peoples Plaza (map).

On occasion, bicyclists can be seen using the Route 896 crossing over I95. We seriously do not recommend using this road. When most of these bridge spans were built, little or no consideration was given to the non-motorized.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Petitions: Extending trail hours beyond dawn-to-dusk, Newark to Wilmington Bikeway


The trail-user community would like Delaware State Parks to extend trail hours beyond the dawn-to-dusk policy. This will allow commuters and recreational users legal access to trails during night time hours.

There are currently 710 signatures, and the goal is now set at 750 signatures.

As daylight shortens, commuters and trail users have to find alternative routes that do not include Delaware State Parks. Half or more of the year is off limits, including the fall, winter, and spring. With the prevalence of affordable new lighting technologies, however, it is becoming safer and easier to commute or recreate at night. As it stands now, those working a normal 8-5 job find these opportunities are limited between September and April. Success here would change that.

Please click here and consider signing this valuable petition with MoveOn.org that will keep our trails open after dark.

Also, don't forget the petition for a Newark-Wilmington On-Road Bicycle Route. This proposal would provide an official on-road connection between Newark and Wilmington. Although there are stretches of roadway with good bicycle facilities, Delaware lacks complete bike routes between destinations.

There are currently 230 signatures, and the goal is now set at 270 signatures.

In surveys of cyclists, Kirkwood Highway and Route 4 are consistently among the highest priority for the development of bicycle routes. These corridors already have a good base of viable infrastructure. With paint and signage, plus a few projects to remedy pinch points, a route can be created at relatively low cost.

Please click here and consider signing this valuable petition with Change.org that will establish this formal bike route.

Poster's note: For those who don't know, these petitions do work if participation is high. Petitions can be found anywhere, for virtually anything. These will actually be downloaded as real signatures (with comments if provided for) and submitted to our elected and appointed leaders. Please sign on today!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Has "Share The Road" helped or hurt bicycle safety?


In North America, "Share The Road" (STR) is one of the most, if not the most popular slogan used when it comes to education and enforcement. The League of American Bicyclists website reveals a dozen or more articles and references that put STR in a positive light. But here in Delaware, the attacks continue unabated, from the only organization formally recognized by LAB as representing the State's bicyclists and constituent organizations. We continue to see the active removal of STR signs, and a push to erase any reference to the slogan found on-line. To help our readers draw their own conclusion about the effectiveness of STR, we ran an Internet search and found tons of successful campaigns, including vanity license plates in close to 20 States. Below is a small sampling, complete with links and excerpts:

From AAA, 5/10 -- AAA appreciates the continued efforts of stakeholders and transportation officials towards making roads safer for motorists and cyclists alike. In recognition of National Bike Month, AAA reminds both motorists and cyclists to be vigilant about sharing the road, and to exercise caution year round.

Cascade Bicycle Club, 7/13 -- “The Share the Road license plate is the only plate that actually sends a message to drivers of other vehicles about safe behavior on the street. A mini-billboard for better behavior, it lets every vehicle that sports the plate convey the message that Washington bikes - even our cars say so,” explained Barb Chamberlain, Executive Director of Bicycle Alliance of Washington.

Bike Portland -- Over the weekend, I noticed several new “Share the Road” billboards throughout the city. I also appreciate how the bicycle is prominently featured and (whether the designers realized it or not) the design highlights a dangerous road condition - sun glare.

ShareTheRoad.org -- Through the sale of the Share the Road specialty license plates, Bike Florida and the Florida Bicycling Association established mini-grant programs to provide funds to organizations throughout the State who are promoting bicycle and pedestrian safety programs.

Share the Road Cycling Coalition -- Following the 2011 CAA Changing Lanes conference in Vancouver where Share the Road spoke with an international cross section of experts, we approached CAA about helping us with a province-wide "Share the Road" ad campaign. They immediately said yes.

Bike Delaware -- In November, the Delaware Department of Transportation announced that, effective immediately, Delaware would stop using the MUTCD-approved “Share The Road” plaque (W16-1P). More, the department would also start removing all “Share The Road” signs currently installed in Delaware.

*  *  *

Both the Delaware Bicycle Council and Delaware Bikes supported DelDOT's initiative to retire STR signs, assuming that they were phased out going forward with new installations and maintenance. Our decision was based mainly on a technicality. The average travel lane in Delaware is substandard width (11'-12' in most cases), therefore, it is impossible for a bicyclist and most cars to fit within the same lane - abreast - when factoring in the 3' Passing Law. To fix the problem would require that we amend Title 21, making it legal for drivers to cross the double yellow line - with caution - when overtaking bicyclists and other slow moving vehicles. Ohio's Section 4511.31 is one example, and combined with a meaningful PR campaign, would have been the logical choice for us as well.

This latest grandstanding can only hurt the cause of on-road advocacy, and send confusing messages to our government leaders. Unfortunately, it is not without precedent. Bike Delaware's opposition to Same Roads, Same Rules, Same Rights as the official slogan for the See It Both Ways PSA instead gave us "Safety Begins With Sharing". While the former is not ground breaking by any means, it did have a much stronger educational component - and was the clear choice to make.

In summary, let's revisit a post written by Amy Wilburn, Chair of Delaware Bicycle Council, on August 13th: 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, 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?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Why 12-Foot Traffic Lanes Are Disastrous for Safety

From CityLab -- A friend of mine heads an office in the White House. I never see him anymore, except at the occasional black tie design dinner, where he is always good for a couple of gin and tonics as the crowd disperses. At the last such event, he asked me a question. Or maybe he didn't. But I answered it.

"What's the number one most important thing that we have to fight for?" I said. "You mean, besides corporations being people and money being speech?"

"Besides that."

"Well that's easy: 10-foot lanes instead of 12-foot lanes."

"Explain."

And so I did, brilliantly. So brilliantly that the White House issued an Executive Order the very next day. Or so I imagined; such is the power of gin.

Sobered by my now palpable failure, I have steeled myself for the task of explaining here, in a manner that can never be disputed or ignored, why the single best thing we can do for the health, wealth, and integrity of this great nation is to forbid the construction, ever again, of any traffic lane wider than 10 feet. [Full article ...]

Above: West Main Street in Newark with a recently installed bike lane, as part of the Newark Bicycle Plan. The traffic lanes remain at 12' wide.

The new South Main Street bike lanes are a welcome addition to Newark, but here too, the traffic lanes remain at 12' wide. This becomes especially troublesome north of Apple Road, where the bike lane is marginalized along the curb as 4 lanes narrows to 2 (one in each direction).

Poster's note: The primary excuse for 12' traffic lanes in Delaware is the need to accommodate DART buses. Therefore, at least along transit routes, there will be 12' lanes. I added a comment below the article, raising this issue, because nowhere in the article was it mentioned.