Sunday, August 31, 2014

"Retreat" housing fails Main Street, UD commuters

This article recently appeared in the Newark Post --

After several months of construction, hundreds of residents can finally call The Retreat home sweet home now that they officially moved their belongings in on Monday.

The complex, owned by Georgia-based Landmark Properties, which manages several student housing communities around the country, opened at Suburban Plaza off Elkton Road and flanks both sides of the shopping center with its 169 newly constructed units that include 39 two-story cottages and 130 lodge-style apartments for a total of 597 beds.

According to Retreat representatives, over 60 percent of the units are currently leased, with the one and two-bedroom units completely booked. [Full article ...]

Mark Morehead appears to be the only member of City Council who gets it. Yes, Suburban Plaza is immediately adjacent and (hopefully) most will walk or bike the hundred or so yards to shop and dine. But for commuting to Newark's downtown and University of Delaware campus, the "Retreat" is a casualty waiting to happen. No attempt was made to address the needs of bicycle commuters in planning and construction. Residents who still choose (or must) bike into town will need to pedal up a dangerous sidewalk on Elkton Road (technically illegal) to Casho Mill and cross to the frontage road on the opposite side. Those wishing to use the Christina Parkway bike path facility (or wishing to legally ride the shoulder on Elkton Road in the NE direction) will be crossing a very dangerous intersection with no crosswalks until Spring of 2015. And even then, only one is planned across Elkton Road on the NE side, which will tempt potential pathway users to cross on the non-crosswalk (SW) side rather than wait through 2 or 3 signal phase changes. Such poor planning sends a clear message to students and residents - 400+ of them - that they should take their cars to the downtown and campus, where parking and congestion is already intolerable.

It is an epic fail that Newark did not require the developer to provide safe bicycling connections to the Elkton Road bike lanes and the Christina Parkway bike path. This should have been developer funded with an implementation timeline to coincide with the completion of the project. Shame on the Newark Post, for not even mentioning bicycling as a viable means of transportation throughout the entire article above!

Even the bicycle racks shown here are out of compliance with Newark's parking code. "Wave" or "Ribbon" racks provide little frame support to locked bicycles, causing them to fall on to each other - sometimes in a pile. They were also phased out by the University of Delaware, and replaced with the more stable "Inverted U" design. So what are they doing here?

This is what students have to look forward to when leaving "The Retreat" on the road. A lone bike lane hugs the far right curb, to the right of the right turn-only lane - a huge no no in any bike lane design. There isn't even a break, or dashes in the white line to suggest that bicyclists can move out and take the appropriate lane. Also note the bicyclist in the distance, riding through the intersection on Elkton Road. The corridor is a high volume bicycle commuter route, and we are advocating that correctly designed bike lanes also be included with the next resurfacing (pave & rehab) project due in about a year.

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 dangerously designed bike lane. The 3 sides of crosswalk are not scheduled until Spring 2015 - well after Retreat residents 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.

The long abandoned Christina Parkway parallel bike path is an advertisement for abandoning Bike Delaware's bike path fetish, given zero funding for even basic cleanup and maintenance. Yet some folks can still be seen walking and biking on this facility. And this can be expected to increase substantially, with the completion of "The Retreat" and ongoing development of the STAR Campus - both of which are excellent connections to this path.

View Larger Map

Above:  Elkton Road, on the approach to the intersection of Christina Parkway from the SW. The curb cut marking the start of the bike path is seen on the right, well before the intersection. One block further back is the entrance to the Newark Charter School, all but ruling it out for kids riding their bikes to school. Bike lanes are desperately needed on Elkton Road now, especially through here, given the long timeline of the project extending to the Maryland line. Bike lane symbols used to exist on Elkton Road many years ago, but were largely left out during the last surface repaving.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Riders Rejoice: DelDOT's New Sweeping Plan Favors Hot Spots

On August 21, 2012, advocates from the Delaware Bicycle Council, Sussex Cyclists, and the White Clay Bicycle Club met with DelDOT's Maintenance and Operations Division. During this enthusiastic exchange, our concerns were genuinely considered. Both sides agreed that the proposal to concentrate more sweeping in areas of greater reflection (curb/barrier zones, bridges, etc) will result in more efficiency, safety, and productivity. A draft listing and map of chronic debris "hot spots" was presented, and M&O promised to consider our requests for additional sweeping in these areas.

Now, 2 years later, they have. In an all new Storm Water Management Plan submitted to DNREC on August 1, there is a much more “targeted” approach taking shape. Emphasis is now placed on roads that have direct connections to Delaware's storm sewer system, in areas that have the greatest potential to produce harmful pollutants. These include high traffic, commercial, industrial, and residential areas. Each of these road types is swept at a frequency that maximizes DelDOT resources (manpower, equipment, budget) while meeting the terms of the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit. This is to effectively prohibit the discharge of material other than stormwater.

Randy Cole, DelDOT's Environmental Program Manager, had this to say:

"[Advocates] identified “hotspot” road sections where there is a frequent collection of debris in the road shoulder. DelDOT reviewed these and developed a strategy to incorporate them within our sweeping plan. Because these road sections fall under different roadway categories, sweeping frequency will vary, but all will be swept at a frequency greater than our past plan. Once the sweeping plan has been approved by DNREC and EPA, we’ll know the exact frequency for each road."

Advocates and Representatives were also given a detailed overview in the process of debris sweeping and collection. The debris swept is subject to Federal regulations, a permit process, and careful inspection and disposal as hazardous material. During operation, the sweeper must also be accompanied by two other vehicles for safety and protection.

So a big round of kudos to the organizations who came together, and pressed the issue at just the right time. We sincerely thank the leadership team at DelDOT Maintenance and Operations for hearing our concerns, and seeing the need. Let's raise a toast to cleaner shoulders, and longer lasting bicycle tires and tubes!

View NCC Sweeping Hot Spots in a larger map

Survey: Is Route 13 in Dover safer with Bike Lanes?

AASHTO compliant bike lanes were installed on Route 13 in Dover over a year ago. DelDOT rightfully included the non-motorized in the Pave & Rehab process, as a steady stream of bicycle commuters pedal daily (and take transit) on what most consider Delaware's most popular Main Street. Now is the time for us to give DelDOT some basic feedback, and let them know whether or not the addition of bike lanes has helped safety along this busy corridor.

You can click on the survey image below to open up a printable version, or simply fill out an on-line version HERE.

Please help distribute this survey, by liberally forwarding or cross-posting this link to those you know who might bike - or has biked on Route 13 since the bike lanes were installed. Route 13 is anything but hospitable to non-motorized road users, but as one respondent commented, "It's a start, but a slow one". Few will disagree that adding bike facilities with lane reshuffling and delineation is a cost effective way to get the ball rolling in terms of Complete Streets implementation. And the streets are all we have, and will have for generations to come, in nearly every corner of Delaware.

Above: An artist's rendition of Route 13/DuPont Highway, as it was originally planned in the 1800s. Imagine what might have been, had we chosen a balanced approach to transportation planning, as it is throughout most of Europe.

Monday, August 25, 2014

No Accident

From Transportation Alternatives -- A few years ago, the New York Times published a five-sentence brief about a man who “intentionally ran over five people” with an SUV after a fight in North Bellmore, Long Island. The driver, the Times reported, “fled the scene of the accident.” The police later located the vehicle that “they believed was involved in the accident.” One of the victims was in critical condition.

Ho hum. News briefs about the previous day’s car crashes are as routine as box scores and the weather forecast. Yet, in this case, the Times’ (and, presumably, the Nassau County cops’) choice of one particular word stood out: If a man intentionally ran over five people, how could that possibly be considered an accident? If, instead of car keys, the man had picked up a gun and shot five people, would the press and police have called that an “accident” too? No. They’d have called it “attempted homicide.” Yet, for some reason when the weapon is a car, when the violence on our streets is done with a motor vehicle, it’s always just an “accident.” [Full article ...]

Poster's note: Hopefully, we're a little better than this in Delaware. The latest bicyclist to be run down (Route 273 @ Ruthar) only a few week ago was charged with Vehicular Homicide, and the word "accident" was not used in any articles describing it. Regardless, all journalists need to understand that their choice of words can have a major impact on public perception and safety, and can shape the world we live in. Most car crashes should be referred to as incidents, and not accidents because the driver is engaging in a known dangerous activity when it happens.

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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