Sunday, January 25, 2015

DelDOT drifts off spec with Newark's first rumble strips

"Bicycle-friendly" rumble strips that showed up recently along Route 4 in Newark are the correct width and depth to accommodate bicycling. They have the proper escape breaks to allow entering and exiting the shoulder as needed. But as we've come to expect so often with DelDOT, critical parameters were ignored or somehow missed. In this case, the offset from the white line is double the 6" specified in the drawings, that advocates hoped would put an end to this issue once and for all. To make matters worse, there was no sweeping of the resultant debris, leaving the remaining shoulder space a hazard in several places.

The latest round of Rumble Strips, found here along Route 4 in Newark near the University of Delaware, have an offset of 2x what is specified in DelDOT's newly adopted Bicycle-Friendly Rumble Strips guidelines.

As described above, the design of the rumble strip itself is critical. But when it comes to safety, its position relative to the lane is at least as important - if not more important. Bicyclists will still prefer to ride in the shoulder, behind the rumble strip. But the more offset it is from the white line, the less debris-free space remains. This will prompt more experienced bicyclists to ride in the offset, or take part of the lane (or the whole lane in this case) instead, to avoid tire puncture or loss of vehicle control.

Edge line rumble strips, or "rumble stripes" are the overwhelming
favorite among recreation and transportation bicyclists. The above
photo was taken in rural Pennsylvania.
It is not clear why DelDOT keeps insisting on such a large offset - in this case, a foot or more. By the time a motorist senses contact with the rumble strip, they are well off into the shoulder and could be on their way to striking a bicyclist or other non-motorized user (pedestrians often walk in shoulders when no sidewalk is present). Some DelDOT officials have mentioned that edge-line rumble strips generate greater noise from more frequent contact, and thus, are disturbing to nearby housing developments. This is difficult to rationalize, however, given America's penchant for fake vehicle noise. Delaware's roads are disturbingly loud now, given what seems like every other vehicle having some type of illegal exhaust system. The police rarely - if ever enforce such noise, fines barely register, and it's not something people really complain about or it would be a recognized issue.

In summary, we again thank DelDOT for revising the guidelines and giving us a much safer rumble strip. This is critical should bicyclists unintentionally ride into one, or need to exit the shoulder for any number of reasons. But we will not stop advocating that they sharply reduce or eliminate the offset, thus maximizing safe available shoulder space. To achieve compromise, the only thing we ask is that they follow the guidelines set forth in their newly released rumble strip design guidance, as they did here on Route 896 south of the C&D Canal.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Transportation as big an issue, if not more so than Power Plant

Co-authored by Angela Connolly -- Everyone who consumes fossil fuels is complicit in the destruction of our planet's ecosystem, and thus our life support systems (as well as that of millions of other species that share the planet with us). It can be difficult to acknowledge one’s own piece in the puzzle, however. Fossil fuels are at the root of industrial civilization, and the American way of life. While it's important to hold people, corporations, and governments accountable - especially when things go horribly wrong, prosecutions are rare. Nevertheless, pumping up one’s own frustration and aggression is generally not effective, unless channeled through an organized advocacy effort. It can also be harmful to your own health and well being.

In the wake of the Gulf oil spill, and dozens of smaller yet similar incidents each year, you would think more folks would at least try to reduce their oil dependency. That and the dire consequences of climate change. At 71%, transportation accounts for the lion's share of oil consumption, and is second only to electricity in emissions. Yet the car remains the overwhelming choice, even for the shortest trips.

Here in Newark, we are an award winning bikeable (and walkable) city, yet a large portion of Main Street traffic is generated from adjacent communities, nearby student housing, etc. Trips that can be easily made on foot or by bike. Further disappointing is the lack of car-free or car-lite incentives that could be offered to students by the University of Delaware, as a means to reduce traffic congestion and improve quality of life. Like most - if not all American universities, this doesn't appear on their radar (certainly not in a Google search).

To summarize, the single greatest contribution folks can make is reduced driving. When it comes to replacing car trips, bicycling is a fun and easy way to go. There are other changes we can make as well. Here are 7 quick tips to ponder the next time you are brought to idle as a miles long oil train crawls its way to the Delaware City Refinery:
  • Change your vehicle use patterns; use your car a lot less or not at all. Bike, walk, and/or use public transportation.
  • If you must drive, be sure to have a fuel-efficient vehicle or car pool.
  • Aggregate your trips, so there’s 1 weekly shopping trip, for example, instead of 4 or 5.
  • Reconsider and reduce travel by air, i.e. telecommuting, Skype, etc.
  • Buy products that are produced locally, not half a world away. In the same vein, buy fruits & vegetables in season, and produced by local farmers (if possible).
  • Buy used products instead of new ones, which will reduce oil use both in production and transportation. Goodwill, Craig’s List, garage sales, to name a few. Also, watch for usable items that people place out for the trash - you would be surprised at the items that can be found on the curb! You or someone you know might be able to use these items. Just make sure that there are no tags on these items marking them for donation to organizations such as the Purple Heart or Cancer associations. Otherwise, they are up for grabs!
  • Eliminate, reduce, and/or re-use plastics, which are derived from petroleum. Reusable shopping bags are a great first step. Our oceans are filling up with plastic; plastic that harms wildlife and never biodegrades, and enters the food chain and leaches toxic chemicals. For those of you who enjoy crafting, here's a great idea to make items from "plarn", which is yarn made from plastic bags.

Shopping by bike can be fun and easy. This errand included two rolls of carpet, Hibiscus, and a 6-pack.


This article isn't to say everyone can just drop the car and switch transportation modes. Much depends on circumstances, including where we choose to live. But imagine the impact if more folks made just a small effort, perhaps commuting or running errands by bike or on foot just 1 day a week. I'm not counting on it anytime soon, though, with plummeting gas prices.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

First bicycle-friendly rumble strips spotted south of the C&D Canal


Just as Maryland's State Highway Administration worked with Delaware advocates on safer rumble strip design guidance, DelDOT also came through recently, as promised. 1st State BIKES advocates, as well as bicyclists from the Sussex Cyclists bicycle club were the first to discover the original design, which destroyed miles of usable shoulders. They were even placed in a few bike lanes. Once alerted, DelDOT dispatched crews to repair the damage in areas where the rumble strip reduced the shoulder to less than 4' wide.

We sincerely thank the officials from both states who immediately acknowledged the problem, and acted quickly to revise the manuals and guidelines to include a much safer design. A huge tip of the helmet to Michael Jackson (MD DOT), Anthony Aglio (DelDOT Planning), Mark Luszcz (DelDOT Traffic), and several others who worked with 1st State Bikes advocates to make it all happen!

Above/below: The new design, while not perfect, is a huge improvement. These rumble strips are shallower, narrower, and offset about 6" from the edge line. They also have regular breaks, allowing bicyclists to escape without hitting them. Even so, crossing this rumble strip is not nearly has dangerous or bone jarring as the original design.

The offset is clearly visible here. Despite our sincere gratitude for this design in the spirit of compromise, we will continue to advocate that rumble strips be placed at the white line, or as part of it, leaving maximum space for bicyclists to avoid debris and other hazards that sometimes appear in the shoulders or bike lanes.

This is the design that was first implemented by Maryland's SHA, and then DelDOT. These were an absolute terror for bicyclists, being deep and wide and sitting exactly where bicyclists need to ride to avoid shoulder debris.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Inside Line Bike Expo ramping up


The inaugural Inside Line bike expo will take place on Saturday March 7, 2015 in Newark, Delaware, and will feature 100+ bike (and related) industry vendors of all stripes, across all bicycling disciplines, in a fun, vibrant, festival-like atmosphere featuring music, beer, games, raffles, things to ride bikes on, and of course, bikes, bikes and more BIKES!! You see, this is no ordinary tradeshow. At its core this event is designed to be a FUN, first-class celebration of bike culture in the Mid-Atlantic region, with the goal of getting people more excited about riding bikes. [Visit the event website for more ...]

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Take the Scofflaw Bicycling Survey


The University of Colorado Denver is conducting a study about bicyclist behavior. They request your participation in this survey, which will take about 10 or 15 minutes of your time. Your participation is completely voluntary. The results of the survey will be used for research and planning purposes, and your responses are confidential.

If you have any questions about this survey, please contact Dr. Wes Marshall (principal investigator) at 303.352.3741 or wesley.marshall@ucdenver.edu. If you have any questions for the Institutional Review Board at the University of Colorado Denver, they may be contacted at: (303) 724-1055 or COMIRB@ucdenver.edu.

Description of Survey:
This survey asks questions about your travel patterns and experiences as a bicyclist under various situations. The survey is part of a larger study intending to better understand our transportation system and what factors might correlate with different behavior patterns. [Visit the survey site for more ...]

Poster's note: A few years ago, we conducted our own survey in Delaware, and the results showed that bicyclists would be less inclined to break the law if properly designed bicycle facilities were provided. Check it out here, including a link to the actual survey results. Check out the results of a study conducted in Portland OR, showing a 94% compliance rate.

Surveys show overwhelming support for striping, signage, and other treatments that safely integrate bicycling with other road users. Properly designed, they should place the bicyclist in an optimal position against right turning vehicles, and never hug curbs or door zones. The above bike lane was added after the road was already striped for cars only; the erased taper lines can still be seen cutting across just ahead of the bicyclist in the picture.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Helping and Facilitating the "Invisible Cyclist"

Cross-posted from WalkBikeJersey Blog -- While it has been frustrating for me to sit on the professional sidelines of bicycle and pedestrian planning, my recent job foray as a professional driver has given me the ability to see and observe a great deal of the real-world transportation environment of northeastern New Jersey.  Recently I had to get the vehicle washed that I was driving at the Super Car Wash of Elizabeth on Rt 1 & 9 just south of the Bayway Circle.  Super Car Wash employs an army of men to do the detail work of sweeping the inside of the car and drying it off everywhere when it comes out of the mechanized washed. Nearly all of these hardworking men are from Spanish speaking America.

Well, to my surprise Super Car Wash provided a bike rack for its employees and from the look of the rack in the photos, it would seem that a large number of its employees get there by bike.  While the rack is of the less than ideal "wheel bender" variety, it seems to work rather well here as the employees can keep an eye on their wheels. [Full article, including photos ...]

The scene outside Dover Downs Casino and Resort on Route 13 is very similar to the one described above. The racks are also of the wheelbending variety, however, commuters enjoy some peace of mind knowing the casino provides full surveillance. Please help us put an end to wheelbending racks in the New Castle County code once and for all, by signing this petition.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Shop Spotlight: Earn-A-Bike Co-op, San Antonio, TX

The San Antonio Earn-A-Bike Co-op (EAB) is a volunteer driven initiative with a mission to to create equitable access to bicycling by providing affordable bicycle maintenance, services and education. Their shop provides a central forum for sharing equipment, materials and expertise, and facilitates affordable, practical, hands-on support for cyclist of all ages and skill levels.

EAB welcomes anyone who wants to learn about cycling, repairs, maintenance or safe riding. Aside from the pleasure of fixing and riding bicycles, members of the EAB believe that bicycles are vital for socio-economic gain, and offer an environmentally sustainable option to the automobile. The Earn-A-Bike program pairs those in need with skilled volunteers to rebuild and repair donated bicycles.

At EAB, participation in advocacy would be encouraged. They view the co-op model as one that promotes cooperation from everyone in the community. If someone has a passion to advocate for policy, they can go forward representing EAB. The organization would support the effort as long as it promotes bicycling and safety.

In the words of Cristian Sandoval, Executive Director and Founder "We don't push our agenda, we prove our points. At the moment, we are tracking the benefits of implementing the Earn A Bike program in a lower income community as a means to reduce high school drop out rates and improve the health of the participant. If successful, we will publish and raise funds from the community to expand the program".

In the spirit of giving and sustainability, EAB embraces researchers, advocates, philanthropists, writers, photographers, sociologists and other members of the community collaborating to prove the outcomes. Un-like the Newark Bike Project, events and activities must be bicycling-related, or they will not be considered. They even have a soldering class that uses old bicycle frames for labs and teaching.

EAB rents their facility for $800 a month. Currently, the lease is volunteer paid, and will be until the organization is solvent - hopefully by the end of 2015. EAB operates with transparency and accountability in all aspects, including program planning and operations, finances, etc. Their primary goal is to provide equitable, affordable and practical services with a priority to those in need.

In the interest of safety, Cristian Sandoval demonstrates the importance of using a helmet.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Close Call Database Tracks Bad Drivers

Members are encouraged to submit incident reports to help build cases against aggressive drivers

Bicycling Magazine -- Almost every bike rider has experienced it: A hostile driver cuts you off, buzzes by within inches, or yells obscenities as you pedal. The experience is more than frightening - it’s potentially life-threatening. Unfortunately, cyclists have had little recourse. Until now. Ernest Ezis of Boulder, CO, was tired of hearing about riders being harassed by motorists with no way to warn their peers of repeatedly dangerous drivers. His solution? He created the Close Call Database, a website where cyclists can identify and track aggressive motorists.

The concept is simple. Cyclists involved in an episode of car-on-bike ire can report the encounter on the site. As reports accrue, patterns of serial aggressive driving should become evident.  If one of those drivers is ever involved in an incident with a cyclist, the compiled information could help to build a legal case against him or her. Ezis also hopes that police will use the information to confront hostile drivers and encourage them to change their habits before an accident occurs. [Full article ...]

Rideye has the ultimate HD surveillance system, aka "black box" for bicyclists, that can record the details of an incident or accident. It can also catch a belligerent motorist in the act, and record the tag number. Unfortunately, because a front license plate is not required in Delaware, using a rear-facing camera (seatpost mount) won't be much help.

Related: 
Horn-Crazy Driver Busted for Harassing Cyclists
Cameras Are Cyclists’ ‘Black Boxes’ in Accidents

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Bicycling is the Fountain of Youth

How Exercise Keeps Us Young

New York Times -- Active older people resemble much younger people physiologically, according to a new study of the effects of exercise on aging. The findings suggest that many of our expectations about the inevitability of physical decline with advancing years may be incorrect and that how we age is, to a large degree, up to us.

Aging remains a surprisingly mysterious process. A wealth of past scientific research has shown that many bodily and cellular processes change in undesirable ways as we grow older. But science has not been able to establish definitively whether such changes result primarily from the passage of time - in which case they are inevitable for anyone with birthdays - or result at least in part from lifestyle, meaning that they are mutable.

This conundrum is particularly true in terms of inactivity. Older people tend to be quite sedentary nowadays, and being sedentary affects health, making it difficult to separate the effects of not moving from those of getting older. [Full article ...]

"Iron Man" Jim Eads powers his way through the White Mountains of NH in 2007. Jim will turn 80 in April, and thinks nothing of  riding over 10,000 miles per year, every year. Check out this special interview with Jim HERE.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Dover Bike and Pedestrian Plan Workshop set for January 20

The Dover/Kent County MPO and the City of Dover will hold a public workshop from 4-7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 20 for people to view and discuss the final drafts of Dover’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan updates. The workshop will take place at the John W. Pitts Center at Schutte Park in Dover off of Hazlettville Road.

For more information, call the Dover Parks and Recreation office at (302) 736-7050. Stop by and visit the event webpage HERE.


View Larger Map

Thursday, January 8, 2015

DelDOT to install "Bicycles IN LANE" signs at key I95 crossings


Thanks to a successful petition drive - and a Chief Traffic Engineer who takes a pro-active approach toward bicycle and pedestrian safety - a new and unique bicycle warning sign is heading for approval. Working with 1st State BIKES advocates, Mark Luszcz (P.E, DelDOT) designed the sign that will give Delaware another 1st on the national stage, rolling out the words "IN LANE" in conjunction with the standard bicycle warning sign (bicycle symbol on yellow sign).

According to the Federal Highway Administration and the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the bicycle warning sign by itself is used to indicate that bicycles are ahead, i.e. crossing or entering the roadway. But if you add a message in a sub-sign or "plaque", or in conjunction with the symbol on the sign itself, it then becomes useful for whatever the conditions dictate.

Few will argue that something more is needed on non-shouldered roads with sub-standard width lanes. Something like a warning sign, yet carries an educational message that bicyclists are legally entitled to ride in the lane of traffic. DelDOT had considered wider spread use of the "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" (BMUFL) regulatory sign, and tested it on Gills Neck - a 2 lane non-shouldered road in Sussex County. But it raised the ire of motorists and legislators, who claimed that bicyclists were abusing the privilege and deliberately impeding traffic. Under pressure, DelDOT removed the signs. Fortunately, a second location, at the bridge crossing the White Clay Creek on Papermill Road in Newark, is doing very well and will remain. Main Street in Newark is also working very well. Both are placed in conjunction with sharrows, of which have their own safety benefit. So it appears that DelDOT will limit use of the BMUFL sign to downtown environments and pinch points like the above.

It has not yet been determined when the first "IN LANE" warning signs will be installed, but it should be in time for Spring. For pinch points, the following four I95 crossings were selected: Chapman Road, Salem Church Road, Otts Chapel Road, and Welsh Tract Road. Each has limited shoulders or no shoulder space at all, yet draw regular bicycle traffic because they are direct spans with no I95 access.

Though Welsh Tract Road appears to have a narrow shoulder, it isn't usable. Occasional storm grates and debris collection, and a close proximity to the curb make it very dangerous to ride in. Safest position here is the traffic lane.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Study: Hall, Pomeroy trails most popular in Delaware

Newark Post -- As the winter sun set on Monday, David Blickwedel was skateboarding down the James F. Hall Trail, even as temperatures dipped near freezing. The University of Delaware senior frequents the trail, as well as the adjoining Pomeroy Trail, several times a week. “You can go all the way to White Clay, which is great,” Blickwedel said. “It's also sort of nestled away from people, which I like.” Blickwedel is not alone.

According to a Delaware State Parks report, the Hall and Pomeroy are the two most heavily used trails in the State. By installing trail counters, Delaware State Parks workers determined how many people used the trails for walking, running or biking. The strategically located trail counters registered an average of 92,437 users per year on the Hall Trail and 71,738 on the Pomeroy Trail, placing these two trails at the top of the list. [Full article ...]

Even on the coldest days, bicyclists and pedestrians are seen on the Hall and Pomeroy Trails.