Friday, January 19, 2018

Meyer, Ogletown-S. Newark Legislators are a disgrace to democracy


By Frank Warnock and Angela Connolly -- 
 A 2.5 year exemplary citizen advocacy campaign to save the Orphanage Property (OP) in Ogletown in its natural state, and to truly preserve it as a future regional park has finally ended. Multiple windows of opportunity for buyout were -- time and time again -- refused action by our legislators on both the County and the State level.

It is estimated that, judging by a 1,100+ following on social media alone, Save The Orphanage Property (STOP) had many thousands of area residents that were backing the campaign. No fundraising took place, and no memberships were offered; it would be the truest of grassroots efforts. Despite such widespread and enthusiastic support, no amount of action or visibility on the part of residents and citizens counted toward democracy -- and in light of a broken Unified Development Code, the rule of law. It has become painfully clear that, from STOP's earliest beginnings, fate was already decided. Councilwoman Lisa Diller, State Rep Edward Osienski, and Senator Bryan Townsend were well aware that development of the OP was coming as early as 2013, and kept it a secret from their Constituents until it was too late.

Shortly after the CHP was accidentally leaked, Councilwoman Diller was forced to call an emergency public hearing. At least one is required by County law for any major plan. In July 2015, hundreds of area residents came out to Holy Family Church and were shocked and dismayed to find out that the CHP was already well advanced and would be difficult to stop. Had Diller, along with our two State Legislators brought this to the public two years earlier, it could have been an entirely different outcome. A way could have been found to provide the Felician Sisters with their 60 units of affordable housing, which the STOP Campaign supported, while preserving the bulk as a regional park. The Nuns at that time had even favored such an outcome over the development.

Immediately after this first and only hearing, "Save Ogletown Pond" (SOP) grew exponentially, with the immediate goal of steering any development away from the "Ogletown Pond" critical habitat area. The developers did comply and adjusted their plan to the west and closer to Breezewood. But the larger goal did not stop there; it was soon obvious that everyone wanted the entire parcel for dedicated open space, wetland protection, wildlife buffer, and ultimately, a regional park. The Ogletown-S. Newark area is devoid of such a facility, that could be walkable, jogable, or bikeable from their homes. Those closest -- Glasgow and Pike Creek -- are a 20+ min drive for most, which contradicts Gov Minner's "Livable Delaware" and DNREC's "Trails and Pathways" initiatives (among others). The Orphanage Property represented the last potential green space that can be designated, and in the process, it would prevent some of the horrific damage being done to Delaware's bio-diversity and wildlife habitat according to a recent report authored by Senator Stephanie Hansen. That chance is now gone due to political apathy and indifference, and a shunning of "We The People".

County Executive Matt Meyer
The amount of dishonesty and half-truths by these legislators was staggering. They did a superb job at keeping advocates in flux, confusion, in darkness and not knowing, and having to guess who was on the side of truth. Councilwoman Lisa Diller insisted all along that the property was not for sale, and for all intents and purposes, she was "done and finished" with any notion of a buyout. She made that clear in meetings, and in writing, in one of her e-newsletters. That simply wasn't true, because as seen, it was later sold to developers. The onus then shifted to NCC Exec Matt Meyer, who failed to produce a buyout proposal that was acceptable to the Felician Sisters. During that time, Senator Bryan Townsend repeatedly said that Mr Meyer threw away several windows of opportunity.

Because it was Mr Meyer who was meeting with the Sisters, not the State legislators -- who were either prohibited or unwilling to participate -- advocates had no conduit and thus no way to know if progress was being made. In a leap of faith, they chose to put their complete trust in Senator Townsend, who claimed to be in regular touch with the Sisters and thus, receiving their updates on negotiations. The news was not good; Mr Meyer, according to Townsend, had bungled repeat buyout offers by not meeting several basic demands that he and the Sisters had verbally agreed upon. He simply wasn't "going after it" with the heart of someone who really wanted a park for Ogletown. He had an excellent deal in the palm of his hand, with a huge multiplier in State money, but simply wouldn't close it. This was the news coming back to advocates with repeated calls and emails from the State Legislators, mainly Senator Townsend.

In the time that ensued, the announcement came through that the Sisters sold the OP to Robert Sipple, a major land developer. With Ryan Homes, he is currently heading up the controversial LaGrange development along Rt.40 in Glasgow, where they are fighting to develop a "permanently" protected historical area (more on that in future posts). Advocates re-organized and thought it best to contact Mr Sipple directly, and ask for a meeting to find if there was a price that he and his people would accept in a buyout proposal. A non-STOP advocate (who chose not to be identified) made contact with Mr Sipple through Joseph Setting of Setting Properties. Mr Setting is the developer that was cited by the Wilmington News Journal as the developer of the OP just shortly after the CHP was leaked and then announced in 2015. He continues in one, possibly two LLCs that are associated with the development of the OP, which runs contradictory to his claim of being disassociated.

The meeting took place around lunch, with Senator Townsend in attendance. Apparently, Rep Osienski was unable to attend for medical purposes. Or so he says. There was no agenda, but Mr Sipple quoted a figure of $7.14M that he thought would be an acceptable buyout cost, but that he would need to meet with his partners to discuss. Little is known about the meeting beyond that, but Sen. Townsend insisted that his repeated calls and emails to Mr Sipple since then had gone unanswered. It is his opinion that Mr Sipple's lack of confidence in NCC is what has him now moving forward with the CHP as opposed to any thoughts of selling.

Representative John Kowalko (Newark)
As it turned out, Advocates did learn that Exec Meyer had agreed to bring 1/2 the buyout price before NCC for a vote, which if successful, would make the OP a State and County purchase as originally hoped for. Unfortunately, Mr Meyer also said that he wanted no part in negotiations with Mr Sipple or any logistics in a buyout. That alone ended any notion of County involvement, financially or otherwise, because any deal on this scale must come at the County level.

Complete silence from all parties would follow, with the exception of one instant message from Exec Meyer on the evening of Jan 17 putting his $3+M offer in writing. His language suggested he was naive about the current situation, and questioned if the Bond Bill funding had come through on the State side. Nothing he said indicated he had spoken with Senator Townsend or Rep Osienski. He further suggested that it was their failure to progress that held things up. Meanwhile, Townsend replied "I have seen email communication from Meyer that is not at all a rosy picture of support for [STOP]. Meyer (of course) says he supports [the buyout], but then goes on to say how the County can't afford to participate."

As of 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 18, 2018, surveyors set up camp on the OP. They are beginning the drainage and utility mapping for 270 homes that are now sure to come. The CHP is anything but a "preserve", but in a complete oxymoron, that is what they call it. This super high density development will completely fill in the region's last remaining wildlands and open space that is suitable for a deserved regional park. Construction will soon be underway, with no apparent way to stop it.

We will now summarize some key aspects of the STOP campaign, and why things turned out the way they did.
Councilwoman Lisa Diller
  • Councilwoman Lisa Diller declared herself detached and unwilling to champion the cause, insisting all along that the land was not for sale. Executive Meyer was not a sincere proponent of STOP either, and kept finding reasons not to commit. Was it because he accepted maximum campaign contributions from numerous developers in Delaware? He also appointed Joseph Setting, a campaign donor and developer of the OP (according to the Wilmington News Journal), to serve as Chair of his Parks Transition Team. Mr Setting's role was a direct conflict of interest, giving him significant influence and input over where NCC parkland was prioritized. He remains vested in the property today via one, possibly two LLCs.
  • The Dept of Land Use (DLU) will be issuing illegal building permits for 269 apartments, townhomes and large-scale homes as part of the CHP, probably by Spring 2018. According to the Unified Development Code (UDC), if a project fails its Traffic Impact Study (TIS), it is not permitted without traffic level of service (LOS) improvements funded by the developer.   
  • In the case of the CHP, DelDOT expanded the scope of the TIS by six intersections, two of them in grade "E" failure mode based on 2010 study data. Today they are likely "F". Ironically, the author wrote that these were to be omitted, however, UDC section 40.11.124 states the contrary – that DelDOT's recommendations are equally relevant. Therefore, issuing building permits is illegal. Repeated attempts to contact Mr Richard Hall, Manager at the DLU, have been made, and are still being made, to no avail. Advocates need to see in writing where in County law that the DLU or anyone else has the authority to override TIS regulations when the transportation system is already overwhelmed, or otherwise exercise discretion over how it's carried out. Mr Hall, at rehall@nccde.org, refuses to reply.
    Representative Ed Osienski
  • Rep Osienski, Senator Townsend, and Councilwoman Lisa Diller all knew that the Nuns were pushing for development as far back as 2013, but didn't think they were serious and/or would succeed at getting a plan approved. They didn't think anything would happen, and did not see the land for the invaluable opportunity that it was. They never considered land conservation in their districts, or securing a regional park for the people to enjoy and be proud of. By 2015, the CHP was far along in the planning, and their constituents had no choice now but to be TOLD what was coming to their community, instead of an appeal for comments and public input as is typical in the beginning stages of any major project. All three Legislators failed to inform and engage the Community in enough time to work together to help the Sisters realize their goal of creating affordable housing, while finding a suitable way to preserve the rest of the land. This tragedy could, and should have been avoided, through effective communication by our Legislators, with their constituents and with the Felician Sisters.
  • Approval of the CHP is a major blow to several Delaware initiatives intended to save our environment, fight climate change, and promote walkable, bikeable, and livable communities. The justification for a buyout of this land was overwhelming, and should have been jointly embraced by County and State Govt. During the STOP campaign, advocates also worked hard, and showed strength in numbers in Dover, at Bond Bill hearings, to promote funding for programs that include 10-9, or $19M, that is supposed to be included in the budget for open space and farmland acquisition and/or development rights -- by law. This was denied. Then advocates fought for open space as a plank in the Democratic platform, and that failed too. With Democrats in control of most of Delaware's legislative bodies, it would appear that open space and parkland is not their priority, and not to be funded or fought for.
Whether or not it was a vested interested in the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" (CHP), corruption, or simple indifference, one thing is abundantly clear; the loss of STOP was a colossal failure of political will and competence. The Ogletown-S. Newark region was already known to be dis-enfranchised in matters of community, place-making, and local access to quality regional parkland facilities. What has taken place here only cements this issue further, and in a way that can never be reversed. The goal now must be to replace these lawmakers with just and competent leaders who will listen to, and respect "We The People". November 2018 is not far off.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Save the Orphanage Property 4th and final press release

STOP has finally reached an end; Ryan Homes moving forward with Chestnut Hill "Preserve"

On Dec 11, Joe Setting and Bob Sippel (the developers) were taken out to brunch, basically getting them to the table. The goal was to find out if there was still the remotest possibility that they might consider a buyout offer for the Orphanage Property. It became apparent that both were sympathetic to the cause, and willing to consider a sale price of just over $7M. And with that, the County and State would be gifted another chance to negotiate a deal.

Unfortunately, this did not materialize in writing due to, again, lack of County commitment. New Castle County Executive Matthew Meyer was heard saying that he would consider $3M for County Council to vote on, but wanted no part in the buyout or logistics in any agreement. As the State is ill-equipped, this would leave nobody to oversee the transaction.

Despite the County, it appears that over half of the needed funding had come together on the State side, but without NCC contributing in the manner necessary, it simply wouldn't happen. Councilwoman Diller has put no known effort into convincing Meyer or her colleagues of the importance of pursuing STOP. When it comes to political will, there is nothing we as citizens can do to change it, except in the voting booth, after it's too late. And even then, by virtue of how districts are gerrymandered, even Mrs Diller as an incumbent is considered "safe" for future terms in office.

As seen early on during the first sale opportunity with the Felician Sisters, nothing in either Diller or Meyer's actions suggested that they want STOP to happen. And now, despite the gift of a second opportunity, they have chosen to run out the clock instead.

While the State has appeared the hero in all of this, it cannot be forgotten that all of STOP's district electeds were aware of the Felician Sisters attempts to develop the property as far back as 2011. No one seems to recall any of them bringing this to the community, its leaders, or the press as a "code red". They did not see the value in any of the points and arguments that STOP presented over the last 2 years. Had it been put on the radar, even in 2013, we would have worked under Exec Gordon's watch well before this Chestnut Hill "Preserve" was even conceived, and very likely achieved the outcome that Ogletown so desperately wanted and deserved.

The pre-construction meeting between NCC Land Use Dept and Ryan Homes (builders) took place yesterday. Earth movers are expected to commence clearing, grading, laying the roads, and digging the utilities in the coming days or weeks, according to the DLU. Actual building permits will come in May.

The dream of doing something great for the community is over, and will soon be replaced by a nightmare that nobody wants. Gone is bringing folks together for the sake of the planet, to preserve our quality of life, and address the need for place making in Ogletown. Now, the region will never be the same, nor will they ever have another chance at something like this.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

1st State Bikes Year In Review for 2017

Amy Wilburn, left, dictates terms to James Wilson of Bike DE
Our Top 10 articles for 2017:

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Delaware set for first place in pedestrian fatalities (again)

By Angela Connolly --

What can we say, about Delaware's consistent ranking among the worst States in the U.S. when it comes to pedestrian fatalities? Unfortunately, 2017 will almost match 2015, when we took the #1 spot per capita -- even beating Florida. Currently at 32 dead, that translates to 3.9 per 100,000 residents, and will likely get us there.

With advocate's help, DelDOT is doing an excellent job when it comes to adding crosswalks, sidewalks, bike lanes, etc whenever possible, on a limited budget, usually during repave and reconstruction projects. But facilities can only do so much; Delaware has an enormous problem when it comes to aggressive and distracted driving. Most use "smart" phones behind the wheel --  and very few drive defensively. Law enforcement is weak to non-existent, mainly throughout the State's unincorporated zones (most of the State's suburbs). Combine that with some pedestrians who are wayward and/or wear "dark clothing" -- as the press loves to point out -- and that's what gives us this horrible distinction.

As most are now aware, the Advisory Council on Walkability and Pedestrian Awareness was created in October 2015 to begin addressing the issue. Unfortunately, little they propose will change anything; their main focus is reigning in careless pedestrian behavior. Without stepping up vehicle law enforcement, too many drivers will continue to speed, act with aggression and intolerance, share attention on the road with their "smart" phone, and fail to account for vulnerable road users. As a result, they see them when it's too late. According to every national study ever conducted on the subject, use of phones while driving is the equivalent of  DWI -- yet even texting is readily dismissed by law enforcement as a societal norm. This gross disparity is where most of the problem lies.

Shortly after its inception, the ACWPA was gifted a historic opportunity to reform Delaware's vehicle code for the purpose of pedestrian safety. On Christmas Eve, 2015, Amy Wilburn (former Chair of the Delaware Bicycle Council) and Frank Warnock sat together at Friendly's Restaurant and crafted language for a Senate bill. They did not re-invent the wheel; they merely borrowed language found in States ranking far higher than Delaware, including those at the top like Massachusetts and Oregon.

For reasons we'll never understand, the Council handed Bike Delaware control of a subcommittee that ultimately quashed any notion of changing the law. Passage of the "Pedestrian Bill", as it was referred to, would have been just the shake-up Delaware needed to put the focus on pedestrian safety and motorist's behavior around them. Instead, they thought it best to go on victim blaming,  and to better accommodate bad driver behavior. Until that changes, we will continue to be the "1st deadliest State" in the nation where walking is concerned.

Finally, DelDOT's stubborn insistence on utilizing the 85th Percentile when setting speed limits is literally killing us. Too often, this method results in highway speeds that are permitted through zones rich in walking and bicycling activity, including residential, retail -- even in front of schools. By assuming that basically 85% are "good drivers", this too is a direct contributor to the problems outlined above.

In the years ahead, let's hope life overtakes the need for speed and saving scant seconds in every trip we take, regardless of transportation mode.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Is Bike Delaware a Tool of Developer Interests?

4 things to consider if you support Bike Delaware and believe in their mission and vision -- 

SB-130, Enterprise Districts
  • Bike Delaware's signature legislation centers around land use. At the core is Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Districts, which promote large, high density mixed use developments. Selling them as multi-modal could see NCC relax vehicle level of service (LOS) requirements, and put such development on the fast track.
Lobbying efforts
  • Lobbying for high profile trails and pathways projects. These increase surrounding property values, draws developer interest, and ultimately becomes a selling point for homes clustered nearby.
Dissing and undermining of on-road safety efforts
  • Ignoring efforts at road bicycling education and infrastructure. Any pragmatist would agree that we need to fix what we already have -- before heaping on more development. This would rightfully suggest that we can and should retrofit the built environment -- first. Instead, Bike Delaware advocates for multi-modalism with new housing developments, giving these a higher likelihood of density waivers and project approval (tip: doesn't work when surrounded by auto-dependent suburbs).
Touting the impossible
  • Selling an impossible vision to Delaware's bicycling community, by insisting that we can build a low-stress bicycling network locally accessible to everyone, including 8-80 year olds. The facts say otherwise. (tip: a course in home rule and county land use would also help).
Few bicyclists like seeing this sign
Conclusion:
What little open space remains in NCC is mostly what planners and developers refer to as "infill", where any type of connectivity is fiercely opposed by existing neighborhoods. Most larger tracts -- also surrounded by car-dependent sprawl -- are either off limits or being hotly contested for open space acquisition. That said, if they really are intent on paving over most of the State's remaining farmland in Kent and Sussex, it might be possible to build enough contiguous TOD that more folks do indeed bike and walk between communities, and use transit if the State arranges and funds it. Alternatives to car usage might become a little more popular. But then you have the cheapest gas in history (inflation factored) to ruin the incentive, and examples like Stevenage to explain around.

Delaware's recent fall from #3 to #7 as a Bicycle Friendly State was largely due to a lack of low stress connectivity and a bicycling mode share that barely registers. Unless the State is prepared to spend enormous sums and begin using eminent domain, connectivity that the 8-80 yo "interested but concerned" folks can use to circumvent arterial roads and intersections will remain impossible. Govt would have to strategically condemn and raze private properties in order to install non-motorized pathway connections between developments, and designate their streets as "bike boulevards". Doing so would draw the ire of adjacent residents, and trigger a frenzy of lawsuits. Except in a rare case or two, it isn't going to happen.

The Oil Crisis of 1973 was the last time in U.S. history that bicycling was truly popular for transportation purposes. With mode share currently at 0.2% in Delaware, major Govt spending on bike path infrastructure by confiscating private property would be political suicide. Bike Delaware should also understand that where cities and countries have high bicycle mode share, car ownership and fuel costs are prohibitively expensive and/or inconvenient. Raising the cost of driving to encourage alternative modes would again be political suicide.

So decide for yourself what Bike Delaware's true motive is, and just who may be bankrolling their staff and for what purpose. We're not saying it's a fact, because we have no real way to prove it (and, they are anything but transparent). But the evidence seems pretty clear.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bicycle-Friendly Delaware Act weakens 3' Passing Law


We reviewed the updated vehicle code resulting from the passage of HB-185 (Bicycle-Friendly Delaware Act), found in DE Title 21, Chapter 41, Section 4116. Missing is any reference to safe passing distance of bicyclists unless being overtaken by a vehicle in the same lane, assuming it is wide enough to safely share. Riding within shoulders and/or bike lanes is not accounted for, which are very common and count as a lane in their own right.

A Newark commuter enforces the 3' passing law - with a shovel. 
The original vehicle code wasn't the clearest either, but it could have been construed that motorists are to move out at least 3' regardless. By not including shoulders and/or bike lanes, Bike Delaware failed to cement these as applicable; therefore, you are not covered under the safe passing law because you are in your own lane of travel. Motorists who overtake while straddling the white line -- common, often deliberate -- are permitted to do so as long as keeping to their own lane. In a 4' bike lane, for example, the bicyclist's footprint can occupy as much as 3' elbow to elbow. For a motorist with a tire on the white line, this would leave a foot or less passing clearance. This is especially terrifying in high speed conditions.

As we already discussed in previous articles, HB-185 did include some long overdue updates to the vehicle code, and we applaud the hard work that went into that. Unfortunately, what could have been a great bill ended up fair, and somewhat hurting past progress as seen here. The bill also came up short by failing to include any anti-harassment language, except a ban on frivolous honking, as we discussed in this analysis.

This is what to expect when you have a LAB sanctioned State organization whose approach to advocacy lacks pragmatism and balance. Their inner sanctum only recognizes total separation from traffic -or- total integration with cars, and nothing in-between. As a result, they do not support on-road bicycling infrastructure, but at the same time, believe it is they -- and only they -- that represent the interests of bicyclists in the State of Delaware. Because of this, they would never think to engage the wider bicycling community for input. Had they done so, we might not be faced with this predicament.

Conclusion
We'll again repeat that, as a non-profit organization, Bike Delaware must become more open and transparent. Nobody knows what they are doing until it is already in motion. It's time for them to lift the veil of secrecy, and put their projects out to comment among the broader bicycling community. Most would agree, for example, that upping the law to a 4' passing distance anywhere a bicyclist is encountered would suffice. Lane changes could still be required with narrow or multiple lane configurations, and an anti-harassment component could have been included. Let's hope that any efforts to amend the bill, or further update the vehicle code is carried out in a more open and accessible manner.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

SR896/I95 Intersection Project on-line and ready for comments

The public workshop for the SR896 (S. College Ave) and I95 intersection project was very successful, according to DelDOT. Hopefully, the bicycling community was present, and voiced our needs. According to the project page:

We are still in the preliminary stages of our project development process. A public workshop was held on December 5, 2017. Thank you to all who were able to attend! We will solicit comments for a 30 day time period. A preferred alternative will be chosen in Spring 2018 and we will begin design.

We had a very successful public workshop on December 5, 2017 with over 120 people in attendance! For those who were unable to attend, below are copies of the boards that were shown. We have 3 different alternatives that will address the purpose and need of the project. We will be collecting comments for an additional 30 days. Please utilize the official comment form on our website.

Facilitating bicyclists and pedestrians is nowhere mentioned in the scope, so it will be up to citizens and advocates to encourage DelDOT in this direction, citing the State's multi-modal Complete Streets policy. According to the University of Delaware's Institute for Public Administration:

The intent of Delaware’s policy is for “the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) [to] enhance its multi-modal initiative by creating a Complete Streets policy that will promote safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and [transit] riders of all ages to be able to safely move along and across the streets of Delaware.”

There should be no justification whatsoever for nixing multi-modal accommodations from these plans. SR896 is open to bicyclists, and there is a long history of conversation that a safe passage over I95 here is sorely needed. It is the direct route south out of Newark, and would ultimately connect with new and existing pathways parallel to SR896 en-route to Glasgow and points south.

What can you do to help us advocate, and get this included in the project? It is very early in the planning, and these simple steps may just make the difference:

  • Visit the project page, and use the comment form
  • Email your comments to the project engineer breanna.kovach@state.de.us and CC dotpr@state.de.us to ensure it's recorded.
  • Cross-post this as an action alert to other pages, and share to other orgs on social media sites, i.e. Bike Newark, Newark Bike Project, etc.
  • Email Bike Delaware and ask that they approach DelDOT, advocating for a safe, multi-modal connection here, over I95: james@bikede.org
  • Talk this project up on Bike Delaware's web and social media pages (1st State Bikes is blocked) and if they don't support it, ask them why

Below are reduced-size JPG images of the 3 options. As discussed, none contain bike/ped facilities of any type. Should they be included, a multi-user pathway (MUP) could be extended between I95 and Old Baltimore Pike on the south side, on plentiful county-owned lands (Iron Hill Park). From there, existing pathways continue on the southbound side, past Glasgow HS, 4-Seasons, and Glasgow Business Community. These could be readily connected to the Rt.40 corridor via Old SR896 and its future pathways currently being built piecemeal.




We will contact DelDOT to inquire on a periodic basis, and provide updates as they come available.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

DBC fails to recognize Amy Wilburn, Chair of 8 years

It's almost never that we call out DelDOT and/or the Delaware Bicycle Council for something shameful. But here, we are clearly justified.

Amy Wilburn served as Chair of DBC for 8 immensely productive years, from 1997 through 2015. As such, she initiated, presided over, and/or worked alongside others on the following projects (in no particular order):
Amy was on DBC's 10/5-2016 agenda for 5 minutes, where they planned to at least acknowledge her tenure:


. . . but as seen in these meeting minutes, that never happened.

Bike Delaware, unhappy with DBC's focus on road advocacy and safety, tried to replace Amy in 2015 with their Executive Director James Wilson, who was defeated handily by the loved incumbent. Bike Delaware would finally have their way in 2016, with Tom Hartley taking the Chair uncontested (upon Amy's decision not to run for a historic 9th term).

Amy was deliberately cropped out of this photo on Bike Delaware's website, of Governor John Carney signing the "Bicycle-Friendly Delaware Act" on 10/5/2017 in Newark.

For those that do not know who or what the Delaware Bicycle Council is, their website contains the following history:

The Delaware Bicycle Council was established in May of 1990 by House Bill 505 to "consider, review and work on matters pertaining to bicycling, bicycle safety and bicycle safety education and to make recommendations to various state agencies." Originally organized with nine members, the Council was expanded to 15 members in May of 1996 by House Bill 556. Members are appointed by the Governor with staggered terms and include representatives from the Department of Transportation, The Council on Transportation, The Department of Education, The Delaware State Police, The Office of Highway Safety, The Division of Parks and Recreation, The Council on Greenways and Trails, The Division of Public Health. In addition, seven citizen members are appointed - two from New Castle County, one from Kent County, one from Sussex County and three At-large. The Council meets at least five times a year. Staff support is provided by DelDOT's Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator at 760-BIKE.

With this level of participation and oversight by multiple other organizations, it disturbs us that volunteer recognition at this level was blatantly disregarded. The internet is teaming with books, guides, pages of information pertaining to its importance. For example:

"It is also important to give both appreciation and recognition. Appreciation expresses “thank you” for time and effort, which can be done in a variety of formal and informal ways. Recognition, with its root “cognition,” conveys the message that one is mindful of and values the unique contributions made by a volunteer."  ~John L. Lipp

Let's hope the DBC and/or DelDOT recognizes this issue, given the importance of cultivating new volunteers and new relationships that will help move bicycling forward in Delaware.

Friday, December 1, 2017

CRITICAL Workshop: I-95 and SR 896 Interchange Project

I-95 and SR 896 Interchange Project
 
Glasgow HS Cafeteria, 1901 S. College Avenue, Newark
Tuesday, December 5, 2017, 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM (directions)

From DelDOT's Website:

The public is invited to attend the I-95 and SR 896 Interchange workshop. The interchange currently experiences peak hour congestion and has safety concerns throughout the day. Alternatives have been analyzed that will improve safety and traffic operations.

We welcome your input and comments on the project and encourage you to identify and discuss project related issues. Interested persons are invited to express their views in writing, giving reasons for support of, or opposition to, the proposed changes.


Comments will be received at the workshop or can be mailed to DelDOT Community Relations P.O. Box 778, Dover, DE 19903, sent via email to
dotpr@state.de.us or by fax (302) 739-2092. Visit the project notification page for more info.

Since the beginning, Advocates have been asking DelDOT to add multi-modal safety at the I-95 crossings in New Castle County. A direct link from Newark to Four Seasons, Glasgow HS, Glasgow Park, the Rt.40 corridor, and points south on SR 896/S. College Ave has never been considered with road construction along the corridor. Soon, another opportunity will present itself with the above project.

History has taught us that Bike Delaware will be a no-show or even oppose the effort, so if we truly want connectivity from town to town and place to place, bicyclists must stand up and ask for it. Please take a moment out of your schedule to attend this workshop, and submit comments in favor. Or at least submit comments via email: dotpr@state.de.us

In the above snip taken from Google Earth, the yellow lines represent a combination of paved multi-user pathways and 25 mph frontage roads with wide shoulders -- all reasonably safe for bicycling. Red is where additional pathways should and could easily be added on already govt owned lands. The SR 896 intersection is circled in red. It would require some additional engineering to include a safe multi-modal provision to connect Newark.

Despite the horror of an interstate cloverleaf intersection, some bicyclists are still seen going for it.

A tangled mess ensues as you're greeted by cars coming off of I95 westbound to SR 896 southbound. A W11 Bicycle Warning Sign is seen as the merge unfolds, but is largely ineffective -- if it's even seen.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Advisory Lane Roads on DBC meeting agenda for 12/6

Courtesy of Streets MN
Bike Delaware's James Wilson will be discussing "Advisory Lane Roads" at the next meeting of the Delaware Bicycle Council. From the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professional's article:

What's an advisory bicycle lane? Also called a "non-compulsory bicycle lane” or "suggestion lane” (translated from the Dutch "suggestiestrook”), it’s a bicycle lane into which motor vehicles may legally encroach. Therefore, the line demarcating the lane is dashed instead of solid. An advisory bicycle lane is often—but not always—used in conjunction with centerline removal.

Generally, a mandatory bicycle lane is preferable; an advisory bicycle lane should only be used when a mandatory lane cannot be used. Advisory bicycle lanes should be considered 1) when street width is inadequate for mandatory bike lanes or 2) where cars are likely to encroach on a bike lane as it approaches a bike box. Advisory bike lanes should not be used where they are likely to be blocked by parked motor vehicles.

Advisory bike lanes in conjunction with centerline removal on roads with substandard width are common across Europe and are generally well received by cyclists.

A  year ago, we suggested THIS opportunity for Newark's Main Street (probably lost now). It's time to move past talking about shared lanes to actually implementing them, even if on a FHWA experimental basis. As it stands now, the MUTCD forbids any kind of delineated bicycle lane within a normal vehicle lane; data from the field is needed over a long period before these are approved in the manuals.

Delaware Bicycle Council Meeting
DelDOT Administration Building-Felton/Farmington Conference Room, 800 Bay Road, Dover
Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
AGENDA

 I.  Welcome, Introductions, and Minutes (0-5 minutes)
  • Minutes Review from October 4, 2017 – 0-5 minutes (Tom Hartley)
II.  Council Membership (0-10 minutes)
  • Discuss Members Profile for the website and other website updates – 0-5 minutes (Tom Hartley)
  • Discuss Greenways and Trails appointment to Council – 0-5 minutes (Tom Hartley)
III. Old Business (0-5 minutes)
  • Bridgeville Bicycle Trail Ribbon Cutting – 1st Recipient of Innovation Grant – 0-5-minutes  (Tom Hartley)
IV. New Business (0-60 minutes)
  • Nominees for 2018 Chair (Voting to occur at February 7, 2018 meeting) – 0-5 minutes (Tom Hartley)
  • Bicycle Friendly State Ranking – 0-10 minutes (John Bare)
  • Advisory Lane Roads – 0-15-minutes (James Wilson)
  • Council discussion and vote on Innovation Grant - 0-30 minutes (Fran Cardaci)
 V. Updates (0-30 minutes)
  • DelDOT Bicycle Plan – 0-30 minutes (Andrea Trabelsi)
 VI. Public Comments (0-10 minutes)
  • Opportunity for Non-Council Members to Address the Council 
Next Meeting: Wednesday February 7, 2018 from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Please e-mail John T. Fiori and Tom Hartley with any potential agenda items at least two (2) weeks prior to meeting. Visit DBC's webpage at www.bike.DelDOT.gov

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Save The Orphanage Property 3rd Press Release

With the loss of the Orphanage Property, and with that, what appears any possibility of a regional park for the entire Ogletown-S.Newark region, it is important that we continue to document exactly what went wrong, and hold those in charge accountable. Issuing a press release is an excellent way to do this, and reach a maximum audience including the media.

Whether it was a vested interested in the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" (CHP), corruption, or simple indifference, one thing is abundantly clear; both property owner and political will was lacking. The Ogletown-S. Newark region was already known to be dis-enfranchised in matters of community, place-making, and local access to quality regional parkland facilities. What has taken place here only cements this issue further, and in a way that can never be reversed.

View the official press release in PDF

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Drilling down on the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" TIS

Save the Orphanage Property (STOP) Advocates continue fielding questions from concerned New Castle County citizens over the Traffic Impact Study (TIS) for the Chestnut Hill "Preserve". Folks want to know why the Unified Development Code was disregarded in the approval of the project by the Dept of Land Use (DLU) and the NCC Council. As a result, only two steps remain before demolition and construction will begin; closing on the sale of the property with the developer (presumably Joseph Setting II, or involving his company), and then NCC issuing the building permits. According to Senator Bryan Townsend, closing is expected by the end of this week.

The way we see it, the developer will be doing this at their own peril. The TIS is flawed, with DelDOT's findings excluded in the scope. According to Vic Singer, this is irregular and inconsistent with County law:

Victor Singer (13 years former
Chair of NCC's Planning Board)
The area of influence, under UDC Section 40.11.124, needn't extend beyond the third intersection in any direction from any access/egress feature of the proposed development unless the Land Use Department and/or DelDOT expand the scope at the scoping meeting.

For the Chestnut Hill Preserve TIS, DelDOT did indeed add six intersections to the TIS scope, to include the Route 4 intersections with Salem Church Road and Library Avenue. And a 9/9/2016 DelDOT letter (with copies to the LU Department) reminds the TIS author of that addition and acknowledges the author's and DelDOT's finding that both above-mentioned intersections would be well into the "E" LOS range, and that no remedial system improvements are contemplated. (read Vic's full essay)

Here are the adjustments needed to fix the TIS:


It should also be noted that Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) was down significantly in 2010 due to the great recession, and gas prices were approaching $4/gallon. People were consolidating trips, using other means, and/or driving less in general. If these intersections were a grade "E" in LOS in 2010, it's a virtual certainty that they're an "F" now (for a simple chart showing each grade and the delays involved, open the CMS report and turn to page 3).

As seen in this FHWA trend above, national VMT dropped significantly in 2010. The result was gasoline "demand destruction", which triggered a surplus resulting in the record low (adjusted for inflation) pump prices we are seeing today. VMT since returned to where it left off, and has continued to new record highs.

Above: This interactive map, courtesy of Wilmapco, clearly illustrates Vic's allegation. If we examine the SR4-Salem Church Rd intersection alone, we see an "E" grade fail in 2010 (ditto for SR72-Library Ave). The odds are overwhelming that it would score an "F" if measured today, in 2017. Not that it makes a whole lot of difference, since both letters are a fail and come under the same UDC rules. But it does show how dire the situation is out on SR4, a hospital corridor and evacuation route no less.

Let's hope that God's kindness, love of thy neighbor, charitable giving, and just plain sanity will lead to the Felician Sisters canceling whatever deal is pending with the developers, and go with a NCC/State offer instead. For a whole host of reasons too numerous to mention but thoroughly documented on this website, the correct use of the Orphanage Property is within the public realm, as a regional park.