Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A look at Bike Delaware's "Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act"

Bike Delaware may be well on their way to a major legislative victory. The "Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act", or HB-185, includes five significant improvements:
  • Allowing DelDOT to use bicycle-specific traffic signals
  • Making it illegal to honk at bicyclists without legitimate cause
  • Requiring motor vehicles to change lanes when passing bicyclists in a sub-standard width lane
  • To better define the bicyclist's correct position on the roadway in the vehicle code
  • Allowing bicyclists to either stop or yield to other vehicles at stop signs
If the language of this bill survives as written, it would be significant and might push Delaware even higher than #3 in the League of American Bicyclists Bicycle-Friendly States ranking.  It would also make Delaware only the second State after Idaho to legalize rolling stops for bicyclists.

Unfortunately, a major opportunity is missing from HB-185: Bicyclist Anti-Harassment. In 2011, the City of Los Angeles CA passed such an ordinance, citing five hostile actions that commonly occur toward bicyclists. Below is a capture from their actual code, found under "Prohibited Activities":

Even though HB-185 (if passed) will see little to no public education -- never mind enforcement -- strong language is still critical for incident reporting. As it stands now, even if you bike with full time video surveillance and capture the tag number of an offender, going to law enforcement is a lesson in futility. For example, the Delaware State Police insist that shouting at bicyclists and pedestrians from an open car window is protected under 1st Amendment free speech. This bill could have been the opportunity to fix that, and allow charges to be filed. In the long run, it could send a strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated.

Below is a short 7 second clip of one such incident, which is not uncommon, that was much louder than the camera recorded. Had it not been for the use of hearing protection, the bicyclist might have been startled into loss of vehicle control.

Despite this deficiency, and Bike Delaware's usual fail at consensus, HB-185 is worth supporting as an attempt to bring road bicycling into modern times.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Why bicycle mode share is (and will remain) less than 1%

I have always maintained that bicycle mode share in the U.S. will stay well below 1% of all trips as long as there's abundant and cheap gasoline. This superb article in The Guardian makes the case, brilliantly. In the early 1970s, existing high gas prices from declining U.S. production -- followed by the Arab Oil Embargo -- put prices and availability out of reach for most folks. For 3 years, bicycles sold like snow shovels on the eve of a storm; bicycle shops struggled to keep pace. Bicycling became widespread, and an accepted form of transportation.

Several brief excerpts from the article:

In 1973, 252 bicycle-oriented bills were introduced in 42 states. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of the same year provided $120m for bikeways over three years.

And hundreds of articles in the mainstream press demonstrated that there was an alternative. If National Geographic was to publish a spread today similar to the one from 1973 it would likely have glossy adverts from the likes of Cannondale, Specialized and Trek, America’s leading homegrown bicycle brands. The three were founded during the boom years

US bicycle sales, which had been rolling along at 6 million a year, shot up to 9 million in 1971, 14 million in 1972 and 15.3 million the following year, according to a Bank of America report.

The bike had turned out to be the hula hoop of the 1970s: all the rage one minute, all but forgotten the next. Bike sales in the US fell by half within months. Despite the obvious flip to cycling in America from the 1973 Opec oil crisis – when fuel was in short supply and getting around by car became expensive and, because of oil-saving speed restrictions, slower – cycling hadn’t changed the world.

The bike-friendly John Volpe left the Department of Transportation to become the US Ambassador to Italy. State highway planners reined back what had been grandiose bikeway plans. Bike shop lines thinned out to nothing. Bicycle manufacturers cancelled overseas orders.

In the words of the chairman of the Bicycle Manufacturing Association of America to a Senate committee in 1976: “The boom has turned into a bust.”  [Full article ...]

Unfortunately, we may not live to see this repeated, much less ingrained. Climate change (emissions) alone are not going to sway Americans to at least try other modes. Indications are, pump prices won't be increasing anytime soon, and even if they are, it won't be nearly enough to change driver behavior. The ability to extract vast amounts of oil from multiple sources, using advanced technologies such as "Fracking" can readily put the world in an oil glut. As such, and regardless of what some advocacy orgs like to think and preach, the prospect for bicycling as mainstream transportation in the U.S. will remain bleak.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Latest UDC waiver: Dunkin' Donuts in Glasgow

The New Castle County Unified Development Code is quite clear about the requirements. Why isn't it being adhered to?

Too often, New Castle County issues a certificate of occupancy despite clear violations of the Unified Development Code (UDC).

Bicycle parking and handicapped access (as per the American Disabilities Act) are required components of NCC's Unified Development Code, and are supposed to be installed and verified before a new building owner is granted a certificate of occupancy. Our latest spotlight falls on a brand new Dunkin' Donuts, located next to the 4-Seasons Shopping Center on Rt.896 in Glasgow. There is no sign of a bicycle rack, and pathway access has a high curb.

Unfortunately, once the certificate is granted, there is no turning back; the code becomes virtually impossible to enforce. It is for this reason that a funding pool should be established, perhaps fed into by government agencies as well as private sources. Bicycle parking could then be installed on an as needed basis, where it's needed most, via DelDOT work order. Until then, folks on bikes will have no place to lock up for the majority of their trips.

Stay tuned as we contact NCC officials for an answer. We also need to update the language in the code, to reflect the need for APBP compliant bicycle parking (wheel and frame support). The City of Newark updated theirs several years ago, and at least there, wheelbending "toast" racks should be a thing of the past.

Would these same land use inspectors think to leave out car parking? Note: We are not blaming the franchise owners, as the ultimate failure occurred at the final inspection level.

This new IHOP on Kirkwood Highway had its bicycle parking waived in 2014. Land use officials claimed that it involved the retrofit of an existing building.

Related: How effective is the NCC Unified Development Code for bicycles?

Saturday, May 27, 2017

STOP coverage in 1st State Bikes

As most of you know, Save the Orphanage Property (STOP) is getting regular coverage on 1st State Bikes. Regional parks are crucial for our quality of life, which includes walking, running, relaxing, taking in nature, etc. For bicycling, they make wonderful destinations. It is also the primary news topic of Ogletown Resilience; once there is an outcome, that group will begin to diversify in the areas of active transportation, environmental stewardship, and sustainable living -- their current mission statement. Also, visit STOP on Facebook and like them to receive all the latest updates.

STOP will remain linked at the top of 1st State Bikes for the duration of the campaign, since we have first time visitors as a result of our yard signs. If you are one of these folks, please view STOP and land use coverage in general. If you are looking to acquire a yard sign, please email: and provide your home address, and we will deliver. The area surrounding the Orphanage Property is the priority, which includes Todd Estates, Breezewood, Scottfield, and Brookside. Our first 100 are going fast, so email us today!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Red Mill Road and Route 273 Intersection "Improvements" set for 2018

A major rework is coming to the Red Mill Road intersection at Route 273. According to DelDOT's project page:

The proposed safety and capacity improvements for this project will take place on Red Mill Road between SR 273 and the northern entrance of the Liberty Square apartment complex. Project improvements extend northward to Diminish Drive.

This project was identified by the 2012 Hazard Elimination Program study (Site V) due to a large number of crashes in the area. Left turning traffic from Red Mill Road to eastbound SR 273 backs up, making left turns onto Red Mill Road Spur and turns from Red Mill Road Spur more difficult. An additional left turn lane onto eastbound SR 273 was recommended.

The project is currently proposed to add a left turn lane from Red Mill Road to eastbound SR 273. Realigning the Red Mill Road / Red Mill Road Spur intersection will also help increase the distance to the SR 273 intersection, allowing longer left turn lanes to eastbound SR 273. Additionally, pedestrian improvements will be made by adding sidewalks to connect the existing crosswalk at SR 273 to Liberty Square Apartments and Harmony Woods.

Bicycling safety improvements are not mentioned, and they very much need to be. This section of Red Mill Road is sandwiched between two retention ponds with steep drop-offs, so it would appear that adding the additional left turn-only lane for cars and a sidewalk for pedestrians could meet or exceed the limits of the ROW. Therefore, it's quite possible that bike lanes will not fit. We'll know more if a project workshop is scheduled, or if/when we see the drawings.

Projects like these should be the priority of our State's Advocacy Organization, Bike Delaware. They should be on top of, and advocating for safe routes for bicyclists with all road safety improvement and reconstruction projects. But they are not, despite their stated mission of "bikeway networks that everyone can use to get where they want to go on a bike". They are on record as not supporting on-road bike facilities, yet if bike lanes cannot be worked into this project, bicyclists will have no accommodations whatsoever. They will be left to use either the lanes of traffic or hop on the sidewalk to reach the intersection with Route 273. Consistent with Bike Delaware's focus on separated facilities, it could be an area that finds asphalt multi-use pathways (MUPs) -- instead of sidewalks -- are the best all around solution for non-motorized users.

Below is a video, and a couple of photos. Pedestrians and bicyclists can be seen throughout the day traversing the intersection and its roads, even parents with their children on bikes. It's an area that DelDOT needs to make safe and comfortable for everyone, never mind so much emphasis on vehicle LOS.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Catching the 2017 Legislator's Ride in Ogletown

May 10th was the Legislators Bike to Work Ride, starting at the Polly Drummond Hill Shopping Center en-route to Dover. This was an event that was started in May 1990, with State Representative Roger Roy leading bicycling enthusiasts to the steps of the State Capitol. In that first year, bicyclists witnessed the signing of the bill that created the Delaware Bicycle Council. Since then, it has become an annual event lead by Senator Dave Sokola to promote bicycling during national bicycling month.

As luck would have it, I encountered the "Peloton" on my own commute to work, catching and then filming them from behind as they biked through Ogletown on Route 4.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

No response from Democrats on Open Space Platform Plank

In the Autumn of 2016, STOP advocates worked hard on a campaign to have the Delaware Democratic Party include open space preservation as a plank in their 2017 platform. This was not an endorsement of a particular party; the Democrats just happen to be our State's controlling party at this time. Unfortunately, despite repeated asks, it has either not come up for vote or has been tabled.

Open Space and Farmland Preservation is supported by the overwhelming majority of the electorate, regardless of party affiliation. Countless studies have shown the importance of parkland, natural habitat, and bio-diversity in a community's overall health and well being. Ordinary folks know this. Yet the party that sells itself as stewards of the environment is nowhere to be found, as evidenced by their silence on STOP.

Below is the breakdown of those who signed on in support of the plank. Conspicuously absent is newly elected Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, whom advocates reached out to  on multiple occasions without success. Obviously, we cannot, and will not tell our followers who to vote for. But we hope that open space preservation is at least one of the deciding factors when they enter the voting booth!

Green STOP Signs coming to Ogletown

The above is but one concept being planned for a STOP
campaign yard sign. Make plans to join in the effort today!
Advocates at Save the Orphanage Property are moving ahead with "STOP" signs. Bumper stickers may follow. Countless residents are eagerly waiting for something that they can place in their yard or at curbside, to bring the campaign that much closer to the region. With deafening silence from our Legislators and Councilwoman Diller concerning the property's fate, the organization has no choice but to raise the stakes. Despite Executive Meyer's unswerving "commitment" (made at the last NCC Civic League Meeting) to making the park a reality, planning for the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" is all but wrapped up according to the project's page on the NCC Dept of Land Use (DLU) website.

Nobody understands the political implications of the effort more than STOP advocates, yet the distrust on the part of our leaders -- usually on display at meetings and with poor decorum in general -- persists. If we were approached in confidence that indeed, a parkland deal was coming together, and that its success hinged upon a pullback of STOP campaign activities, we would go eerily silent until the wonderful news broke. Instead, for reasons we have yet to grasp, advocates are viewed as carrying bullhorns, ready to mouth off at every opportunity.

Stay tuned in the coming few weeks for more about STOP's new campaign signs, including pickup or delivery information. Followers will also be given the opportunity to donate the wholesale cost of the sign, which is expected to fall well under $5/piece. Said donation will not be mandatory, of course, as the goal is to distribute the signs far and wide.

A yard sign for open space funding via referendum. Unlike other States, DE does not permit referendums at the voting booth. Such a lesser form of democracy leaves citizens with little choice but to advocate for existing government funds, or to hope for benefactor(s).

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Advocacy opportunities in the coming weeks

Civic League of NCC Annual Meeting 
All are welcome. Keynote speaker will be Jennifer Cohan, DelDOT Secretary of Transportation. This is an excellent opportunity to raise bike-ped infrastructure safety issues and concerns.  Date: Tuesday May 16. Time:  7:00 - 9:00 p.m. Location: Christiana Presbyterian Church, 15 North Old Baltimore Pike, Christiana, DE 19702.

Glasgow Avenue Main Street Study
WILMAPCO, DelDOT, and New Castle County have kicked off a year-long transportation and land use study for Glasgow Avenue, between US 40 and SR 896/Porter Road (about 1.3 miles).  The study is intended to create a “Main Street” vision plan to guide transportation improvements and land use along Glasgow Avenue. You are invited to this final community workshop. During the meeting, project partners will share the study recommendations and collect your input. Date: Monday, May 22. Time: from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Location: Hodgson Vo-tech High School Cafeteria.

Blueprint for a Bicycle-Friendly Delaware
The State and other organizations are working on a bicycle policy plan to support the development of a safe, connected, and equitable network of bicycle facilities throughout the state! Your input will help planners better understand where people want to bike and problematic locations and corridors for people trying to bike. It's easy; simply input a valid email address, and start marking your trouble points and recommended routes. You can also comment on what others have already submitted.

Have you taken the survey yet? If not, please do ASAP. Your responses are very important. Completion of this survey takes less than 5 minutes and will help DelDOT set priorities for the Statewide Bicycle Policy Plan.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Abandoned Roads in NCC: Gender Road

The first in a series about abandoned roads in New Castle County. Like abandoned railroads, "old roads" sometimes make valuable connectors (or a trip back in time).

Gender Road was at one time planned as an exchange on I-95. The idea was abandoned due to inland wetlands, a high water table, and severe flooding, hence the lack of an Exit 2 in Delaware. This film was taken on a bicycle, heading westbound on Gender from Salem Church Road. Several features of the old road can still be seen, including broken street lights, phone poles, and the double yellow line from time to time.

The area is heavily saturated and nearby homes routinely experience erosion and flooding issues. The New Castle County Dept of Land Use (NCC DLU), however, went ahead and authorized a 260 unit, high density development on the former Orphanage Property (marked below with green stop sign below) just north of Breezewood in Ogletown. An effort by the organization Save The Orphanage Property (STOP, on facebook) is underway to halt it in favor of a regional park. If the development does go forward, it will pave over nearly all of the open fields and a significant portion of the forest and wetlands abutting Todd Estates 2 and Breezewood. But according to the DLU Flood Plane Administrator for the project:

"... the design will reduce surface water runoff at each of the discharge locations and much of the runoff generated by the site design will be infiltrated into the soils. In addition, a significant portion of storm water from the site will be piped to an existing DelDOT system in Gender Road, rather than impacting homes in Breezewood. 

Gender Road, abandoned due to flooding, is marked with the green dotted line. STOP is just to the north.

Originally, this wasn't the case. At a meeting with the NCC DLU in February, advocates learned that the storm water would be channeled to the Christina River, under I95 via Leatherman's Run. With this latest revelation, will it now impact residents of Breezewood 2 near the abandoned Gender Road?

The double yellow line remains just barely visible.
Abandoned poles and lighting fixtures are readily visible looking up.
Wetlands and vernal pools are visible from both sides of the road.
Adjacent homes face standing water after a recent rainfall.

Friday, May 5, 2017

WNJ: DelDOT turns to crowdsourcing to find best bike routes

Piecing together low stress roads is a major challenge in DE.
Featured in the Wilmington News Journal --  Transportation officials are seeking feedback from cyclists to find out where in Delaware the best bike routes are located and where barriers to safe cycling lie.

It is a crowdsourcing effort that will help the Delaware Department of Transportation formulate its statewide bicycle policy plan, officials said.

DelDOT this week published an interactive website online that allows cyclists to draw the location of a preferred bike route and label with a red exclamation mark any obstructions that lie along the path. Users can also view other cyclists' routes, and state whether they agree with listed barriers.

More than two dozen commenters posted notes on the map by Friday morning. Examples included a cyclist who pinned an obstruction on Hercules Road west of Wilmington, stating there is "NO SAFE WAY TO TRAVEL EITHER DIRECTION from RT 41 to Hercules Road."

A Lewes bike rider stated the "Junction & Breakwater Trail under the Freeman Highway overpass has no marking to separate bicycles from street traffic. Also Bikes traveling down hill Northbound on Trail have no warning going into blind corner."

Those kinds of comments will help DelDOT identify problems "and prioritize needs for bicycling, including connections for separated facilities," agency officials said in a statement.

The map will remain online until October. [Cont. Reading ...]

Poster's note: Very important that bicyclists participate in this.

Will CA become second State to legalize rolling stops for bicyclists?

California is set to make a go at the Idaho Stop law. Excerpts from the article in the Fresno Bee:

. . . That’s the gist of Assembly Bill 1103, now awaiting a vote at the committee level. Introduced by Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear) and Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the bill would “authorize a person operating a bicycle approaching a stop sign, after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way, to cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping, unless safety considerations require otherwise.”

Why on Earth would two assemblymen, from both sides of the political aisle, craft such a bill? Because although it may sound misguided or counterintuitive, such a measure would make our streets safer for cyclists without having any impact on motorists.

Although certainly part of it, this is about more than saving energy or not wanting to lose pedaling momentum. Cyclists are at their most vulnerable while stopped at intersections. This is where they’re most likely going to get hit from behind or sideswiped by an inattentive motorist – with no way to take evasive action.

When I’m on my bike and approaching stop sign I do so with the goal of getting out of the danger zone as soon as safely possible. I squeeze the brakes to slow down, check both ways to make sure the coast is clear and roll on my merry way. No harm, no foul and no need to be a sitting duck for any longer than necessary. [Full story . . .]