Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Confirmed: Alternative 3 for Elkton Road Reconstruction Project

In light of recent comments and 1st State Bikes advocacy, DelDOT has confirmed that the Elkton Road reconstruction/expansion project will be scaled back by nearly 2/3 to reflect actual needs. This number is derived from a reduction in added lanes between Otts Chapel Road and Route 4/896 (Christina Parkway).

Courtesy of Heather Dunigan, Wilmapco
The revision guarantees that only one additional lane will be added on the NE-bound side, to serve as an extended right turn-only lane. The SW-bound direction will maintain two through lanes similar to the existing design as we see it.

Latest excerpts from the Project Manager:
We have indeed moved forward with this change and are currently only proposing a 3rd through lane in the eastbound direction of Elkton Road from Otts Chapel to SR 4.

We are hoping to begin right-of-way acquisitions this Fall with the goal being to go to construction in the Spring of 2019.  Thanks for your interest in the project!


A huge tip of the helmet goes to Mark Tudor of DelDOT, for responding quickly and bringing our comments and concerns before the Project Team. Also Bryan Behrens, Project Manager, for his excellence in transparency and genuine consideration of public comments. Surely, other DelDOT folks contributed as well; a hat tip goes to everyone involved.

Runners and bicyclists are commonplace on Elkton Road between Newark and Maryland.

The view from the handlebars, thanks to Alex Soroka. Interim bike lanes were installed on Elkton Road prior to the latest Pave & Rehab (resurfacing).

Saturday, July 15, 2017

NCC Executive Meyer puts the brakes on STOP

Statement from the Save The Orphanage Property (STOP) Campaign:

We are very sorry to have to tell you that we have lost this epic battle. We have all but exhausted every avenue of approach in trying to bring Ogletown a regional park instead of a destructive and totally unnecessary high density housing development. What we have found is that, no matter how or what we try, it is virtually impossible to win the battle for responsible land use in NCC when government and land developers are thoroughly allied and entrenched. Our campaign to protect the landscape, that included the identification of funding (State and donor), is over after 2 long and exhaustive years. It is a great shame because the property owners and their attorney had indicated their desire to negotiate, and make a deal for parkland instead. This is a tragedy that should not have happened.

In this particular fight, we had a thoroughly proven and documented case for why a regional park would be the superior choice and of greatest benefit to the already underserved residents of Ogletown and S. Newark. There was a few million dollars in NCC park funds available in the budget thanks to former Executive Tom Gordon. Our Legislators put 1.25M in the Bond Bill. A conservancy org had pledged 3/4 million. The Open Space Council pledged a quarter million more. In an offer of generosity, the Felician Sisters had agreed to accept a multi-year buy-out plan from the county/state, meaning that future payments could simply be earmarked in future budgets. This was a one time only opportunity that will never come again. It was a dream offer for NCC, and when something means this much, they make it happen. Not this time, not for Ogletown. Now the dream is dead. With his refusal to budge one dollar above the 5.9 million offer that he made to the Felician Sisters, County Executive Matthew Meyer has condemned this community to the devastating consequences of this massive development project which we now know will take place. Sources told us that although Mr. Meyer did indeed make an offer, it was one that was unreasonable, and designed to fail. Matthew Meyer has decided the future of generations to come. History will remember this, and his legacy will not be one of honor. Remember this when you enter the voting booth upon his re-election.

Where there's a will, there's a way. Instead, County Executive Meyer has turned his back on us. He and NCC lack political will and have put builders and profits over their constituents, quality of life, and the planet. At the County Council Meeting that we attended on July 11, instead of communication, respect, and transparency, we witnessed episodes of hostility and resentment, along with accusations of shady dealing and underhandedness. And from the start of Executive Meyer's term, there were red flags. Ask yourselves how Joseph Setting, the very Developer who just won the Orphanage Property, landed a position as Chairman of Executive Meyer's Parks Transition Team. This was a clear conflict of interest and we may yet investigate how we can make a formal objection.

We at STOP chose to take the high ground during the last few weeks, choosing to trust that Mr. Meyer would do the right thing, and act in the best interests of this community. We refused to participate in demonstrations and protests because we felt that, if there was even a shred of hope left, we could not risk alienating the Felician Sisters by risking disrespect shown to them during a protest. We also were bound to the many organizations that honored us by supporting us, and wanted to conduct ourselves with dignity. We choose to do battle with the keyboard, which we feel is mightier than the sword.

One thing we have learned is the importance of community engagement. Although we are at this moment devastated by Executive Meyer's sabotage, our spirits are not crushed. Although we will soon disable this page, we hope that you will join us here, or at 1stStBikes.org, where we will continue to try a make a difference and connect with our community. Land Use advocacy has left a bitter taste in our mouths, but our concern for our community will continue.

In closing, we urge all of you to consider what has unfolded when entering the voting booth next time. Please, never forget. Please consider this fiasco when voting for candidates for County Council. There is nothing more we can say at this point, except thanks to all of you for your support. We want you to know that we did everything within our power to stop this development from happening. We regret that we did not succeed.


Friday, July 7, 2017

DO: Ogletown park proposal gets state funding commitment

By Lex Wilson, Delaware On-Line -- State money has boosted an effort to create a park on a former orphanage property in Ogletown, an effort to fend off a proposed 269-home development.

Tucked inside legislation that funds state construction projects is a commitment for the state to pay $1.25 million toward the purchase of a portion of the former Our Lady Of Grace Home for Children property.

"It is a huge step forward," said State Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, who sits on the committee responsible for crafting the state's legislation for construction. "The key question at the county level is, are they similarly able to formalize a financial commitment to making this park possibility a reality."

The state's current commitment will only cover a portion of the $5.9 million appraised value of the property. New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer said his government is evaluating how much money it can put toward the proposal.

"The state's work done. It is now fully on the county to act," said Angela Connolly, co-founder of a residents' group bent on preserving the property. [Full story ...]

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Bike Delaware Quashes Pedestrian Safety Bill

While the push continues to pass the "Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act" (HB-185) that includes legalizing rolling stops for bicyclists, a campaign that began 2.5 years ago to reform Delaware's vehicle code for pedestrian safety has stalled. Known as the "Pedestrian Bill", it is modeled after other progressive States such as WA, MA, OR, etc, bringing it up to date with our built environment. As it stands now, Delaware's language is almost totally car-centric, placing the onus squarely on pedestrians not to get killed. It actually requires a person to be in a crosswalk before a yield is legally required, whereas other States require simple intent to cross as the trigger. In other words, you could stand at the curb waiting for all eternity, because motorists are legally permitted to continue (at speed) through crosswalks unless you physically place your body out there, in harms way.

There are other issues with Delaware's current pedestrian code as well, including an ancient reference to Father's Day that somehow influences the law's enforcement. The whole thing is antiquated, as the State's death and injury rate -- consistently among the highest per-capita in the U.S. -- continues unabated. Meanwhile, the legal system targets pedestrians, holding motorists blameless in virtually every case. Routine patterns such as smart phone use, speeding, and aggressive driving are never cited, though most drivers engage in it. Updating the language would be a monumental step in the right direction, helping to provide a sensible basis for education and enforcement and to give pedestrians the confidence they need to use proper facilities where available.

Where does bicycling fit in? Bicycles are largely unaccounted for and misunderstood on pathway facilities of any kind. For example, if a crash occurs while riding on a parallel (with the road) multi-user pathway (MUP), especially where it enters a crosswalk, there is nothing in the code and no clear legal standards that apply. It will fall on the judge to determine fault, and the odds are overwhelming that he/she will favor the motorist regardless.

Unfortunately, Bike Delaware, the states “advocacy” organization for cyclists and pedestrians, does not support and in fact has opposed efforts to update the pedestrian code. Considering this organization’s lack of support, we need others to step up. At the same time, we should ask why Bike Delaware fails to address the serious changes that are needed for bicycle and pedestrian safety on the very pathways that make up their signature cause. Maybe it's because it is an organization accountable to no one, not even its own donors that include the White Clay Bicycle Club. It claims to fully represent Delaware’s bicycling and pedestrian communities but has no interest in teamwork or consensus, and produces no newsletter or annual report.

The above said, let's all hope that Governor Carney signs HB-185. And let’s hope that all of us can get behind efforts to address the critical issues outlined above.

A brand new 10' wide multi-user pathway (MUP) was recently installed along Rt.4 in Ogletown, just east of Harmony Road. If a crash was to occur in the crosswalk between a bicyclist and a car, the odds are overwhelming that the bicyclist will be cited and the driver held blameless. If you're a pedestrian, you must be in the crosswalk to be legally protected, and bicyclists are not even mentioned. Unfortunately, with a radius right turn, most drivers will be caught off guard by anyone just happening to be there, given the induced high speed.
-- Amy Wilburn, former Chair of the Delaware Bicycle Council, contributed to this article.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Abandoned Roads in NCC: GBC Drive

The second 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). 

GBC (Glasgow Business Community) Drive, eastern section, was abandoned in 2003. Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics was no longer willing to maintain it. An attempt to transfer ownership to New Castle County failed because it would be prohibitively expensive to bring the road up to DelDOT standards. So minus the occasional Delmarva utility vehicle (substation access), GBC remains closed to motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians -- though the latter two are not enforced. View GBC Drive on Google Maps.

The abandoned section is highlighted in green. GBC Drive, as a whole, makes an excellent alternative to Route 40, just to the south (not pictured). It is popular among bicycle commuters now, providing access to Siemens AG, Hologic, Air Liquide, and numerous other companies on the west side of Route 896.



The remains of an old DuPont card access gating system are found at the eastern entrance just off Route 72.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sloppy journalism on full display at Delaware On-Line

By Angela Connolly --

Here's how bike/ped tragedies are misreported. The Wilmington News Journal, in this article, states that:

"One person is dead after a bicycle collided with a dump truck near Laurel on Wednesday morning, police said".

Well, that's not how it happened; the dump truck hit the rear of the bicycle with his bumper because he didn't see him. That is NOT a bicyclist colliding by any normal interpretation. It's just another bicyclist killed because he was mowed down by an irresponsible driver.

The headline should have read "Bicyclist killed when struck from behind by dump truck". Just another senseless fatality that, like in most cases, the bicyclist (or pedestrian) is faulted when in fact the details show otherwise.

Read the tragic story on Delaware On-Line

Share your outrage with them via email: letters@delawareonline.com

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: mtn2lion@yahoo.com 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.