Friday, October 18, 2013

Comments on the Newark-Wilmington Pathway

We would like to thank all of those who brought these Workshops to the public. The ideas and plans were very informative and well presented. Delaware Bikes representatives were able to attend both the Newark and Wilmington events.

General Comments:
It was exciting to see the possibilities for pathway routes between Newark and Wilmington. However, it is hard not to notice the many transportation cyclists that are already out there, using busy arterial roads such as Rt 4 and Kirkwood Highway to make their way between these two cities, and all points in between. We don’t think that it is fair to make these bicyclists wait 10, 15, 20, or however many years it will take to complete the different stages of this project. These cyclists need a safe on-road route developed as soon as possible, at least within a couple of years.

While most folks are very enthusiastic about using our existing trails and pathways, such as the James Hall and Pomeroy Trail system in Newark, we believe that there is a very real need to make our existing, car-centric facilities more bicycle-friendly. Most bicyclists want and need to use our roads in their bicycle travels. They should not be relegated off the road, having to place their bikes on a carrier rack to drive to a bike path facility. That defeats the purpose, and does nothing to reduce car dependence. The goal for most cyclists is to use the bicycle whenever they can for active transportation. This can be accomplished by well-connected trails if they are near to home, but the reality is that when most New Castle County bicyclists leave their homes, they will encounter arterial roads that they must navigate for work, recreation, and to run errands - and will for the foreseeable future.

In Summary:
From our observations, it is apparent that everyday transportation bicyclists struggle with their journeys between Newark and Wilmington. These folks are desperately in need of safe and reasonable on-road facilities to help them get to where they need to go - today. A suitable route would have correctly designed bike lanes where shoulders currently exist, sharrows on suitable roads w/o shoulders that are 35 mph or less, and wayfinding in the form of signs and/or sharrows. A few options currently exist that make for an easy, relatively safe and direct ride between the two cities. We are certain that these routes are feasible and worthy of immediate DelDOT consideration.

Unlike Rails to Trails projects, which convert the ROW of abandoned railroads to paved trails, the Newark-Wilmington Pathway - if or when it happens - will be anything but a "highway" for bicyclists. Lack of land use planning and enforcement over many generations make path continuity a daunting task, with several sections rated as "difficult" to construct due to private property or environmental issues. Though we support it, and it will serve a definite purpose, the final result is likely to be a less direct, more stop-and-go experience that will tempt bicyclists to use adjacent roads if it saves time and distance.

We encourage DelDOT to move forward with this project, but also provide the safest possible on-road facilities, connecting Newark and Wilmington by bicycle at a fraction of the cost using our existing roads.

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