Sunday, May 11, 2014

Why noted Advocates will not renew their LAB memberships for 2014

By Frank Warnock and Angela Connolly

It's no secret that leading Delaware advocates disagree on what is best for those who bicycle on Delaware's roads. This ongoing debate has caused distress for Delaware's Advocacy leaders for the past two years. We reached out to various organizations for help, most notably to Jeff Miller, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Biking and Walking. After much discussion, a MOU between Bike Delaware and the Delaware Bicycle Council was discussed. We were referred to Alex Doty of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, but after one phone call, there was no further communication. As a final act of desperation, and with a plea for understanding and help, Angela Connolly wrote the following to Andy Clark, President of the League of American Bicyclists. On behalf of 1st State Bikes, she attempted to appeal to Mr. Clark for the support of the type of bicycle advocacy that is necessary in the built environment, which includes many arterial roads, that many cyclists in Delaware must deal with on a daily basis.

Angela Connolly wrote:
"As a dedicated Bicycle Advocate, I am writing to ask for your assistance. I have recently joined the organization 1st State Bikes, whose primary mission is to concentrate on the concerns of our State's road cyclists. Frank Warnock, a known and respected  Bicycling Advocate in Delaware, has, along with other noted bicycling Advocates, identified a lack of appropriate effort to advocate for the rights of bicyclists who primarily cycle on our main roads for transportation purposes. Frank believes that there are many things that Delaware can do, to work within our existing car-centric culture, to improve conditions for the cyclists that are using our roads now. It is his opinion that Delaware is in dire need of an advocacy organization that addresses the safety concerns of all cyclists, providing a more balanced approach to bicycle advocacy, but especially serving those whose only means of transportation is the bicycle. As he has done in the past, Frank is committed to working with, and co-operating fully with, other noted organizations such as the Delaware Bicycle Council, the Delaware Department of Transportation, the White Clay Bicycle Club, and the Newark Bike Project, with whom he is an active Volunteer, serving as a Lead Mechanic. Frank recognizes that cooperation and shared ideas and thoughts among organizations such as those mentioned are paramount in improving conditions for all cyclists".

Andy Clark wrote:
"We are going to respectfully decline your request for assistance. In our experience in several other states -- PA, VA, OH, CA to name a few -- the bicycle movement does not benefit from having two (or more) statewide organizations purporting to speak for cyclists. Being brought into internal squabbles and turf battles between rival entities and personalities puts us in an untenable and inappropriate position and makes it impossible to effectively support state and local advocacy efforts in the way that we would like and you all deserve. We think it's really unfortunate that you've chosen to create [1st State Bikes], especially at this moment in time. Delaware is poised to become a real success story and model for other states in the nation and the next two to three years are critical -- I would encourage you to direct your passion and enthusiasm for cycling to more constructive activities and try not to let personality differences distract you all from the real work at hand. In our view, there is no need for a new "voice" that's honestly barely discernible in name and content from the existing voice. Surely the work that you want to see done -- taking advantage of the pavement rehab opportunities, for example - can be done under the auspices of Bike Delaware without the waste of time and talent that trying to maintain a competing organization will inevitably cause".

We were very disappointed in the response that we received. We were especially distressed at his use of the term "internal squabbles and turf battles", which suggests that we did not appropriately try to resolve the issues that we faced. Unfortunately, Mr Clark is grossly out of touch with road bicycling advocacy in Delaware. He is unaware that Bike Delaware has no interest in the pursuit of on-road bicycle facility improvements. Bike Delaware's primary focus is on segregated bike paths, as clearly evidenced by the posts on their web page, and if anything, discouraging bicyclists from riding on most roads. Clearly, if this was not the case, they would actively engage in the following issues (among others):
Texting is rampant in Delaware, because
laws are toothless and go unenforced.
  • DelDOT bicycle and pedestrian policies and guidelines (i.e. Complete Streets) are weak, and opportunities missed with pavement & rehabilitation opportunities.
  • The requirement for a bike lane with new construction in New Castle County is commonly waived.
  • Guidelines that require shoulders be maintained through intersections – not blocking them with channelizing islands – are increasingly missed.
  • Bike parking that is installed by NCC code is most often a wheelbending grid rack, that provides no frame support or locking capability.
  • Rumble strips are now being carved through Delaware's shoulders, well offset from the white line, leaving little or no safe space to ride between them and common debris.
  • It takes huge sums of funding over several years to perform studies and collect data to approve a simple white line safety modification.
  • DelDOT rarely does well signed or signalized crosswalks to increase pathway safety, as seen in other states with fewer fatalities and injuries.
  • Laws designed to protect vulnerable road users have little chance of enforcement, unless advocates track individual cases and follow up accordingly.
  • Despite Delaware's wide shoulders, most bicyclists (and potential bicyclists) are still afraid to ride because motorists have virtually free reign to text and talk using hand held cell phones, without fear of penalty.
And so, in good conscience, and because of the refusal of LAB to acknowledge and address our concerns, some leading advocates are not able to continue to support an organization that refuses to at least hear both sides of the story. We have decided not to renew our memberships in the LAB, and we will no longer affiliate with, or support that organization. We have sadly realized that we must continue to promote safety issues for those that cycle Delaware's roads on our own, and without the support of the very organization whose sacred duty it is to protect the safety of ALL cyclists, whether they ride on our State's arterial roads or trails.

2 comments:

  1. Frank,
    How sad that you feel compelled to no longer support LAB. However, I can see your reasons for disappointment. I want to encourage you to continue your advocacy in spite of your separation with the LAB. Delaware bicyclists are in need of some better representation than they are presently receiving. I speak here of what you call “road” cyclist; those that use the bicycle as a form of transportation, which it is so well suited for. It is our infrastructure that is not suitable. (Here in Delaware we want to make biking the state sport???? Really?? Then we will never be allowed on the road.)
    Two things Mr. Clark said that made me smile. According to your report he said “Delaware is poised to become a real success story and model for other states in the nation and the next two to three years are critical”. I smiled because I believe Delaware is poised to become a joke and reason not to spend money on bicycle infrastructure. In a few years those who hate bicycles will be saying “look at all the money Delaware spend and all the got was some trials and little return on investment, what a waste of money.” I do however agree the next few years are critical. We may become a model but so far all I see is lip service.
    The second comment was “taking advantage of the pavement rehab opportunities, for example - can be done under the auspices of Bike Delaware”. I say “obviously not”. I have already mentioned the three pitiful intersection rebuilds in Seaford. And I happened upon a worse one this week. This one is a huge upgrade, complete rebuild with no real limitations on space like in Seaford. I am speaking of the new intersection at the walmart in Georgetown. Just north of Georgetown a small intersection went from a “T” intersection with only a right (west) turn from 113 southbound into Walmart and a right turn (south) turn leaving walmart to a full blown intersection with double left (west) turn lanes north bound, both north and south turns allowed leaving walmart. This was a total rebuild and it included Delaware’s signature pork chop in the shoulder of the south bound lane of 113 and the cross walk from nowhere to nowhere and no assistance for pedestrians crossing 113. Highway 113 separates walmart and all the new stores from where the people actually live. How crazy is that??
    So, here I sit in western Sussex County facing the same frustrations you do, albeit a bit more rural setting. Please keep the faith and keep pushing for real infrastructure improvement. I will do the same.

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  2. I normally don't comment on my own post, Tim, but I want to say thank you for taking the time to write. 2014 is off to a terrible start, easily the worst we've seen since Gov. Markell signed Complete Streets into policy 5 years ago. Clearly, we are going backwards. Road bicycling safety is now under attack on multiple fronts, especially with the elimination of usable shoulder space for rumble strips. It would appear the emphasis is now on getting bicyclists off our through and connecting roads (primarily arterials), which effectively eliminates bicycling as a transporation option for most.

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