Monday, March 30, 2015

The Last Post (for now)

1st State BIKES was started by the need for on-road safety and advocacy in Delaware, and to support the Delaware Bicycle Council. In doing so, it filled an obvious void left by Bike Delaware, the State's League of American Bicyclists supported bicycling advocacy organization. In nearly two years, 400 articles were written or cross-posted, that run the gamut of bicycle advocacy as described in the LAB's 5 Es. These included Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation, mostly as they pertain to riding on our public roads. Missing from LAB's equation, however, is a 6th "E" that was somehow forgotten: Equality. As described by the American Bicyclist Education Association, it stands for the following:
Equal Level of Service is a critical part
of bicycle advocacy.
  • Uniformity: Ensuring uniform laws throughout a state to protect against access, movement, and equipment ordinances that discriminate against cyclists.
  • Access: Affirming the legal rights of bicyclists to use all highways, and all parts and features of those highways, particularly the roadway itself (i.e. the part designated for driving of vehicles, excluding shoulders, sidewalks, etc.), except possibly for controlled access freeways for which sound and reasonable alternatives are available.
  • Movement: Affirming that the default behavior for motorists, lane control on laned roadways, is also the default behavior for bicyclists. This means no bicyclist (class) specific movement rules that prohibit lane control or restrict turning movements or the use of turn lanes. Also unacceptable are any laws that prevent cyclists from making the same movements as other drivers or subject them to more restrictive lane usage rules than other drivers. This equal legal roadway movement status does not prevent or inhibit bicyclists from using special facilities, which serve as options for bicycle travel.
  • Equipment: Ensuring that minimum bike propulsion, fit, braking and lighting requirements are adequate for effective operation and precluding restrictions unrelated to safety or effective operation.
Due to our high percentage of arterial roads, however, equality is not always safe, easy, or desirable. Geographically, only a small percentage of Delaware is truly urbanized or early 20th century suburban where bicycle driving (aka "vehicular cycling") can be effective. For those wishing to ride away from the road for transportation, very few rail trail or other right of way (row) possibilities exist. As a result, shoulder and bike lane riding with high speed traffic is very common here compared to many other States. It is for this reason that we have advocated for well designed infrastructure treatments that define a bicyclist's safest position on the roadway, especially leading up to and through intersections. We also worked with DelDOT to improve our warning signs for bicyclists, and offered to help with the targeted removal of generic (symbol only) signs over time. Known in the manuals as the W11-1, this sign is no longer applicable in most locations, since Bike Delaware campaigned to eliminate "Share the Road" from DelDOT's manuals based on a technicality. Another notable success was bicycle-friendly rumble strips - not only in Delaware, but in Maryland as well (though in recent applications, some important specs have been ignored, hence the need for continued advocacy).

Jennifer Wallace stresses the importance of non-profit accountability
during the 2015 Delaware Environmental Summit in Dover. Transparency
is a foreign concept to some bicycling organizations in Delaware,
including co-ops.
With the LAB refusing to help our cause, having stated as much in writing, we have little choice but to accept the fact that separated infrastructure (sidepaths and off-alignment trails) is the first choice among Delaware's bicyclists. As a result, riding for transportation and recreation in the built environment - at least for those that appreciate leaving from home - will remain a huge uphill battle. Bicyclists are a virtual no-show for even the simplest of action items that could positively impact bicycle-friendliness in the 1st State. They seldom show up at DelDOT public workshops, or sign petitions regardless of how well publicized. Progress will be difficult, as long as Delaware's bicycling community - including its cooperatives and mountain bicyclists - refuse to unite in a single front that works together for its own common good.

There needs to be one large tent that all of us can work under, as seen in other bicycle-friendly States. The approach needs to be holistic, and all-inclusive. Unfortunately, even Delaware's most committed road bicyclists are content to follow the lead of an organization with a very small tent - akin to a Chinese cocktail umbrella - that lobbies exclusively for separated facilities. In doing so, they are undermining the efforts of those that do advocate for on-road safety and infrastructure. Further, the State's recreational clubs continue with monetary support of said organization, despite the lack of an annual report, and the lowest level of transparency and accountability for a non-profit. No one even questions the acceptance of charitable donations collected on behalf of the Phillip Bishop tragedy, and why at least some of it wasn't allocated for PSA campaigns like this one.

Here is a sampling of the issues, where said organization (Bike Delaware) has damaged the cause of road bicycling:
  • Absent on anything to do with the Vulnerable Road Users Law. Never supported the Delaware Bicycle Council on matters of legislation, i.e. Refused to "babysit" the 3' passing law by attending its hearing, and only agreed with it in principle.
  • Hijacked the LAB's Bicycle Friendly State's year to year rankings, providing instead what appeared a linear climb to the top for Delaware. Has everyone believing that our Top 5 ranking is based almost exclusively on pathway funding, when in fact it was also due to State legislation and policy changes/additions that address bicycle safety (the work of others).
  • Undermined a bus PSA banner that read "Same Roads, Same Rules, Same Rights", to where DelDOT replaced it with "Safety Begins With Sharing".
  • In a negative letter giving borderline support, the E.D. almost undermined AASHTO standard bike lanes on Rt.13 in Dover, which have since improved the safety of hundreds of commuters including migrant workers along the corridor.
  • Did not support a joint survey with RideShare Delaware, aimed at the users of the Rt.13 bike lanes, to find out whether or not they felt safer as a result.
  • Publicly stated that bike pocket lanes are "human meat grinders".
  • Despite initial support, and DelDOT's requesting it, the E.D. steadfastly maintained that SB-120 (a law to provide legal protections for bicyclists using a dedicated right turn-only lane as a continuation of a bike lane) wasn't necessary.
  • Pushed for the removal of our widespread (on most major roads) Share the Road signs, but did not support the efforts of others to redesign and replace them with something better (i.e. Bicycles "In Lane").
  • Has never once supported the application of Complete Streets during a Pave & Rehab project. Unfortunately, most often, these are the only chance we have at improvements.
  • Did not support an on-line petition for the enforcement of bicycle parking ordinances in New Castle County, given how often they are waived.
  • Did not support an on-line petition for the creation of an on-road Wilmington to Newark marked route, one that DelDOT would watch for enhanced safety improvements.
  • Never rallies attention to DelDOT public workshops unless it's for a separated facility or pathways project. It was the work of other advocates that drew attention to and won bicycle accommodations through Delaware's first "Diverging Diamond" Rt.1 overpass on Rt.72, coming next year.
  • Does little to memorialize bicycling fatalities, unless it benefits their agenda or bottom line. Did nothing to rally bicyclists to attend the Eloy Sandoval and Phillip Bishop vehicular manslaughter hearings, despite the proven advantages of doing so. For the latter, a Bike Delaware board member did attend and actually said that "it could've been any one of us" when referring to the defendant's horrific crime.
As of April 1, 2015 1st State Bikes is discontinued. I urge those of you that are following us until now (if you support road bicycling safety) to rethink your membership with the League of American Bicyclists, and instead support the American Bicyclists Education Association. This is an organization that, much to the chagrin of the LAB, is trying to address the needs of today's bicyclists in the built environment (an environment that won't be changing much for most Americans, for many generations to come) in the form of education, enforcement, and correctly designed infrastructure. This blog, as you see it now, will remain on-line indefinitely as an archive for those who might stumble upon it for the first time, and wish to read about our former projects and/or progress~Frank Warnock

Pedestrian Channelizing Islands, aka "Pork Chops", are an ongoing problem in Delaware. In 2009, DelDOT committed in writing to maintain 5 feet of offset for bike lanes through intersections and side streets. This requirement is also in their Bicycle Policy. In the May 2013 picture above, a bicyclist is unnecessarily forced out into the lane of high speed traffic to continue in a bike lane. Without continued oversight, guidelines such as these will continue to be ignored or forgotten.
The future? Delaware bicyclists show overwhelming support for facilities that remove them from public roads, and thus, sacrifices their legal rights as vehicles. As very few actually use these facilities, they fall into serious disrepair, and are left to abandonment by DelDOT or adjacent landowners who are supposedly responsible for their maintenance.

3 comments:

  1. It's a sad day today. I know you have done a lot of good for on-road safety for cyclists. Your knowledge and commitment to improve on-road infrastructure that can enhance alternative transportation will be greatly missed. As we know; "Not all trails lead to a destination". We need safe roads for cyclists to be able to get to them. Thanks for all you have done.

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  2. I wouldn't give up. I'm not even though I know it must be frustrating to live in a state where the "official" bike group has drunk the cool aid. The League under Andy Clarke is clearly dividing the bicycle community across the country or at least alienating a large portion of it. I think its is soon to bite them in the ass. The membership numbers are in the toilet, a paltry 25,000. Another group is ready to pounce on the millions of Americans the dump heaps of money into cycling. Even if 1% of Americans are "bold and fearless" cyclists that 3.1 million Americans that the League is somehow missing.

    Keep on writing. Don't stop. Just do it once in a while. I let WalkBikeJersey go for two months until I felt inspired to write again.

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  3. Oh. Just don't become a militant Vehicular Cyclist. That's the problem I have with some of the members on the ABEA.

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