Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Drilling down on the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" TIS

Save the Orphanage Property (STOP) Advocates continue fielding questions from concerned New Castle County citizens over the Traffic Impact Study (TIS) for the Chestnut Hill "Preserve". Folks want to know why the Unified Development Code was disregarded in the approval of the project by the Dept of Land Use (DLU) and the NCC Council. As a result, only two steps remain before demolition and construction will begin; closing on the sale of the property with the developer (presumably Joseph Setting II, or involving his company), and then NCC issuing the building permits. According to Senator Bryan Townsend, closing is expected by the end of this week.

The way we see it, the developer will be doing this at their own peril. The TIS is flawed, with DelDOT's findings excluded in the scope. According to Vic Singer, this is irregular and inconsistent with County law:

Victor Singer (13 years former
Chair of NCC's Planning Board)
The area of influence, under UDC Section 40.11.124, needn't extend beyond the third intersection in any direction from any access/egress feature of the proposed development unless the Land Use Department and/or DelDOT expand the scope at the scoping meeting.

For the Chestnut Hill Preserve TIS, DelDOT did indeed add six intersections to the TIS scope, to include the Route 4 intersections with Salem Church Road and Library Avenue. And a 9/9/2016 DelDOT letter (with copies to the LU Department) reminds the TIS author of that addition and acknowledges the author's and DelDOT's finding that both above-mentioned intersections would be well into the "E" LOS range, and that no remedial system improvements are contemplated. (read Vic's full essay)

Here are the adjustments needed to fix the TIS:


It should also be noted that Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) was down significantly in 2010 due to the great recession, and gas prices were approaching $4/gallon. People were consolidating trips, using other means, and/or driving less in general. If these intersections were a grade "E" in LOS in 2010, it's a virtual certainty that they're an "F" now (for a simple chart showing each grade and the delays involved, open the CMS report and turn to page 3).

As seen in this FHWA trend above, national VMT dropped significantly in 2010. The result was gasoline "demand destruction", which triggered a surplus resulting in the record low (adjusted for inflation) pump prices we are seeing today. VMT since returned to where it left off, and has continued to new record highs.

Above: This interactive map, courtesy of Wilmapco, clearly illustrates Vic's allegation. If we examine the SR4-Salem Church Rd intersection alone, we see an "E" grade fail in 2010 (ditto for SR72-Library Ave). The odds are overwhelming that it would score an "F" if measured today, in 2017. Not that it makes a whole lot of difference, since both letters are a fail and come under the same UDC rules. But it does show how dire the situation is out on SR4, a hospital corridor and evacuation route no less.

Let's hope that God's kindness, love of thy neighbor, charitable giving, and just plain sanity will lead to the Felician Sisters canceling whatever deal is pending with the developers, and go with a NCC/State offer instead. For a whole host of reasons too numerous to mention but thoroughly documented on this website, the correct use of the Orphanage Property is within the public realm, as a regional park.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Shared Right Turn-Only Lane a hit at DelDOT's Innovation Fair

Mark Luszcz, Chief P.E., DelDOT
big tip of the helmet to Mark Luszcz, Chief P.E., and his Team at DelDOT Traffic for working with Advocates in pioneering the shared right turn-only lane treatment. It is the opinion of 1st State Bikes that, if Bicycle-Friendly State rankings were based on DOT responsiveness alone, Delaware would top the list.

The design, testing, and implementation of this basic yet anxiously awaited treatment exemplified Advocates working alongside DelDOT to improve safety in the built environment. The boards below, displayed on easels at their Innovation Fair, capsulized the effort to attendees, which included these quotes:
  • "For virtually no added cost beyond a little extra paint, bicyclists (and e-bikes, and even mopeds) are now encouraged to ride in the most optimal position where visibility (and thus safety) is concerned. Few things can improve arterial roads for multi-modal safety, but adapting road shoulders to bike lanes and sharing right turn-only lanes does improve awareness and respect. It validates bicyclists as legitimate road users by defining a continuous lane that accounts for the laws of movement. It's a win-win for all road users, and has become the envy of other State's advocacy organizations that can only wish their DOT was this creative and forward thinking. A big tip of the helmet to Mark Luszcz and his Traffic Dept from bicyclists statewide."  ~Frank Warnock, Chair, 1st State Bikes
  • "Although it is fortunate that many of Delaware’s arterial roads have a shoulder, before the shared bicycle/right turn only lane and accompanying legislation, cyclists were legally required to merge into high speed traffic at intersections with a right turn only lane.  Cyclists now have a choice: they have the on road facilities and the legal right to maintain a continuous and predictable line of motion outside of the lanes of high speed traffic.  This adds to comfort and safety for many of us cyclists, and is greatly appreciated."  ~Amy Wilburn, Past Chair, Delaware Bicycle Council
  • "Good decision on the road markings ... this will increase vehicle awareness of bikes on the roadway ... and add clarity to the new law."  ~Fred Tarburton, Citizen Advocate
Though Advocates still diverge with DelDOT on some issues, it has been a superb working relationship, especially since Complete Streets was enacted. It's also important to note that it's not always a one-way street; Advocates have a history of helping DelDOT when it comes to efficiency and streamlining. This includes improving W-11 warning signage, reducing "share the road" sign clutter in favor of a more targeted approach, and helping revise their sweeping program to focus on areas most prone to debris.

Thank you DelDOT for featuring this project and we look forward to many more in the future!



Friday, November 10, 2017

Editorial: Don't let traffic overwhelm New Castle County

Hat tip to Matt Albright of the Wilmington News Journal, for his willingness to post our editorial in Delaware On-Line today. It is planned to be the feature "DE Voice" column in Sunday's paper. In it, you will see the contrast of opinion to Richard Hall, General Manager of NCC's Dept of Land Use (DLU), who wrote this editorial on the same day. A paragraph from each best sums the difference in viewpoints:

Hall:
Current LOS standards consider only vehicular traffic.  Should incentives be considered for projects that include walking and bike paths, ride-sharing programs or shuttle service to transportation hubs?

Most millennial workers do not want to be tied to their cars. They want to live in mixed use communities, walking between home, work, shopping and entertainment. And those preferences extend to increasing numbers of retirees who want to live in places where they can “age in place,” where they do not need their cars to go out to eat, shop or visit their doctors.

Warnock:
This argument is flawed. While the statistics show that Millennials are rediscovering the cities and driving less than their parents – and we applaud that — the same cannot be said for the suburbs. Any conclusion to the contrary cannot be a valid excuse to weaken or eliminate vehicle level of service as a tool for controlling unnecessary development.

Mr Hall makes some good points. New Urbanism and the incorporation of multi-modal transport definitely has its place, and offers hope for the future. However, these projects are best suited to cities and more urban environments, where populations have tapered off or declined, and the infrastructure (connecting grid streets, traffic calming, effective transit, etc) is already in place and likely under-utilized. These are often referred to as "TOaDs", or, Transit Oriented Developments.

Developments designed to reduce car dependence are not, however, viable when surrounded by suburban sprawl, disconnected streets, non-existent sidewalks, and limited transit services. Most who live in Delaware's suburbs face this predicament, having little choice for even the shortest of trips. They either drive their car, or walk or bike out to a busy arterial road to reach needed services.

Seeing that the DLU is looking to use multi-modalism as a way to relax current Level of Service (LOS) requirements, we wrote the following email to Mr Hall today. We're asking for some study data and/or other facts concerning the success of TOaDs in the built suburban environment, as infill or destroying a region's last remaining open spaces:

Greetings, Richard,

I read your thoughtfully written editorial. We are wondering if you can supply us with any study data or known examples where TOaDs -- built as their own entities surrounded by typical, auto-dependent suburbs -- functioned even somewhat independently. We are looking for examples where these developments -- disconnected from surrounding communities -- still met expectations in terms of new urbanism/multi-modalism, reduced car ownership, and thus reduced or eliminated impacts on roadway/intersection LOS.

As a big supporter of New Urbanism concepts, and someone who bicycles for ~90% of my transportation needs, I am aware of this working out well in existing dense or urban environments. features like quality Transit, fully connected sidewalks, and calmer, grid-patterned streets are already underutilized or readily adapted for the purpose of multi-modalism.

The message we seem to be getting from the DLU, including at the panel discussion, is that such a concept can be readily applied to DE's vast suburbs without much loss of road system LOS.

Thank you so much and hope to hear from you soon.  --Frank Warnock

It has never been more apparent just how eager Delaware's developers and economists are to hobble NCC's Unified Development Code (UDC), and to stop advocates from using the TIS to limit or halt needless development. Their goal is to fast track their projects, with little or no regard for its impacts on the already overwhelmed roads and intersections that will serve it.

The idea that TOaDs can work in the suburbs as their own independent entity is laughable at best, yet this is the vision pursued by developer-friendly Bike Delaware. Virtually everyone who buys into these communities will still own a car, and will drive to their job, to Wal-Mart, to their doctor, and to everything else that can only be reached outside the development via arterial road.

The Chestnut Hill "Preserve" isn't even billed as a TOaD, yet the DLU all to eagerly relaxed the TIS by eliminating failed signalized intersections in the scope.

Let's hope sanity prevails, and the building permits for this project in its entirety are not issued.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Delaware slips to #7 in Bicycle Friendly States ranking


While still an honorable top 10 ranking with the League of American Bicyclists, Delaware's slip to #7 comes as no surprise.

Delaware drops a few spots this year, despite passing the Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act. This reflects the incongruity between Delaware’s federal data on ridership and safety and its recent efforts to improve bicycling. Federal data for Delaware shows that not many people bike to work and that Delaware is one of the 10 least safe states to bike. While the safety data in particular can be scrutinized because it does not account for recreational riders, these two data points comprise a significant headwind for this coastal state.

While many of Delaware’s roads were designed for high-speed car and truck traffic, neighborhoods were built as isolated communities. Delaware needs to focus on connectivity between neighborhoods, such as bikeway networks, so that walkers and bicyclists have safe and comfortable routes to destinations.

Below is a sampling of problem areas, with comments:


This undeserved high ranking comes as quite a surprise. While Delaware does have anti-distraction laws on the books, they are rarely if ever enforced. It is to the point that motorists are routinely seen holding the phones in clear view of other road users, including the unresponsive police. This behavior is far more obvious and dangerous to bicyclists and other vulnerable road users, with vehicles drifting in and out of shoulders and bike lanes, across lanes, and through stop signs and red lights, while drivers look down at their devices. The few of us that do bike must be totally vigilant, monitoring what goes on behind as much as what's ahead, and adjusting our line in defense. Until Delaware begins strictly penalizing motorists for reckless endangerment and putting other's lives in danger, it will be extremely difficult to increase bicycling mode share.


The Guardian published an excellent article, with this brilliant follow-up to our original post Why bicycle mode share is less than 1%. There are several reasons why bicycling is stuck at 0.2% of mode share, and the big push to fund separate infrastructure does not guarantee any tangible increase. Rock bottom gas prices reduce the incentive, while monster pick-up trucks, hulking SUVs and a return to the 70s muscle car era all contribute to the meanest of streets.

Driver education is all but worthless unless testing is redundant, i.e. a re-test with every re-registration or at the very least, license renewal. As it stands now, DMV won't even distribute multi-modal educational materials or post PSAs. Once a juvenile receives their license for the first time, everything they've learned at DMV is all but forgotten within the first year or two. Like most everyone else, they start using their smart phones behind the wheel, and making up the laws as it suits them. Defensive driving also falls at the wayside -- very few Delaware motorists drive defensively.

Bike Delaware's 15/15 ranking reflects just how out of touch the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) is with advocacy in our State. Bike Delaware has a proven track record of non-support and even undermining efforts at road bicycling infrastructure, education and enforcement. With a pro-development Executive Director, it's obvious why; the very notion that we can retrofit the built environment is a threat to TOaD (transit oriented development) and non-motorized pathways connectivity "for everyone". The organization has their followers believing that this can happen, even throughout New Castle County's mostly suburban auto-dependent suburbs.


A significant part of any plan is shoring up the legal code with legislation. A Pedestrian Council subcommittee, under the direction of Bike Delaware's James Wilson, thwarted an attempt at a major overhaul of the State's vehicle code. The bill had legislator support and would have significantly increased pedestrian's rights and safety under the law. It also would have defined the laws of movement for bicyclists on pathways, and placed more onus on motorists to yield at intersection crossings.

Even with LAB's vision of what makes a bicycle-friendly State (BFS), it will be difficult for Delaware to maintain a top-10 ranking -- never mind #1 -- unless we unite around a balanced and pragmatic approach to bicycle advocacy. LAB has been formally told on several occasions that serious problems exist with their sanctioned State organization, in that advocacy must focus almost exclusively on trails and pathways. We at 1st State Bikes prefer a more balanced and inclusive approach, one that recognizes that there are many different bicyclists, but that all deserve access to facilities that accommodate each cyclist's unique needs, whether they ride for recreation, transportation, or both.

Monday, October 23, 2017

How can we "retrofit" the suburbs?

While Stevenage England has demonstrated that even the best of separated networks is no guarantee for "build it and they will come", multi-modal safety should still be top priority in any civilized society. The chance to enrich one's community, care for the environment, and live sustainably must be put in the hands of the people, regardless how they choose to travel. That is a moral imperative.

Again, relative to other States, DelDOT has made enormous strides in this area, in spite of a challenging budget. They know that, in spite of the numbers, many people do in fact bike for many different reasons -- not just transportation. They realize we have an indigent population whose only transportation is the bicycle. They know that many fitness and recreational clubs exist, and they sponsor rides whose only arena is the public roads. They understand that folks are out there now trying to consolidate trips and reduce or eliminate auto usage in favor of more Earth-friendly means of transport. Then there are the economic benefits that bicycling brings to the State, and its role in building local and regional economies. Governor Markell famously embraced bicycling, knowing full well that our future depends on making Delaware more attractive for education and commerce. Finally, there are the grim statistics that place Delaware as a consistent top 10 in bike/ped fatalities, and the dire need to improve safety.


Above: As a case study, we took this Google Earth snip of the 4 Seasons (north of Glasgow) region of New Castle County, and traced out a crude bicycle-friendly network. The area enjoys excellent proximity to retail, employment, schools, dining, trails, parkland, and has several low stress connections to these features. If we really wanted a test case for "retrofitting the suburbs" in Delaware, there may not be a better place to try it out at reasonable cost.

Regardless of what has been achieved in terms of road paint, signage, and a few pathways projects, DelDOT can't do it all. As mentioned previously, making bicycling attractive takes a holistic approach, all of which can be found in the 6 "Es" of advocacy. This includes getting New Castle County on board, and having a pragmatic and effective State advocacy organization that is willing to work within the built environment. Sadly, both are lacking at this time.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

1st State Bikes set to expand in 2018

At 1st State Bikes, we are looking to increase our scope of influence in 2018, and hope you will join us! Among our goals will be the appointment of a min. 7 member advisory committee, the crafting of a mission statement, the improvement of marketing strategies, and to strengthen our existing watchdog efforts. Below is a sampling of what our organization commits to:
  • The support the ABEA's sixth "E", which surpasses the League of American Bicyclists (LAB's) five with the addition of "Equality". That is, bicycles are considered and treated as equals with all other road users in traffic laws and policies.
  • To serve in the role of parity to Bike Delaware's segregationist views, that bicyclists must ride apart from cars (and thus roads in general) to be safe, driven by the fear factor.
  • To promote Complete Streets, in the form of planning, engineering and infrastructure that facilitates the laws of movement.
  • To monitor DelDOT projects, attend workshops, and rally comments on their annual Pave & Rehab (road resurfacing) list summary.
  • To advocate for safer roads in terms of increased education and law enforcement, that will better protect vulnerable road users.
  • To resist mandatory use laws, though still supporting dedicated bicycle facilities -- on and off the road -- that are designed to best practices.
  • To be the voice of safety for everyone who bikes and walks, from the indigent to the commuter to the recreational, that depend on today's built environment.
  • To fight for transparency with any organization that purports to represent the interests of everyone in the bicycling community.
We are not a 501(c)3 organization, and have no reason to be. Meetings will be held quarterly if necessary. If you would like to contact us for an advisory position on 1st State Bikes, email: angela@1stbikes.org

Below: Bike Maryland is an exemplary organization in terms of balance and transparency, and working to represent all advocates and organizations that have a stake in bicycle safety and encouragement. All sources of funding, including charitable giving are strictly accounted for. When an organization fails in these capacities as Bike Delaware (with LAB's backing) surely has, it becomes necessary for independent oversight.




The California Bicycle Coalition, below, is completely on top of what's going on through all facets of advocacy, and monitors everything. They, like any model advocacy org, are not the least bit apprehensive about sharing proposed legislation, policy additions and changes.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

John Allen: Right turn-only lane as dual-destination lane?

John Allen penned a wonderful piece back in 2013, explaining why the use of a right turn-only lane (RTOL) as a through lane for bicycles does not have to violate the rules of movement in most cases. Excerpts:

Installations formalizing this [shared RTOL] treatment have been made in a number of places in the USA. It is accepted under the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices if shared-lane markings are used, though state laws generally still do not allow it…

Most importantly though, treating a right-turn lane as a dual-destination lane when it is empty, or lightly-used, or carrying slow traffic while the through lane is blocked, and riding at its center or left side does not violate the rule of destination positioning and does not lead the cyclist into a conflict. I yield when entering the lane (if there is any vehicle to yield to) and I never place myself to the right of right-turning traffic. I have never gotten into a hazardous situation by doing this. I must anticipate that a driver waiting in line in the through lane to the left may decide instead to turn right and enter the right-turn lane late. This is the same concern as when overtaking any line of stopped traffic, and the countermeasure is the same; stay far enough away from the stopped traffic to be able to avoid a merging vehicle.

In my opinion, the assertion that a cyclist should never ride centered or left in a right-turn lane when proceeding straight across an intersection is rigid, legalistic, and impractical. But on the other hand, it doesn’t make sense everywhere, either as an informal practice or a standard treatment. That is why, in my opinion, a standard is needed to establish where it may be formalized, and education is needed, as always, so cyclists will be able to judge when it is advisable or inadvisable.

Examples of shared right turn-only lanes being installed by DelDOT
This was the very platform that 1st State Bikes advocates used in convincing DelDOT that a shared RTOL/bike through lane treatment made sense. The project ran from 2011-2016 and has now resulted in a RTOL design that accommodates bicyclists and encourages safe positioning relative to turning traffic. And it comes at only the cost of a few extra man hours and a little added paint with each pave & rehab project. Delaware bicyclists are also covered under SB-120, a bill that was passed in 2012 to legalize the use of RTOLs in this manner. With everything in place, what we see now is continuous shoulders and/or bike lanes with "mixing zones" (a painted symbol and broken taper line) in advance of intersections. Depending on the conditions, the bicyclist can take the through lane, or legally choose to continue up the middle or left side of the RTOL to continue straight.

This design is becoming the new normal on Delaware's primary roads, so why are we posting this now? Nationally, John Allen is a renowned advocate for bicyclists’ rights as participants in vehicular traffic. He is looked to and admired by the "Bicycle Driving" movement and those who advocate alongside the American Bicyclist Education Association (ABEA). Yet, John is pragmatic when it comes to dedicated bicycling facilities, gauging their safety and his approval by whether or not they adhere to the laws of movement. The above mentioned DelDOT project and treatment does just that.

John adds (October 2017): A lane may serve more than one destination, while forbidding a destination to one or another category of vehicles. A lane where a truck route turns right, but other traffic may also proceed straight, is exactly the same in principle as a lane where all motor traffic must turn right but bicyclists may also proceed straight. Bicyclists must ride left or centered in the lane for this to work. A bicyclist who rides at the right side of the lane risks a right-hook collision – hence the shared-lane markings. And there must be a receiving lane at the far side of the intersection, so bicyclists do not merge inside the intersection.


A big tip of the helmet to John Allen for contributing to this article. We encourage you to visit John's website for a wealth of information on bicycling safety in the built environment!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Bicycle-Friendly Delaware Act featured in Bicycling Magazine

 Governor Markell signs into effect the Vulnerable Road Users Law in 2010
Surrounded by cycling fanfare, Governor Carney signed the Bicycle-Friendly Delaware Act into law this afternoon in Newark.

Our critical analysis of HB-185, both pro and con, was posted on June 21. We will not discuss it any further here, except to say that at least one valuable opportunity was lost. In their usual secretive manner, Bike Delaware crafted something with zero input from fellow advocates or anyone else in DE's bicycling community.

Sad -- but expected -- it takes another source or article (here, Bicycling Magazine pens Carney's signature a day early) for some of the finer and more sought after details to emerge. Clearly, the Idaho Stop (rolling, yield stop) provision was the main goal of the bill, with most of the rest intended to diversify the language and limit discussion on the floor. The best chance at passage came by circumventing a prolonged debate that killed the Idaho Stop in other States. It was a brilliant move and it worked.

From Bicycling's article, these excerpts reveal a pleasant surprise, something advocates thought they could only ever hope for, and doubted would even be considered with the passage of HB-185:

None of the new rules will have an impact, however, without public awareness. Bike Delaware aims to launch an educational campaign across the state, while Whitmarsh said officers will get a chance to read the new laws and ask questions at upcoming training sessions. He also said the department will promote the changes to the press.

Bare, who took the lead on crafting the legal language of the bill, said making sure drivers, cyclists, and police understand the law is essential to its success.

“There is no limit to the number of ways that something like this can fail,” Bare said. Starting the conversation before the rollout, he said, gives the state a head start.

We hope Bike Delaware stays true to their word above. But in order to do so, they will need to break from their usual pattern of secrecy and provide regular updates on how their PR campaign is progressing. Laws and changes to laws are completely useless if the public is unaware of it, except maybe after a crash (if the victim is still alive, knows about it, and can cite it to the judge). If an effective PR campaign is achieved, Bike Delaware will deserve much in the way of kudos for moving the State forward in a more bicycle-friendly direction. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

SR 273 & Red Mill Road Intersection Workshop


Complete Streets coming to the SR 273 and Red Mill Road Connector? Citizen participation at the project workshop is strongly encouraged.

Where: Christiana High School Cafeteria, 190 Salem Church Road (corner of Chapman Rd) in Ogletown.

When: Tuesday October 24, 2017, from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM

The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) is holding a Public Workshop to obtain comments from surrounding residents and the general public for intersection improvements at the intersection of SR 273 and Red Mill Road. Please click on the link above for full details.

Pedestrians, bicyclists, the handicapped, and motorists are strongly encouraged to attend. The current intersection design has multiple safety issues, including the lack of pathway facilities up to SR 273. A crosswalk and bike lane were narrowly retrofitted a few years ago, thanks to Senator Karen Peterson. This project page says it includes the addition of sidewalks that should safely connect Harmony Woods and Liberty Square Apts to said crosswalk. An email from the project engineer did confirm that bike lanes are also included, and thus the Complete Streets Policy being adhered to.

The intersection is a key connection in the on-road Wlmington to Newark bike route, as well as for bicycle commuters piecing together neighborhoods and side streets to avoid arterial roads. Please show up and let DelDOT know what you would like to see included in this project. If you cannot attend, please submit comments to dotpr@state.de.us using the title of this post as the subject line. Safety and fluidity for all is at the forefront!


The above video showcases riding through the intersection from Old Ogletown Road. We hope that DelDOT engineers take note at :42, and that foot and pedal traffic is frequently seen out there.

Eloy Sandoval-Mateoz waits to cross SR 273 from Red Mill Road before the addition of bike lanes and a crosswalk. He was killed in July 2014 by a reckless driver at the next intersection to the west, Ruthar Drive.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

DelDOT moving ahead with progressive crosswalk signage

The R10-15, that includes both foot and peddle traffic
Advocates for pathway safety are feeling some solace after Bike Delaware's quashing of the pedestrian safety bill: DelDOT is moving forward with the testing of multi-modal yield signage at crosswalks.

It's bad enough that Delaware has an outdated and ambiguous pedestrian code. But to anyone reading it, bicycles are largely unaccounted for and misunderstood on pathway facilities of any kind. For example, if a crash were to occur while riding on a parallel (with the road) pathway, especially where it enters a crosswalk with apparent right of way, there is nothing in the vehicle code and no clear legal standards that apply. It will fall on the courts to determine fault, and in nearly every case, the motorist finds favor.

In any civilized society, laws typically provide that turning traffic must always yield to through traffic, regardless of which side the vehicle is on. Unfortunately, the typical right turn in Delaware is designed to maintain speed, usually with a radius curve and yield sign. The first leg of the crosswalk starts midway here, where it's brought perpendicular to what is normally and expected to be a parallel pathway. With this, motorists are lured into a sense of entitlement, thinking that it's only incumbent upon pathway users to yield to them.

The new R10-15 will certainly help. From the desk of DelDOT's Matt Buckley:  "... at Amy [Wilburn's] request, we're going to document the effectiveness of ​the following modified R10-15 sign at Rockland Rd/W Park Drive. If the before vs. after results are promising, then we will consider adding a similar sign in an addendum for SR72/Old Baltimore Pike. Theoretically, the supplemental plaque below a conventional YIELD sign should read TO EVERYONE; therefore, we're suggesting a tweaked version of the standard R10-15 sign"

In this example via Google Streetview, we see a MUP (multi-user pathway) traveling south in parallel with Route 72/Chapel St, until it reaches a radius right turn at Old Baltimore Pike. The zebra-striped crossing is brought somewhat perpendicular, making it appear instead as a  traditional crosswalk to motorists. Legally, the pathway facility and all legs of its crosswalk should be treated as parallel, requiring right turning cars to yield to users in the crosswalk (note: improved language in the Pedestrian Bill would have included simple intent to cross as reason to yield, whereas current language requires physically being in it).
An early step in the right direction: The standard yield sign with a "to pedestrians" blade is found on New Linden Hill Rd at Skyline Dr in Pike Creek.

A big tip of the helmet goes to DelDOT's Traffic Division for pursuing this progressive and long overdue bike-ped safety signage.

Friday, September 29, 2017

2018 Pave & Rehab list available for comment

As always, we continue to monitor Rave & Rehab projects for opportunities to improve multi-modal safety. Not long ago, we asked for and succeeded in getting bike pocket lanes on Elkton Rd (between Newark and the MD line) with an interim project. We continue to ask for shared right turn-only lane treatments on roads such as Route 72/Sunset Lake Rd south of Newark, and believe DelDOT will come through for us next time it is resurfaced. Each year, more and more opportunities arise, within the confines of what can be achieved with a basic Pave & Rehab project (beyond that, it becomes capital reconstruction) and re-striping. It is up to road safety advocates to take the lead on this, since Delaware's LAB sanctioned advocacy org has never once taken an interest.

According to Mark Luszcz, our Chief Traffic Engineer, DelDOT is closely aligned with the Federal Highway Department's recommendations as found in the manual Incorporating on-road bicycle facilities and safety treatments during repave/rehab projects. It is by far the most bang for the buck, as roads and shoulders are re-striped regardless. Combined with a Pave & Rehab project, it comes out much less expensive because a little added paint is the primary cost. On the other hand, bike paths cost vastly more to build and maintain. In an October 2013 article, we revealed the spending of nearly $2M to complete a 1/4 mile section of the Northern Delaware Greenway along Talley Road. A protected bike lane could have served a similar purpose at a small fraction of the cost.

As a bicyclist in the built environment, and follower of 1st State Bikes, you are invited to browse over DelDOT's list of upcoming (2018) Pave & Rehab projects. Please comment on any roads (or stretch of road or intersection) that you are familiar with, and could be safety enhanced. Send your input directly to DelDOT's Bicycle Coordinator at: John.Fiori@state.de.us



Visit the FHWA Program Page for full information

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Dutch dreams lie at the heart of Delaware's Advocacy dissidence


The Guardian pens a masterpiece, with this brilliant follow-up to our original post Why bicycle mode share is (and will remain) less than 1%. Excerpts:

"Squint at Stevenage’s extensive 1960s protected cycleway network and you could be in the Netherlands – except for the lack of people on bikes. So why did the New Town’s residents choose the motor car over the bicycle?

The town, 30 miles north of London, had wide, smooth cycleways next to its main roads which were separated from cars and pedestrians. There were well-lit, airy underpasses beneath roundabouts, and schools, workplaces and shops were all linked by protected cycleways.

Eric Claxton, the lead designer of post-war Stevenage, had believed that use of cycleways would be high if they were well built – originally thinking that Britain’s hostile road environment discouraged people from cycling.

Stevenage was compact, and Claxton assumed the provision of 12 ft-wide cycleways and 7 ft-wide pavements would encourage residents to walk and cycle. He had witnessed the high usage of Dutch cycleways, and he believed the same could be achieved in the UK.

But to Claxton’s puzzlement and eventual horror, residents of Stevenage chose to drive – even for journeys of two miles or less. Stevenage’s 1949 masterplan projected that 40% of the town’s residents would cycle each day, and just 16% would drive. The opposite happened.

Stevenage’s 2010 master plan complained that just 2.9% of the Stevenage population cycled to work, which was “much lower than might be expected given the level of infrastructure provision”.

The borough council’s cycle strategy – not updated since 2002 – conveys no doubt as to why cycle usage is so low: “Stevenage has a fast, high-capacity road system, which makes it easy to make journeys by car."

There are safe cycle routes from homes to schools, but today only a tiny proportion of Stevenage’s children cycle each day. Many are ferried to school by car, a situation that Claxton abhorred.

Despite all the best efforts of a chief designer with empathy for would-be cyclists, “build it and they will come” failed for people on bikes in Stevenage but worked for people in cars."

As long as driving remains cheap and easy, bicycling as a significant mode share will forever stay in the realm of fantasy. And even then, pump prices are exponentially higher in England than the U.S., where this lovely pathway network has been all but abandoned. Our case has been, and always will be that Advocates whose sole focus is on costly separated facilities -- as opposed to pragmatism -- are driving the divide that prevents a united bicycling advocacy front in Delaware. Read the full article.

Check out the Facebook page "Pragmatic Bicycle Drivers", where pragmatism in bicycling advocacy lives.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Without New Castle County, forget Walkable, Bikeable Delaware


The State of Delaware has made great strides when it comes to funding some key, albeit isolated trails and pathways projects. And DelDOT is doing a wonderful job incorporating safety enhancements (crosswalks, bike lane/shared lane treatments, signage, etc) with reconstruction and pave & rehab projects.

Unfortunately, there are few such multi-modal considerations in New Castle County's Unified Development Code (UDC). And with a State level advocacy organization that won't place any emphasis on retrofitting the built environment, expect little in the way of reduced auto dependency. It's an easy conclusion to draw, not only based on the Code itself, but in dealing with the evidence time and time again when attempting to walk or bike.

Probably the most glaring UDC deficiency is found in the retrofitting or reconstruction of existing structures. Essentially, a building and its property is only bound by rules set forth on the day of its first recorded plan; more recent requirements can be disqualified, unless the project expands the building by least 1,000 square feet.

Examples of items added to the UDC over the years include the ADA (American Disabilities Act, 1990) and bicycle accommodations in the form of a parking rack and an entrance bike lane (1997). The fact that so many (if not most) projects are the reconstruction of older buildings seems to explain why these requirements are commonly waived.

In SECTION 40.08.130 we see the following:

Applicability:
The redevelopment of a site pursuant to Subsection B.6 permits the continuation of certain nonconforming situations, but prohibits the creation of any new nonconformity or the expansion of an existing nonconformity.

Design Element Improvements:
Improvements toward further code compliance shall be made to design elements such as, but not limited to, parking, buffers, landscaping, access, setbacks, storm water management, impervious cover, off-site transportation improvements/capacity, or mitigation of damage to or enhanced protection for existing natural/environmental resources.

The exploratory sketch plan shall identify and quantify all of the existing non-conformities on a property. The property owner must propose improvements in selected design elements listed [below], such that in totaling the individual design element improvements, the aggregate shall be equal to or greater than a four hundred (400) percent improvement.


So what we have in New Castle County is multi-modal (including handicapped) access and improvements put squarely in the hands of the business and/or property owner. They can omit these in favor of dozens of other choices, as long as it meets this "400% improvement" matrix, however that's determined. And the problem isn't just limited to reconstruction; missing code requirements are sometimes found on brand new buildings. Regardless, it is extremely difficult - if not impossible - to enforce the UDC after a Certificate of Occupancy has been issued. Obviously, the better odds would come with missing ADA facilities, given the far greater profile of handicap access, as opposed to bike/ped access in general.

This new Dunkin Donuts in Glasgow is the retrofit of an older building, and thus exempt from critical multi-modal requirements. Among them is no bicycle parking, and high curbs (instead of ramps with truncated domes) to connect an adjacent bike path facility that parallels Route 896.
Another serious fault with NCC is their use of gates or hanging chains or cables across roads, driveways and trails to block cars. This often forces foot or bicycle traffic (legal in most cases) to circumvent over curbs or via ditches or culverts. They should be using bollards.
The required bike lane was waived for the newly reconstructed Shop Rite in Glasgow, despite other improvements that were called for en-route to the magic "400%" required in the UDC. These included new curbing, islands and crosswalk at the main entrance from 4-Seasons Parkway.

With regard to bicycle parking, a helpful NCC Dept of Land Use representative had this to offer:

"New bicycle parking usually accompanies new or expanded car parking, since existing parking areas were built from older plans. There has been some resistance to providing bicycle parking, perhaps based on an idea that it won’t be used. And sometimes existing bicycle parking goes unused, with bicycles instead locked to posts and trees."

"Enhancements of County Code may be possible, to more thoughtfully provide bicycle parking with subdivision and land development plans. For example, the current flat requirement for bicycle parking might be replaced with requirements for specific land uses such as non-automotive commercial, offices, and apartments. The Code might also suggest preferred types of bicycle parking, and require fastening them down so they don’t disappear."


It is a foregone conclusion that if folks are dissing bicycle parking in favor of trees or posts, then the rack is either unsafe to use, hidden from view, or inconveniently located. In any case, if the same thinking was applied to handicapped car parking spots -- that in many cases appear underutilized or never used -- they too would be poorly placed, reduced in size and potentially damaging to vehicles.

In conclusion, the need for multi-modal improvements at the county level is a very underrated and all but forgotten area of bicycling advocacy. If we are to have any chance at all of reducing auto dependency, we need code reforms that encourage alternate transportation modes at all levels of building and property development.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Money, political comatose ends the STOP campaign

Another article in the Wilmington News Journal today confirms that the STOP (Save The Orphanage Property) campaign has officially ended in defeat. While most would expect it was the outcome of a price bidding war between government and developer interests, that was anything but the case. Multiple examples of dishonesty, and/or a gross lack of political will are to blame, and will go down as having ended the Ogletown-S. Newark's last hope for a regional park --- forever.

Instead, they have ensured us thousands more car trips per day on an already failed LOS (level of service) Route 4 corridor, and all kinds of havoc on multiple quality of life issues that have been thoroughly documented on this website. These include loss in real estate values, destruction of endangered wildlife habitat, paving over vast swaths of already flood-prone land, etc.

The following was gleaned directly from the WNJ article. It more than substantiates STOP's claim of dishonesty and political comatose, by those who we elected to represent our best interests. We italicized comments that are either suspect or conflicting:

  • [Mark Schafale, Felician Sisters of North America] expects his organization on Friday to finalize an agreement to sell 172 acres to a housing developer. That agreement ends a two-year push for government to derail the development by purchasing the land for a park.
  • "It is hard to put blame on one, two or three people," said Angela Connolly, one of the founding members of the Save the Orphanage Property Facebook group. "There are so many players in this nasty tragedy comedy."
  • "It isn't fair to say the sisters are trying to profit from this," Schafale said.
  • "I just don't think the county ever understood or chose to look at it from our perspective," Schafale said.
  • Meyer’s first publicly disclosed offer for the property came in July. The offer was rejected, prompting state Sens. Bryan Townsend and Ed Osienski, both D-Newark, to criticize Meyer for offering too little and suggesting the executive didn’t really want to get a deal done.
  • Meyer has criticized Townsend, saying the state legislator had said he could secure the entire $6 million purchase through the state. Ultimately, the Legislature committed $1.25 million in a bill that also made it easier for the Sisters to build the apartments without the entire development. Schafale said that was a boost to the park effort.
  • Townsend said that money was approved with the understanding he'd be seeking more to cover the state's half of the cost. He denies that he ever represented the state would pay the entire purchase price.
  • On Thursday, Townsend said the land being sold is "deeply disappointing" and the county had not acted with the urgency necessary to close a deal.
  • "Oddly, it was like pulling teeth to try to get the urgency from them on behalf of the public," Townsend said.
  • Meyer brushed off that criticism saying he had made four offers for the property without receiving a single written counter.
  • "If you make four written offers to buy a property ... and you never receive a single counteroffer in writing, who is being insincere?" Meyer said.
  • Schafale said Meyer's first two offers were "non-starters" because there was no acceptable path to executing the apartment development without the houses. He added his organization was in regular communication with the county about what was necessary for them to reach a deal.
  • "Our representatives laid out in very precise terms what we needed, and there was significant movement on that in August but it wasn't everything and wasn't enough," Schafale said.

We have nothing else to say at this point, except that with this level of government dysfunction, we cannot be called a "democracy". No wonder so few citizens attend civic meetings and legislator coffees -- why bother when you don't have a voice? Shame on all of our elected that we are going to lose this magnificent (and only remaining) parkland opportunity for the Ogletown-S. Newark region. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

NTSB Report: The 85th Percentile rule is killing us

Advocates have been asking DelDOT for years to lower the speed limit on Route 4 in Ogletown, from 50 mph to 40, or at least 45 for a start. Despite several traffic studies showing speeds as high as 57 mph even in front of area schools including the Delaware School for the Deaf, they insist that the rule is well justified.

From Streetsblog -- Traffic deaths in the U.S. are mounting, reaching more than 40,000 last year, and, according to a recent draft report by the National Transportation Safety Board, speed is the overlooked factor.

The NTSB reported that speeding accounts for about 10,000 deaths a year -- as many as drunk driving. One of the agency’s key recommendation was to change the way streets are designed by reforming the “85th percentile rule,” a laissez faire approach that seeks to accommodate motorist behavior instead of engineering streets for safety.

It’s an argument that Randy LoBasso at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has been making for a long time. Now that the NTSB report is vindicating advocates’ critique of the 85th percentile rule, he writes:

"The 85th Percentile idea, based on the 1964 “Solomon Curve” says speed limits should be set at what 85 percent of drivers think is healthy. It was created back when the highway system was still young, cars didn’t approach speeds as quickly as they do today, and we didn’t have the sort of statistics and research on traffic dangers we do today. [More . . . ]

Despite numerous residential, school, and retail zones that are rich with bike-ped activity, the speed limit on Route 4 in Ogletown/S. Newark remains posted at 50 mph. The 85th Percentile basically assumes that 85% of people are good drivers, and with that, sets it to their average speed. It's complete nonsense, because far less than 85% are truly good drivers. But more significantly, it fails to consider the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vulnerable road users.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Newark's Main Street Rehabilitation Workshop set for 8/15 at 7pm

Project Overview:
The scope of work for this project includes the replacement of the existing bituminous concrete pavement, pcc curb, sidewalk, drainage improvements, signal upgrades, curb extensions, pavement markings and signage.
Visit the workshop page HERE for location and further details.

What a disappointment that advocates aren't pushing for this. We discussed the possibility with DelDOT's Mark Luszcz, Chief P.E. in Dec. 2016, and found that it basically requires the City getting on board with it, at least with a proposal.

An attractive and livable downtown for Newark will stay an impossible dream until traffic is sharply reduced (one lane, with serious bike lanes and sidewalks) or eliminated from Main Street. The congestion, noise, fumes, etc is oppressive, to say the least. This project won't change that. The City needs to reconfigure its traffic pattern to allow Main Street -- or at least a good stretch of it (i.e. Tyre to Academy) -- to close to motor traffic. It could become one of a growing number of Pedestrian Malls in the U.S.

Since everyone knows that this level of change -- one that would actually reduce motor vehicles on Main Street -- is too progressive for Newark, everything else must be considered. Treatments like a green sharrow lane will at least help bicycle (and indirectly, pedestrian) safety, and wonderfully compliment other traffic calming measures.

Most of the cars in downtown Newark are University of Delaware students that live nearby (within easy walking/biking distance) and out of town cruisers checking out the "scenery". What a waste. So many other cities are transforming their Main Streets now (Charlottesville VA, Cumberland MD to name a few) in favor of non-motorized traffic. Sad that Newark can't take lessons from them.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Matthew Meyer, Felician Sisters Quash STOP Campaign

Clearing the property will start in the coming days or weeks
Save The Orphanage Property (STOP) officially ends campaign in defeat. Region's pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists, youngsters, etc come up empty. Glasgow, Pike Creek will remain nearest recreational park.

As of August 8, continued talks between New Castle County Executive Matthew Meyer and the Felician Sisters of North America broke down for the last time after failing to negotiate a few minor contractual terms. With a vote from the Sister's board of directors, a developer is now lined up to buy the land at barely over the appraised value ($5.9M) that was originally offered by Mr Meyer. They they will now go forward with the apartments, high density townhomes in the field space, and upscale houses replacing a large portion of woods and wetlands. Since the project plans are now fully completed, construction could begin at any moment.

As we look back on this tragic loss and gross injustice, a win for the disenfranchised residents of Ogletown-S. Newark just wasn’t in the cards. STOP advocates left no stone unturned, looking for any opportunity that would save this beautiful land and bring them a regional park. It was an exemplary citizen advocacy campaign that stuck to the facts, maintained decorum, and promoted full respect for our elected officials and the Nuns. Their core group included Donald Sharpe, who along with Dorothy Miller, helped save the White Clay Creek State Park. Also included was a NCC Tax Ditch Manager, an experienced environmental scientist and grant writer (who tirelessly sought other public and private funding sources), and a few other hard working citizen advocates who lived in the area. More than enough government funds were identified, including $1.25M in the State's Bond Bill, and even more in NCC's Parks budget. Significant private donor funds, totaling $1M or more, were also identified, with more under discussion. Further, the Felician Sisters offered to allow payments over 5+ years. You just couldn't have found a better offer, which amounted to a half price bargain for NCC. Ten organizations and multitudes of residents supported the STOP campaign, including almost a thousand following on multi-media alone. STOP yard signs dotted the neighborhoods.

Save The Orphanage Property's last act as an organization will be a final press release, with the facts as we know them. We will try to explain what has happened, why it happened, and who the few are (or the one) that allowed this to happen. One thing we do know for certain; after a long two years of advocacy and many sleepless nights, STOP ended in a total collapse of government representation of its citizens. It is something that the people will never, ever forgive their elected officials (and much of the Catholic Church) for. The Chestnut Hill "Preserve" will forever serve as a daily reminder of government incompetence, indifference, lack of empathy, and profiteering en-mass. Like a huge monument it will forever stay, always there to remind us that ordinary and working class folks mean little or nothing to them. We are no longer part of a democracy that represents the majority, but rather, a tiny minority of wealthy elite.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Orphanage Property on the brink

This is our latest understanding about the fate of the Orphanage Property.

The Felician Sisters of North America entered into a contract in mid-April to sell the bulk of the Orphanage Property (beyond their affordable housing project) to a new, local developer. They included a provision allowing them to “opt out” of that contract if the county was able to present a fair and workable offer. After two months, and no further response (beyond an offer of appraised value only) from Executive Meyer and New Castle County, that option was allowed to expire in June. The onus is now on the new developer (unknown at this time) to buy the property, which still carries some flexibility to exit the contract if they so choose. A 16 day extension was recently granted, giving the developer additional time to decide whether or not to move forward with the purchase, which would then become irrevocable. That extension will, apparently, run out one day next week.

According to sources in the know, there is a very slight chance on the buyer’s (new developer) side that may allow the “window of opportunity" to re-open. Indeed, the buyer could still back out. As of right now, both buyer and seller have agreed on 90+% of terms. If the final 10% falls through, the County/State would have a chance to step up -- but it would only be successful if Executive Meyer and NCC are serious and ready to put up a fair offer. This would include funds to cover at least half of the project (Chestnut Hill "Preserve) planning costs up to this time.

In the words of Mark Schafale, the Felician Sister's Chief Financial Officer:

I am sorry we were unable to work out an alternative arrangement with the county prior to that expiration. We certainly did everything we could to cooperate with discussions in that direction, but it just did not get done. The sisters believe strongly that God is watching over this process, and that if the park is meant to be, something will emerge to make that happen. But for now, we are awaiting our buyer’s final decision as to whether to move forward with the purchase (which will eventually lead to the building of the other 200 housing units). That is where things stand and we will try to keep you informed as things continue to unfold.

Again, these are the "facts" as we know them. They are derived from multiple sources, including our elected leaders and the Felician Sisters themselves, and are all we have to go on. Barring a miracle, we have forever lost this invaluable opportunity on Executive Meyer's refusal to offer above the appraised value of $5.9M, and the Sister's (and Mr Meyer's) refusal to put the desperate pleas and needs of thousands of real people before maximum financial gain. It's a very sad day for New Castle County, looking at the kind of environment that we (and those claiming the highest of righteousness) are planning to leave for those that come after us.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Remembering Eloy Sandoval-Mateoz

By Angela Connolly -- Three years ago, on July 26, 2014, at approximately 8:30PM, 21-year-old Rahul A. Patel was driving a 2003 Honda Accord at a high rate of speed on westbound Del. 273 (Ogletown Road) and was approaching Ruthar Drive when he lost control of his car. The car traveled off the roadway onto the center median, rotated counter-clockwise and continued into the intersection, where the passenger side hit Eloy Sandoval-Mateoz, 44, of Newark, who was northbound through the intersection on a bicycle and was trying to cross Del. 273. Mr. Sandoval-Mateoz sustained multiple traumatic injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. Mr. Patel was later convicted of driving at a high speed, while under the influence of drugs/alcohol. A handful of bicycling Advocates attended the sentencing for Mr Patel in November, 2015, where we witnessed the Honorable Judge Medinilla order that he be imprisoned be for 18 months without possibility of parole for killing the cyclist. Although additional conditions were set at the time of sentencing, we did not feel that the punishment was fair, as it was revealed at time of sentencing that Mr Patel had prior convictions for speeding and aggressive driving. Sadly, presumably because impoverished family members in Mexico could not attend the proceedings, none of Mr Sandoval-Mateoz's loved ones were there, and so the Judge never had to look into the eyes of the people that he left behind, to see the anguish there. And although we members of the bicycling community were there and would have welcomed the chance to speak for Mr. Sandoval-Mateoz, we were not allowed to. So Her Honor never heard how the loss of this fellow cyclist had affected us, the cycling community, his fellow riders. Mr Sean Lugg, Prosecutor, did a wonderful job representing Mr Sandoval-Mateoz, and during his testimony, he described a much-loved, gentle family man, who was here working hard, and sending his earnings back home to his family in Mexico. A family that now lives not only without their beloved family member, but also with the financial devastation caused by the loss of the earnings that were sent to them.

Eloy Sandoval-Mateoz had the sad distinction of being Delaware's first bicycle fatality of the year 2014. He was born on December 2, 1969. He was 44 years old at the time of his death. There were no funeral services for him here, and his body was sent home to his family in Mexico. Before he was killed, he was what some call an Invisible Cyclist, one of many who dot our landscape, traveling along the busy corridors that take them to their jobs, on their errands, and everywhere they need to go, because they do not use cars. He was from Mexico, and may have been undocumented. I wondered about where he was traveling to, or from, on that terrible night. Because of the hour of the crash, I thought that he was perhaps on his way home, possibly from a job in Newark. Maybe he was weary, and just wanted to get home, to rest. Maybe he was on his way to a night shift, or to meet some friends. We will never know. His body lay at the Coroner's Office for several days before he was even identified, because those closest  to him feared to claim him, as they too were probably undocumented. This set off a sad chain of events, where Eloy's name would soon fade from the news stories. We later learned that he was a husband, a Father, and a Grandfather. Although I did not know Eloy personally, from the description of him, I believe that I had passed him in my travels on my bicycle, on that same road and nearby my home in Ogletown. We would wave at each other. He appeared to use his bike for his primary means of transportation. After this tragedy, I never saw him again.

I am glad that there is a beautiful Ghost Bike at the spot where he tragically died, and I think of him each and every time I pass the site. Some bicycling Advocate friends and I had planned to put up one for him, but someone beat us to it, someone anonymous, and for that I am very grateful. It is beautifully done, in the tradition of the Ghost Bike, and shows that others know that he too was a human being, with family, friends, and a wider community that cared about him. I hope that the motorists who pass it know what it means, and that they think about how their actions behind the wheel can injure and kill others. I hope that every cyclist that passes it, no matter how they dress, or what they ride, will feel empowered, and know that there is a wider community that cares for them, and watches out for them. Because Eloy Sandoval-Mateoz wasn't ever invisible - some just chose not to see him.