Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Boycott Sierra Club Over The Orphanage Property Travesty

Sierra Club: Corporatism over Grassroots
Originally published in Ogletown Resilience

As our readers are all too aware, the Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club would not support or endorse the effort to Save the Orphanage Property (STOP) as critical habitat area, a wildlife refuge, a regional park, and a trails & pathways opportunity for Ogletown-S. Newark. We urge all of our readers to see through the facade and the fraudulence of Sierra Club, and to ignore all of their events including Earth Day. Alternatives can be found, including this one with Delaware Estuary.

The below article is from 2011, but nothing has changed since. Corporatist money has no place in non-profit environmental organizations -- whether that be at the national, state or local levels. This article explains why, after repeated asks for Sierra's endorsement of STOP, their reply was "this isn't something we generally do". Ditto from DE Audubon Society, given they too are a national org and thus accepting of corporate payoffs and kickbacks.


Excerpts:
  • According to the Associated Press, in 2002 Sierra Club head Carl Pope threatened to dissolve the southern Utah chapter for “speaking out against the Bush administration’s push toward war with Iraq.”  The Sierra Club’s Board of Directors had passed a resolution “supporting efforts to strip Iraq of weapons of mass destruction” (i.e., supporting the war) ...
  • This is the first time in Sierra Club’s 116-year history that it has endorsed a product and even Club executive director Carl Pope, who’s been a driving force in the partnership, admitted that the decision by a well-known environmental group to endorse a company known for its bleach, plastics, and chemical products is “controversial.”
  • Until progressive groups successfully address the challenge of funding themselves independent of the elite individuals and institutions that act as enforcers of a corporate agenda, they will not be able to successfully advocate for progressive causes. Any success they might have will mean that their funding dries up, and they will cease to exist.
  • The Sierra Club is a marquee name that has indeed gone for the green:  cash.  Environmental activists should carefully examine the way in which the organization is operating, and whether its agenda is worthy of continued support.

STOP to Delaware's Environmental Organizations: Epic Fail


Do you support environmental conservation in Delaware? Support and donate to the Delaware Nature Society. DNC, along with a dozen other local and State orgs, didn't hesitate and immediately jumped on board to help save the Orphanage Property.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Where is Bike Delaware on these top 5 action items?

One of numerous "goat paths" in New Castle County. Without the State's
advocacy org working with DelDOT on pathway connections between
neighborhoods and commerce, foot traffic will make their own.
A frequent question we receive at 1st State Bikes is this: What exactly is Bike Delaware doing in the interest of bicycle & pedestrian safety? What are they actually doing to advocate for local access to pathways, connectors, and regional parks in order that folks can stay out of harms way -- not just for bike/ped transportation but for recreation as well? They did advocate for some local spur trails to connect a few high profile projects, such as the Jack Markell Trail in New Castle. Beyond that, it is very difficult to quantify any efforts they are making. There is virtually no organizational transparency, nothing to the effect on their web platforms, and countless opportunities have come and gone without their support or involvement. If anything, they have a history of undermining the advocacy efforts of others, that could have brought sweeping reforms e.g. the updating of the vehicle code for pedestrians.

In no particular order, here are 5 badly needed action items that Bike Delaware -- along with State and County legislators -- could and SHOULD be working on right now:

Update Delaware's vehicle code for modern times, commensurate with other progressive States

Delaware consistently ranks in the top 5 most deadly States to walk in, even taking #1 just a few years ago. An overhaul (pdf) of Delaware's vehicle code for walking was completed 4 years ago in bill form. The draft "Pedestrian Bill" was modeled after other progressive States such as WA, MA, OR, etc. It brought Delaware's code up to date with our built environment and modern times. As it stands now, Delaware's code is overwhelmingly 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. 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.

Other issues with Delaware's current pedestrian code include dispensation for soliciting just prior to Father's Day which has no relevance today. Meanwhile, the State's death and injury rate -- consistently ranking top 5 per-capita in the U.S. -- continues unabated. 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. (NOTE: Bike Delaware actually quashed Advocate's attempts at a bill to update the vehicle code to increase safety and priority of pedestrian travel. You can view the updated code in pdf here).

Fight that everyone has local access to their own regional park(s)

According to Nemours and the CDC: Comprehensive recommendations for reducing the prevalence of obesity identified improving access to outdoor recreational facilities as a key strategy for creating safe communities that support physical activity. A comprehensive review of more than 100 studies supports the CDC’s recommendation. The review found that time spent outdoors and access to recreation facilities and programs near their homes correlated positively with increased physical activity among children and adolescents. Additionally, the economic benefits are critical to community health and wellbeing.

In the corrupt defeat of regional park Advocates in Ogletown-S. Newark, losing the last significant open space on the entire Rt.4 corridor suitable for such a purpose had serious implications for biking in the region. Gone forever is a bicycle-friendly destination, key trails and/or pathways connections between several existing developments, local place-making and an enhanced quality of life. Now being paved over with hundreds of unneeded homes, thousands of residents are forever condemned to racking up and driving their bikes (or sneakers, if walking or running) 15-20 minutes, either to Glasgow or Pike Creek if they wish to enjoy such a facility. This contradicts Gov Ruth Ann Minner's Livable DE and Bike Delaware's Trails & Pathways initiatives, among others. (NOTE: Bike Delaware is not on record anywhere, at any time (since their incorporation) as having supported open space acquisition and preservation. If anything, the record shows that they prioritize development, even when an entire region will lose its last park opportunity forever).

Advocate for a "20 IS PLENTY" campaign or similar

One of the most popular advocacy campaigns in the world is 20 Is Plenty. Without question, Bike Delaware should be at the forefront and leading this effort for their State. We asked Senator John "Jack" Walsh (D: Dist 9) to explore the possibility of such a campaign based on chronic speeding in Harmony Woods in Ogletown. DelDOT is unwilling to implement speed humps due to flawed and/or inadequate speed study data using the 85th Percentile. Then the legislators cite constant demand (i.e. "everybody wants speed bumps") as a further problem. We received the following reply from Mr Walsh:

We have completed an initial review with DelDOT and received a relative cost estimate that would be necessary if we were to change the residential speed limit from 25 MPH to 20 MPH statewide. The estimate ranges from approximately $550,000 to $1.1M for the installation of 2 signs per development since we maintain 1,501 developments statewide. This type of effort would involve fabrication and installation of over 3,000 signs at a minimum. However, the estimate doesn’t account for 1) developments that have multiple access points or speed limit signs (some developments have as many as 4-5 access points, if not more). 2) Speed limit signs co-posted with radar speed signs within developments. 3) Roads within municipalities that are state or locally maintained, such as Wilmington, Newark, Dover, Rehoboth, Lewes, etc. We have also discussed these bills with our colleagues, and we will continue to do so over the next few months. For the reasons listed above, however, we are not confident that we would be able to move legislation you proposed forward at this time.

Demand min 8' wide asphalt bike paths instead of sidewalks where shoulder bike lanes do not exist

There are numerous projects (or potential projects) all around Delaware that present clear opportunities for dedicated bicycling infrastructure, adjacent to or outside the lanes of traffic. Of crucial importance is when there is no shoulder bike lane on a given road, and access can only be had by taking and controlling the lane of traffic -- often times at freeway speeds. An infamous example is SR72 (S. Chapel Street) that many bicyclists use as a bike path connection between Newark, S. Newark, Bear, and points south. Advocates fought for 17 long years to upgrade the deteriorated 6' of asphalt sidepath to a more formal 8' shared use or "cycle track" facility. DelDOT finally agreed to "rehab" the existing facility using the same failed design standards used in the 1980s when it was first built.

The Marrows Rd to Library Ave/SR72 phase of Newark's "Main Street Improvements" project is another example. Ironic that nobody -- not even WILMAPCO made a strong case (if any) that bicyclists cannot safely access buildings along this stretch, in particular the post office. But most disturbing was the absence of Bike Delaware, that they didn't care to address this gross deficiency with DelDOT during the planning of this project or at any time before construction began. Here was a prime opportunity to include bicycle access in the form of, e.g. an 8' asphalt sidepath or shared use facility instead of the lane with cars or a narrow sidewalk. Yet they didn't even publicize the project notification for this critical aspect, never mind the project itself (and this). Wilmapco was content to leave it in their Newark Bicycle Plan as something for "future study". It will now be 15-20 more years before another rehab/reconstruction opportunity might present itself.

Reform County Codes to better facilitate bicycling

While New Castle County does mandate bicycle parking with new construction, the most glaring deficiency in their Unified Development Code (UDC) involves 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 -- including bicycle parking -- can be disqualified, unless the project expands the building by least 1,000 square feet.

In NCC, for an existing structure, multi-modal access and improvements are put squarely in the hands of the business or property owner. They can omit said access 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.

In short, this represents a major opportunity for Bike Delaware to advocate for change, by asking for bicycle facilities to be a required feature in all construction types. They should also spearhead a call or write-in campaign to encourage and assist bicyclists in their own efforts to attain bicycle parking or access where it is needed most, e.g. shopping malls and strips.

Also of note: NCC continues to use motor vehicle barrier types that include hanging chains or cables. These force bicyclists -- that are permitted -- into an inconvenient detour situation, which can be very dangerous. When it comes to keeping out cars, appropriately spaced bollards (one removable) perform the exact same function as a gate, yet allow non-motorized users to pass through safely as if nothing was there.

Summary: Though certainly not alone in this, Delaware's built environment is a microcosm of the death and carnage now accepted as "normal" in the U.S. -- normal by placing motor vehicle traffic at human scale. The above five advocacy goals are just a few of the many outlined on this website over the last 7 years that could help turn things aground. As the self-proclaimed #1 bicycling and walking advocacy org for the State, it is incumbent upon Bike Delaware to act and to advocate for the best possible retrofits and improvements in THIS built environment, in all contexts. In other words, advocate to fix what we already have. Unfortunately, Bike Delaware's main focus is walkable-bikeable design with NEW housing developments and increasing builder's profit margins. Unless this changes, walking and bicycling as "safe, convenient and fun" will continue to flat line or even decline in Delaware.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Senator Jack Walsh obtains quotes for "20 is Plenty" in Delaware

Dear Senator Walsh,

In researching problems of speeding on neighborhood streets, there are Cities and States around the country that have come up with non-infrastructural solutions that quantifiably reduce speed. These involve flexibility in lowering speed limits by 5 (via unique signage and/or a campaign), or more effectively enforcing existing ones with better or more pronounced signage. Please review the following two PDFs of bills that were passed in 2 States: Washington and Oregon.

It has become clear that "everyone wants speed bumps"; that is the immediate answer anytime when asked for at a meeting. If so, then we have a serious problem in DE with speeding in residential areas. If a vocal resident is one of the lucky ones, the State sets out to measure 85th percentile, then they may issue a warrant if it exceeds 5 mph. Apparently, these asks are frequent, and costs high for installing speed bumps. And many are rejected even if there is a demonstrable speeding problem as in the case of Medley Drive.

As your constituent, would you consider writing a bill, perhaps combining the best of the two above, gather some co-sponsors and bring it to the floor for a vote? It may be tabled, or not pass the first time, but after repeated attempts, it might. Then, DelDOT would be free to try other calming means, e.g. signage, that is far less expensive than speed bumps, and could save lots of money and asphalt. We will attach a couple examples of such signs.

As an annual top-5 most deadly State in the U.S. for walking, we ask that you (and/or your Colleague Rep Bentz) consider writing and introducing such a bill, and if you will not, please explain why. Here is some additional reading on the subject (here and here).

Thank you very much, and we look forward to your reply.

Frank Warnock & Angela Connolly
www.ogletownresilience.org
---

Senator Jack Walsh responds:

Good Afternoon Mr. Warnock,

Thanks again for sending us those bills. We have completed an initial review with DelDOT and received a relative cost estimate that would be necessary if we were to change the residential speed limit from 25 MPH to 20 MPH statewide. The estimate ranges from approximately $550,000 to $1.1M for the installation of 2 signs per development since we maintain 1,501 developments statewide. This type of effort would involve fabrication and installation of over 3,000 signs at a minimum. However, the estimate doesn’t account for:
  • Developments that have multiple access points or speed limit signs (some developments have as many as 4-5 access points, if not more).
  • Speed limit signs co-posted with radar speed signs within developments.
  • Roads within municipalities that are state or locally maintained, such as Wilmington, Newark, Dover, Rehoboth, Lewes, etc.
We have also discussed these bills with our colleagues, and we will continue to do so over the next few months. For the reasons listed above, however, we are not confident that we would be able to move legislation you proposed forward at this time.

However, we have asked for an estimate for a radar signs to be installed on Medley Dr. This will show drivers how fast they are going along with displaying the speed limit. We will review once receiving the estimate.

Have a nice day,

Jack J Walsh
State Senator 9th District
O: 302-744-4163
C: 302-660-6295

Editors note: Why isn't Bike Delaware working on this? Unfortunately, their record suggests they won't, given other priorities.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Entropy made visible: Bryan Townsend's Senate District 11

Hypocrite: Townsend on Facebook
Paradoxically, Senator Townsend (District 11, New Castle County) remains hugely popular among his Ogletown-S. Newark constituents despite his colossal failure as a legislator and representative of their best interests. But then again, Delawareans in general have a penchant for taking it up the backside, all the while begging for more. They stay loyal to his Facebook page, where Mr Townsend cross-posts environmental issues with a sense of outrage, and what appears genuine anger and remorse toward our planet's death spiral under the Trump administration. There is simply no end to the lies and con-artistry this man is capable of, given his dismal record as a State Senator right here in Delaware. The hypocrisy is staggering, as charity is supposed to "begin" at home.

Not only is Mr Townsend one of the worst environmental enemies (as chronicled on this page -- see "Top Articles" series in the right column) to serve office in any State, he also has zero interest in quality of life and green transportation that includes walking and biking. His district IS entropy made visible, with infrastructure at least as bad or worse than most 3rd world countries.

And where is Bike Delaware on this issue? Nowhere, that's where. Here are a few local examples, found just in Ogletown, that make critical connections between communities, circumventing arterials roads:

"Pathway" connecting Cherokee Woods with Our Redeemer Church/Chestnut Hill Estates.
"Bike Path" along Route 4, in front of the Christina Early Education Center. Zero maintenance or repair.
"Curb ramp" and pathway between Ogletown Rd and Route 4 at D&H Jamaican. Not only is this not ADA-compliant, it has never been maintained in any way, much less rehabbed or resurfaced.
Pathway connecting Todd Estates/Newark Oaks/Brookside to Jennie Smith ES and George Kirk MS. This facility is heavily relied upon by school children walking and biking to school, easily the healthiest thing a child can and should engage in. Most who use it walk or bike through the adjacent driveway instead, before reconnecting near the trip hazard (below) further up.
Also along the pathway connection above; a major tripping hazard, the result of settling concrete slabs and zero maintenance or repair.
Death trap: Posted speed limit of 50
mph 
(55-60 prevailing) in front of 
Ogletown area schools.
This is what you can expect under failed leadership, in this case Senator Townsend and cohort Rep Ed Osienski, along with their NCC Democratic colleague Lisa Diller. The trio -- most influential among them Townsend -- also could have gifted their districts a regional park on Route 4 on the former Orphanage Property. Instead, they lied and chose to hide that possibility from Advocates and the broader public for a full 2 years or until such time it was committed to development and couldn't be stopped. All the while, Route 4 is slowly but surely evolving into a Kirkwood Hwy or Route 13, with endless lane expansion projects, installations of overhead lights, clear cutting of trees, and other assaults on community life and place-making.

Despite being one of the most, if not the most disenfranchised regions of the State, these legislators go on enjoying broad support among their constituents, easily defeating their challengers in each election cycle.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Bike-Ped Dead: 6 Solid Reasons For Delaware's Dismal Ranking

Even with a flashing beacon, motorists still have
the right of way to continue, at speed, through
DelDOT's crosswalks without penalty -- as long
as peds (and bikes) are side-lined and waiting.
This is a completely backwards approach.
Delaware is once again poised for a dismally high position -- if not taking the nation's top spot for walking fatalities again this year. Ditto for bicycling - in a runaway - but we will cover that in a future article. Here, in no particular order, we will examine what we believe are the top 6 reasons for why this is so and will likely never change:

1) Motor vehicle priority and right of way through crosswalks and intersections. Delaware gives motor vehicles priority and right of way through mid-block crosswalks and radial turns, and puts the onus on pedestrians to create his or her own opportunity to cross. This doesn't change even with DelDOT's flashing beacons installed at a few of them; peds are still sidelined, waiting to make the first move -- hoping cars will stop. In no way is this progressive or conducive to pedestrian safety.

The way it should be. With a little enforcement. Mass
sees far greater compliance using this simple sign than
DE will ever see using stick figures and beacons.
2) An antiquated traffic code for pedestrians. There are numerous discrepancies and problems that a complete overhaul of Delaware's vehicle code is LONG overdue. The language is so antiquated that it even includes a holiday as impacting where and how to enforce it, including "soliciting contributions shall not apply on the Saturday immediately prior to Father's Day". Advocates volunteered many hours of time and did an overhaul, presenting it in legislative bill form to Delaware's Pedestrian Council. Ultimately, the State's defacto walking advocacy org, Bike Delaware, infiltrated the Ped Council and quashed the effort.

Crosswalks through highway-speed kill zones.
3) Wide lanes, slip lanes, and unregulated radial turns that induce high speed and discourage defensive driving, even in known pedestrian hot spots. Instead of traditional crossroads, most of Delaware's suburban thoroughfares consist of radial turns to keep motor vehicles moving as quickly as possible through intersections. This seriously compromises pedestrian safety, since the beginning and end of the crosswalk is unregulated and never signalized. As they are induced to maintain speed, motorists seldom yield, and usually just barrel on through even when pedestrians are present. This is not at all conducive to pedestrian safety, and not only adds to the danger, it discourage walking in the first place.

Non-drivers will often create "goat paths", as
the State and its Counties will not seek out and
try and include these important connections
with area rehab & reconstruction projects.
4) Very few pathway facilities that make safe connections between existing communities, commerce, and civil services. Lack of connectivity in development codes, and an ignorance of livability concerns throughout most of Delaware's planning history have all but sealed the fate of its suburban dwellers. Bike Delaware at one time made mention that connectivity is their mission, which includes piecing together what few streets do connect to try and create low stress networks. But for the vast majority of disconnected and unincorporated suburbs, they have yet to demonstrate how interconnecting pathways can be added without violating private property rights and/or invoking imminent domain -- never mind the exorbitant costs involved. In the end, those walking and biking are inevitably forced out onto arterial roads and their high speed intersections to reach most destinations.

5) An apparently fraudulent "Advocacy" organization in Delaware that will not support reforms, including a bill proposal (see #2 above) to update the traffic code in the interest of safety. "Bike Delaware" lobbies for reforms with priority on new housing construction only, helping developers achieve density waivers. With the occasional bone thrown to seasoned cyclists, they can focus on builder's profits with advocacy for "TOD" (Transit Oriented Development) and have this slip by virtually unnoticed. They ignore even the simplest ideas for retrofitting the built environment and have no record of endorsing open space conservation and park opportunities. Virtually all of their efforts are focused on the more privileged areas of the State including Old New Castle, the home of their Exec Director himself. For the unincorporated and disenfranchised folks who lack open space, bike paths and/or regional park access from home, they have to settle for what's on offer. This includes the high speed arterial roads and highways discussed here, for pleasure activities such as biking, walking and jogging.

6) Very little police presence and law enforcement to begin with. It is no secret that the police in Delaware -- in particular State and County -- are either stretched way too thin or even working without a contract. In what's become a culture of "anything goes", progressive reforms that include, e.g. stronger crosswalk signage with actual fines posted will remain out of the question. Unless a rare sting, the police are never around to actually enforce it, except perhaps in court after an injury or fatality. It is not uncommon at all for residents in unincorporated areas to go weeks or months without seeing a squad car in their region. When everyone knows that they can stretch, bend or break even the most basic laws of civility and predictability, higher crash counts inevitably follow. While the actions of the pedestrian (or bicyclist) is always cited as contributing or not, a gross lack of defensive driving due to paltry driver education, no redundant education, and virtually no law enforcement is a far greater problem overall.

Summary: Though certainly not alone in this, Delaware's built environment is a microcosm of the death and carnage now accepted as "normal" in the U.S. -- normal by placing motor vehicle traffic at human scale. Earlier govt planners, engineers and architects foisted this upon us by trashing livability in favor of "Stroads" that incorporate driveways, streets, parking lots, etc as directly connected to highways. Post WW2 design should have included frontage, service, and ring roads, and other treatments that allow highways to stay just that: relatively uninterrupted carriage ways between larger destinations with ample walking-biking cross-through (tunnel under) opportunities. Now dangerous by design, the State and its Counties (along with their Advisers and Advocates) are unable or unwilling to provide the needed tools and coping strategies.

View the proposed updated Delaware Vehicle Code for Pedestrians in pdf format, that was quashed by Bike Delaware and the Delaware Pedestrian Council with no further discussion. It was crafted by using the best of language from progressive States, e.g. Washington, Oregon, Mass, etc where motorist's respect for non-motorized road users is visibly higher than in Delaware, and the statistics are there to back it.

View the 2018 pedestrian fatality statistics for the whole of the U.S. Delaware took a "rest" from the top 5 in 2018, but is set to return in 2019.

Read an article in Strong Towns comparing Streets, Roads, and "Stroads", and what we can do to eliminate the latter in favor of livable streets and communities.

Watch James Howard Kunstler on YouTube destroy the very notion of cars as human scale.

Friday, October 25, 2019

"Share the Road" makes a comeback in Delaware

This modified W11 Bicycle "Share the Road" sign is found along Churchmans
Road just south of I95. Others have been reported in the DE City vicinity.
Brand new "Share The Road" signs are appearing along various Delaware roads. We have received several emails from our followers, one with the photo evidence seen at right. The signs appear to be showing up with repave or reconstruction projects, which contradicts Bike Delaware's commitment to ending "Share The Road" (oh, the horrors), not only from roadway signage but in all other DOT contexts and vocabulary. The photo at right was recently taken on Churchmans Road, SR58 in New Castle County, where the latest little piece of the East Coast Greenway (parallel bike path) was added.

According to Bike Delaware's IRS Form 990 for 2018: "Bike Delaware partnered with DELDOT in campaigning to end “Share The Road” signage in Delaware". Bike Delaware did indeed make the push to end "Share The Road", though not everyone agreed with the idea and most didn't believe it was a priority if given a choice of other advocacy pursuits. Upon the retirement of STR, Bike Delaware -- off the backs of former and non-member Advocates -- went on to take credit for the design and implementation of a replacement sign. With DelDOT's generosity and willingness to act immediately, The W11 In Lane sign replaced STR and became an instant hit, used primarily in lane-only configurations.

What is 1st State Bikes position on STR? There is nothing intrinsically wrong with sharing the road, or "Share The Road" on a sign. That said, we did not argue with the technicality used to justify its removal, as long as a suitable replacement was found. The average travel lane in Delaware is substandard width (11'-12' in most cases), therefore, it is impossible for a bicyclist and most cars to fit within the same lane - abreast - when factoring in the 3' Passing Law. Regardless, the fact that Bike Delaware made the removal of this sign and phrase a priority (and fissures now appear in its oversight) shows the length they will go to win over the support of Delaware's road bicyclists while secretly pushing a much bigger agenda.

"Share The Road" sign on Casho Mill Road in Newark, similar to those used by PennDOT (Oct 21, 2019)

W11 sign with "Share The Road" plaque found on Apple Road in Newark (Oct 21, 2019)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Senator Bryan Townsend (a time capsule)


Introducing
bryan-townsend.com, an all new web page that will serve as an on-line environment and quality of life time capsule for Senator Bryan Townsend (Delaware's District 11). Here, you can follow the ascension of the State's most prolific con-artist, as he makes his way to the top of the political dung heap, en-route to State Governor or a U.S. Congressional Seat. Already in his young career (38 years old), Mr Townsend has destroyed former Gov Russell Peterson's legacy by selling out Delaware's Coastal Zone to industry. He also refused to champion saving open space and critical habitat area (for both humans and wildlife) right in his own district. He, along with Rep Ed Osienski, denied Ogletown-S. Newark its last chance for its own regional park with open fields and a complete Trails & Pathways network already in place. That he posts articles on social media about the environmental crisis we now face only serves as a mask for his bought and paid-for agenda.

Help us spread the word; please share our posts around the Internet, including on social media, as you see fit.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

In matters of transparency, Bike Delaware is a joke

It's critical that donors to a non-profit know exactly
where and what their money is going toward.
"Secrecy is one of the shadier sides of private and public life"  ~Ian Hacking

Bike Delaware falls far short compared to other similar orgs when it comes to the activities they are engaged in, particularly those of their Exec Director who has been confirmed as a lobbyist for land-use matters (favoring developers) at the County level. It appears that their startup documents and a Form-990EZ is Bike Delaware's only known record-keeping and reporting.

To learn how an advocacy organization should go about its business, click on the images below from neighboring Bike Maryland, which takes matters of transparency very seriously. On their home page, note the newsletter subscription, as well as an up to date blog of current events and action alerts. Their website is also fully searchable, so folks can readily investigate what the organization is up to and grab at opportunities to get involved at every level.




Other Neighbors (in pdf format):
Bike Pittsburgh 2017 Annual Report and Strategic Plan 2016-2019.
Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia Annual Report FY2018.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Ogletown Road and the Folly of Bike Delaware

Forced to ride in the lane during sidewalk rehab activities on Ogletown Road, between the Newark Post Office
and Marrows Rd. The high speed lane or a 5' sidewalk will continue as the only options along this stretch. 

It's hard not to laugh when reading Bike Delaware's pages, adorned with slogans such as:

"Making cycling and walking safe, convenient, and fun in Delaware"


"OUR MISSION: Bike Delaware advocates for safe, convenient and fun cycling and walking for everyone"

"Bike Delaware’s organizational mission is to make cycling and walking safe, convenient and fun transportation options in Delaware"

"Our vision is bikeway networks that everyone can use to get where they want to go on a bike"

To anyone paying attention, it's only made "safe, convenient and fun" when it brings high profile attention to Bike Delaware, or if you happen to live in one of the State's few privileged locales or regions. Otherwise, you're SOL.

The photo at top was taken on Oct 5, 2019 on Ogletown Rd/SR273, between Marrows Rd and Library Ave in Newark. Bicyclists who are trying to access the Post Office are completely disenfranchised. The only access available to them is the high speed traffic lanes or a 5' sidewalk directly adjacent, with narrow twisting curb ramps. Access from behind the P.O., perhaps via College Square, is completely fenced off.

The Marrows Rd to Library Ave/SR72 phase of Newark's "Main Street Improvements" project is now underway. Ironic that nobody -- not even Wilmapco made a strong case (if any) that bicyclists cannot safely access this critical service, as well as other buildings along this stretch. But most ironic was the absence of Bike Delaware, that they didn't care to address this gross deficiency with DelDOT during the planning of this project or at any time before construction began. Here was a prime opportunity to include bicycle access in the form of, e.g. an 8' asphalt sidepath or shared use facility instead of the lane with cars or a narrow sidewalk. Yet they didn't even publicize the project notification for this critical aspect, never mind the project itself.. Wilmapco was content to leave it in their Newark Bicycle Plan as something for "future study". It will now be 15-20 more years before another rehab/reconstruction opportunity might present itself.

A recently repaved section of sidepath along Library Ave in Newark. At 6'
wide, it fails all known engineering criteria for a bi-directional bikeway facility,
and qualifies as just a sidewalk.
Of course, none of this comes as any surprise. Similar projects are going on all around Delaware that present clear opportunities for dedicated bike (and ped, shared) infrastructure, adjacent to or outside the lanes of traffic. Of crucial importance is when there is no shoulder or bike lane on a given road, and access can only be had by taking and controlling the lane of traffic -- often times at freeway speeds. Another example is SR72 in Newark and further south -- aka S. Chapel Street -- that many bicyclists use as a bike path connection between S. Newark, Bear, and points south. Advocates fought for 17 long years to upgrade the deteriorated 6' of asphalt sidepath to a more formal 8' shared use or "cycle track" facility. DelDOT finally agreed to "rehab" the existing facility using the same failed design standards used in the 1980s when it was first built.

Conclusion: For the disenfranchised and "unwashed" that populate the vastness of Delaware's suburban landscape, you'll be hard pressed to find anything positive going on for bicycling and pedestrian advocacy. Bike Delaware appears a fraud, a fake organization that pretends to care about bike-ped safety for all of us, but whose real mission it is to fast track high density development projects and profits to their corporate masters. This comes at the expense of key infrastructure safety and improvements in the built environment, never mind the loss of our last remaining wildlife, forests, fields, wetlands, and parkland opportunities. Bike Delaware does little or nothing at all to bring attention to individual DelDOT projects and workshops -- even when absolutely critical and presenting a one time-ever opportunity for making key connections. They are a virtual no-show in person and on their website when it comes to -- at the very least -- rallying Delaware bicyclists to the very projects that could possibly make their bicycling "safer" and more "convenient".

Sunday, September 29, 2019

What kind of "Non-Profit" is the White Clay Bicycle Club?

The White Clay Bicycle Club does not appear
in any search of the IRS Non-Profits database.
What kind of "non-profit" is the White Clay Bicycle Club? Virtually everyone you ask -- including past Board members -- believe it is a 501(c)3. However, the organization does not appear on any search of the IRS non-profits database, using the simple keywords "White Clay". Six other orgs do appear, however (see image on right).

Assuming WCBC is missing in the results somehow, and it is indeed a 501(c)3 or (c)7 or other 501-type, is it appropriate for them to donate relatively large sums of member dues and event fee monies to another 501(c)3 that does not follow the recommended rules of transparency? The recipient org, Bike Delaware is a confirmed 501(c)3, but has:

  • No annual report
  • No periodic newsletter of any kind
  • No annual meeting with minutes and election results
  • No search feature on their website to search out these items or topics of interest
  • No posted meeting minutes
  • No lobbying records or reports at the county and regional level, much (if not most) of which centers around land use

WCBC's main source of revenue is membership dues and event fees; probably half or more is sourced from non-members participating in their recreational cycling events that are open to all. Is it legal and appropriate that non-members (and members alike) are helping fund activities that they may not approve of, in this case lobbying for developer and builder interests at the expense of parks, green space, and retrofitting the built environment for multi-modal transportation?

John Haupt, President of WCBC, gave these terse replies when asked about his org's Form-990 and/or a financial disclosure:

Q: Is WCBC a 501(c)3, or (c)7, as described here?

  • ... do not include the WCBC or any members of the WCBC Executive Committee on your email messages or correspondence.
  • The White Clay Bicycle Club is not a 501(c)(3) as you state in a prior message.
  • The White Clay Bicycle Club is not a "political organization" as you possibly elude to in a prior message.

Summary: According to the IRS website at this time, WCBC is not a non-profit org. Even if this is an oversight on their part, it would still appear that there is a 509(a)3 "Type 3" relationship between WCBC and Bike Delaware, meaning that regardless of revenue totals each year, they should still file a Form-990 (or other documentation) and be transparent about it. This can be found in the IRS' 4221-PC Compliance Guide (pdf).

Given this is an inquiry, of which we can only hope there is nothing fraudulent in the end, we will update this article as we learn more. Feel free to comment below.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Is WCBC's sponsorship of Bike Delaware a conflict of interest?

Does the White Clay Bicycle Club (WCBC) care if their generous annual donations are used in lobbying efforts to dismantle development codes, zoning rules, and open space requirements? To promote density waivers, and other pro-development initiatives? Are their members aware that by supporting what is purported to be a "non-political" 501(c)3 organization, they may be supporting the loss of green space, decimation of wildlife/biodiversity, hastening of climate change, and increases in traffic congestion and stress on the very roads they ride on?

This may be the case with WCBC's generous annual financial support of Bike Delaware. In addition to a vocally pro-development Executive Director James Wilson, at least two of Bike Delaware's Executive Board members have ties to the building industry. SB-130, first opposed by the New Castle County Civic League, was widely recognized among advocates as a developer windfall. Since then, similar legislation has been introduced and passed. Recently, NCC Council largely dismantled traffic impact requirements in the approval of even major building/land use projects in much the same context as Bike DE's SB-130.

Because they are a top sponsor, WCBC should be asking the tough questions, and holding Bike Delaware to the highest standards of accountability and transparency. This goes well beyond their Form 990; it needs to include detailed lobbying reports (beyond this), meeting minutes, and donor lists. As the 4th most corrupt State in the nation, Delaware has no County-level mechanism for tracking lobbyist interactions over specific Council legislation unlike the State, which maintains a reporting system for all lobbying on bills and is overseen by the Public Integrity Commission.

We raised these concerns with WCBC's President John Haupt on June 27, asking whether or not pro-development/anti-open space lobbying fits his org's mission, and if they do demand transparency from Bike Delaware. If the document(s) are there to prove it, his org should present this (or make it available to) their membership. Contrary to similar organizations, nothing except Bike Delaware's Form 1023-EZ and 2019 Form 990 is made available on the Internet.

It's also noted that WCBC's Haupt has a land-use connection as an Associate Vice President & Manager with a major land surveying company. While that may or may not directly implicate him given everything above, it is fair to ask for WCBC's position on open space, the environment, and road safety and education. It directly relates to what his organization endeavors to provide for their sanctioned rides and events, in terms of more rural and scenic roads with fewer cars. Historically, WCBC has also supported the 6 Es of bicycling advocacy, few of which Bike Delaware actively pursues in the built environment.

Summary: WCBC has claimed to be a "non-profit" since the early 1970s, but the club cannot be found in any search of the IRS's "Tax Exempt Organization" database. They raise significant funds (possibly up to half of their income) from non-members -- mainly in the form of event fees -- and donate said funds to Bike Delaware, another non-profit that lacks transparency (no newsletter, no annual report, no annual meeting, no posted meeting minutes, no website search tool, etc) and engages in lobbying activities for pro-building and development causes.

WCBC is one of Bike Delaware's top sponsors, and as the largest recreational bicycling club in the State, that makes them responsible for transparency and accountability for monies donated. Its President and Executive Board owes it to those who pay dues, event fees (non-members included) and other monies into the organization, believing it has their best interests at heart. WCBC needs to demand detailed transparency from Bike Delaware before handing over thousands of dollars in member dues and event fees on an annual basis.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Where is Bike Delaware on projects that really matter?

Wawa, new shops planned for Christiana area

From the Delaware On-Line. Excerpts from the article:

Construction is expected to begin this fall on a new Wawa off Del. 273.

The Wawa will be in a new development east of the University Plaza shopping center, which includes Burlington and Acme. The convenience store will also have gas pumps.

Plans for the site also call for two retail pads, one designed for a fast food or quick service restaurant, and the other for a larger restaurant or retailer.

A new road will be constructed west of the development off Del. 273 and across from Browns Lane, which leads to the Christiana Town Center.

Another Wawa is nearing completion at the corner of Wrangle Hill and Red Lion Roads in Bear. It is expected to open in late 2019 or early 2020.

Every time these overwhelmingly car-centric development plans surface, is Bike Delaware even remotely advocating for protected bicycle facilities, bike parking, and place-making in general? They easily find time to arrange meetings with developers and County Council members while advocating for high density zoning and maximum build-out of DE's last remaining open spaces. But why are they absent when & where they're truly needed, in projects where cars dominate and inviting bike-ped accommodations aren't even considered? Projects that include stores like WaWa, Royal Farms, and other mega-"convenience" stores with a dozen or more gas pumps are a major disaster for the environment, safety, community building and place-making in general. At the very least, Bike Delaware should be at the forefront, demanding safe bike-ped accommodations.

But then, unless it's high profile and to their advantage, Bike Delaware never rallies around (much less attends) workshops for individual DelDOT reconstruction and/or pave & rehab projects either. These usually include marginal sidewalks and/or shared-use shoulders, with clear opportunities for upgrades to (e.g.) cycle tracks and/or protected bike lanes. An organization whose "mission" it is to build complete bicycling networks suitable for everyone -- including children -- would have a major presence with each and every project, regardless of size and scope. Instead, we have roads, sidewalks and intersections routinely rehabbled or reconstructed using the same bad engineering practices instead of, for example, installing min. 8' wide asphalt multi-modal pathways that afford bicyclists equal right of way with car traffic.

Bike Delaware's mission statement: Bike Delaware advocates for safe, convenient and fun cycling and walking for everyone.

Whatever Bike DE's advocacy entails, it isn't anything holistic and doesn't include the networking of safe inviting pathway facilities that would enable Delawareans to replace car trips with active transportation modes.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Is Bike Delaware a Tool of Developer Interests? (Updated: 9/28/2019)

8 things to consider if you support Bike Delaware and believe in their mission and vision.

SB-130, Enterprise Districts
  • One of Bike Delaware's top legislation pieces centers around land use. At the core is SB-130 Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Districts, which promotes large, high density mixed use developments. Selling them as multi-modal wins New Castle County Council's support to relax vehicle level of service (LOS) requirements, and put such development on the fast track. Only recently, NCC Council largely dismantled traffic impact requirements in the approval of even major building/land use projects in much the same context as Bike Delaware's SB-130.
Lobbying efforts (infrastructure)
  • Lobbies almost exclusively for high profile trails and pathways projects. These benefit developers by increasing surrounding property values, and ultimately, it becomes a selling point for homes clustered nearby. Lobbying also focuses on high density housing developments, under the guise of "transit oriented developments" (aka TODs). These include land use meetings with developers and NCC Council members, more recently with the loss of the Brandywine Country Club and open space.
Dissing and undermining of on-road bicycling safety efforts
  • Ignoring efforts at road bicycling education and infrastructure. Any pragmatist would agree that we need to FIX what we already have -- before heaping on more development. This would rightfully suggest that we can and should retrofit the built environment -- FIRST. Instead, Bike Delaware advocates for multi-modalism with new housing developments only, giving these a higher likelihood of density waivers and project approval (tip: doesn't work when surrounded by auto-dependent suburbs).
A project to "upgrade" the S. College Ave (SR896)
overpass at I95 has had workshops with no reported
involvement from Bike Delaware. Such a project could
include a separated bicycle facility making an in-
valuable connection between Newark and Glasgow.
Never attends DelDOT workshops
  • Unless high profile as mentioned above, Bike Delaware has little known presence rallying around (much less attending) individual DelDOT reconstruction and/or pave & rehab project workshops. Projects usually include sidewalks and/or shared-use shoulders, with clear opportunities for upgrades to (e.g.) cycle tracks and/or protected bike lanes. An organization whose mission it is to build complete bicycling networks suitable for everyone would have a major presence (or at least a call to action) with each and every project, regardless of size and scope. Instead, we have roads, sidewalks and intersections routinely rehabbled and/or reconstructed using the same bad engineering practices instead of, for example, installing 8' wide asphalt multi-modal pathways. It should also be noted that Bike Delaware quashed any notion of revamping the State's badly antiquated anti-Pedestrian language in the vehicle code.
Developer-friendly Staff and Board of Directors
  • In addition to their developer-friendly Executive Director, at least two of Bike DE's board members have ties to the building industry, development firms, and property management. Their profiles can be read HERE.
No record of endorsement for open space and/or regional park initiatives
  • Bike Delaware has no known record supporting (never mind lobbying for) the use of DE's last remaining green spaces as regional parks, even when proven to have enormous benefits for bicycling, walking, the environment, local economy, and interconnecting communities.
Touting the impossible
  • Selling an impossible vision to Delaware's bicycling community, by insisting that we can build a complete, low-stress, "protected" bicycling network locally accessible to everyone, including 8-80 year olds. The facts say otherwise. (tip: a course in home rule and county land use would also help).
Fails to appear with any charity watch organization
  • Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, Universal Giving, Philanthropedia, GiveWell, Great Nonprofits, and others do not include Bike Delaware as one of their ethical, creditable non-profits worthy of charitable donations.
Conclusion:
What little open space remains in NCC is mostly what planners and developers refer to as "infill", where any type of connectivity is fiercely opposed by existing neighborhoods. Most larger tracts -- also surrounded by car-dependent sprawl -- are either off limits or being hotly contested for open space acquisition. That said, if they really are intent on paving over most of the State's remaining farmland in Kent and Sussex, it might be possible to build enough contiguous TOaD that more folks do indeed bike and walk between communities, and use transit if the State arranges and funds it. Alternatives to car usage might become a little more popular. But then you have the cheapest gas in history (inflation factored) to ruin the incentive, and examples like Stevenage to explain around.

Delaware's fall from #3 to #7 as a Bicycle Friendly State was largely due to a lack of low stress connectivity and a bicycling mode share that barely registers. Unless the State is prepared to spend enormous sums and begin using eminent domain, connectivity that the 8-80 yo "interested but concerned" folks can use to circumvent arterial roads and intersections will remain impossible. Govt would have to strategically condemn and raze private properties in order to install non-motorized pathway connections between developments, and designate their streets as "bike boulevards". Doing so would draw the ire of adjacent residents, and trigger a frenzy of lawsuits. Except in a rare case or two, it isn't going to happen.

The Oil Crisis of 1973 was the last time in U.S. history that bicycling was truly popular for transportation purposes. With mode share currently at 0.2% in Delaware, major Govt spending on bike path infrastructure by confiscating private property would be political suicide. Bike Delaware should also understand that where cities and countries have high bicycle mode share, car ownership and fuel costs are prohibitively expensive and/or inconvenient. Raising the cost of driving to encourage alternative modes would again be political suicide.

So decide for yourself what Bike Delaware's true motive is, and just who may be bankrolling their staff and for what purpose. Organizations like the White Clay Bicycle Club lavish thousands of dollars every year on Bike Delaware, knowing full well that they are anything but transparent about their activities and finances. Delaware bicyclists should consider all of the facts mentioned in this article before joining either organization. If anything discussed here can be proven as false or inaccurate, please email info@1stbikes.org or include in comments below any supporting evidence and documentation.