Monday, July 15, 2013

Trails and Pathways Left Behind: Commons Boulevard

Some Trails and Pathways projects will serve as important connections for existing commuters, and some will create opportunities for new commuters where it was previously unsafe or impossible. But it is more likely that most, if not all Trails and Pathways projects will enhance Delaware from a recreational standpoint. Car trips eliminated from any new crop of commuting cyclists may be offset, or even increase as a result of folks racking up and driving their bike to a trailhead. Certainly, biking for exercise is important from a health and wellness standpoint.

What about projects whose main objective is to circumvent dangerous roads? The Industrial Track Rail Trail does just that. When complete, it will allow bicyclists to avoid Route 9 - and everything along Route 9 - between Old New Castle and Wilmington. But noticeably absent from any consideration is Commons Boulevard in New Castle. AASHTO grade bike lanes installed on Airport Road in 2007 disappear into a 4 lane high speed arterial road, where traffic is especially hostile and intolerant of bikes during peak times. Except for the brazen, there is no safe way to reach Reeds Way – home to Wilmington University, Wesley College, and New Castle County’s Govt Center – as well as the New Castle County Airport by bike.

View Larger Map

Above: The point at which the bike lanes on Airport Road disappear into the curb at the start of Commons Blvd. Few cyclists would attempt this during peak travel times unless riding in a group. Right lane Sharrows are out of the question given the high speed environment. You can advance forward or circle around by clicking on the arrows.

Here is a pathways opportunity that would put a significant area of NCC back on line for bicyclists. Such projects should be high priority when it comes to patching together real bikeway networks that use both on and off-road facilities.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Reporting a road condition or safety hazard - does it work?

Newark area bicyclists have a few options for reporting hazardous road and pathway conditions. Below are the 3 most common:

DelDOT Report a Road Condition
DelDOT Public Relations monitors this on-line form, and forwards the maintenance alert to the appropriate district. In my own experience, success varies depending on the nature and challenge involved. But more times than not, they answer the call - it just might take a few weeks. Debris in the shoulder is probably the most common request, but hopefully, sweeping reform is on the way.

Newark Report a Road Condition
A new service under the direction of Tom Coleman, Assistant Director of Newark's Public Works Department. Requires log-in to access. No personal experience as of yet, but several fixes (potholes, cracks, etc) were quickly performed upon email request after Tom took office. Evidence suggests that the City is putting a sharper focus on bicycle safety, and is even willing to perform surface repairs on DelDOT maintained roads. Thanks so much, Tom!

New Castle County Property Maintenance Complaint System
Many are unaware of this valuable service offered by New Castle County to address code violations. Mainly for issues related to adjacent property, including pathway maintenance, overgrowth, litter/debris, etc. A description of the violation is recorded, then assigned a case number and investigator. The case number can be used to track the complaint as it moves through the system, and to monitor it's progress.

I successfully used the NCC service in the repair of potholes and clearing of loose gravel along the Route 72 sidepath just south of I95. Only drawback was the turn around time. After about 6 months, and despite tracking results showing "still in progress", I had given up hope anything would happen.

Then, one day out of the blue, the gravel was removed, potholes filled, and there was a confirmation email from NCC closing the case. Thank you, NCC!

In the interest of safety and consideration, bicyclists should bookmark these reporting services and actively use them. If a property owner is involved, as seen above, it is best that they be contacted first and given the opportunity to rectify the situation.

Do you have any experience with the above services? Tell us in the comments section below.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

NO to Super WaWa at Apple and Elkton Roads in Newark

A super WaWa here, with as many as 12 gas pumps, would seriously impact bicycle safety in the area. Both Elkton and Apple road are popular bicycle routes.

By Carol R. McKelvey -- The SMSCS, South Main Street Coalition for Safety is a concerned group of residents who are opposing a Special Use Permit for WaWa to put gas pumps on the parcel at South Main Street (Elkton Road) and Apple Road.

The parcel is located across from the City Municipal Building.

We feel it will negatively effect Traffic safety of the area, and the safety of Pedestrians, Bicyclists, and the residents of the nearby community. We are meeting together to keep abreast of the facts and processes of city government regarding this parcel of land. Please join us to learn and understand the impact these gas pumps will have on your community.

We have had about 7 meetings and will have another July 15th at 12:30 pm at our home. We are planning to organize a complete presentation for the Planning and City Council. We want to include data like Heather Dunigan presented at NBP's Community Meeting to demonstrate that this will be unsafe.

The applicant, WaWa, has to prove it will be safe ... and conversely we have to prove it will be unsafe. We will produce a bicycle section, a traffic section, an environmental section and a pedestrian section. We want it before these groups on an equal basis with WaWa.

We need to enlarge our emailing list so that we have the ability to reach more people. If you would like to get involved, or stay abreast of the details as they unfold, contact:

Carol R. McKelvey, 48 Winslow Road, Newark, DE  19711
(302) 369 8711, or (302) 743 7796

The new Super WaWa at the corner of Rt.273 and Marrows Road. In typical fashion, this retailer shows little to no interest in bicycle or pedestrian safety. At this particular location, advocates - in conjunction with the City of Newark - had to enforce mandatory bicycle parking and ADA compliant sidewalk access to the parking lot.

Biking into - or past this WaWa requires advanced vehicular bicycling skills, and knowing where to position one's self in the lane of traffic.

Poster's Note:
Not only are these Super WaWa stores inherently unsafe for bicyclists and pedestrians with their cars-only design, it is totally out of character with the downtown Main Street environment that the City says they promote. It is difficult to believe we even have to fight this battle, but short term profits often trump common sense.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

In Memory of Bicyclists

Cross-posted from Bike Delaware's website

Three days short of a year after Bob Wheeler died tragically, after being hit by a car while out on a recreational ride, a new area in the Smyrna Memorial Garden was dedicated. On June 25, six WCBC/Bike DE members, Amy Wilburn (chair of the Delaware Bicycle Council), and Anthony Aglio and Jim Westhoff from DelDOT met at the Memorial Garden to place a sign identifying an area as a Bike Memorial. In addition, we placed a brick along the sidewalk “In Memory of Bob Wheeler – June 28, 2012.”

Three days short of a year after Bob Wheeler died tragically, after being hit by a car while out on a recreational ride, a new area in the Smyrna Memorial Garden was dedicated.  On June 25, six WCBC/Bike DE members, Amy Wilburn (chair of the Delaware Bicycle Council), and Anthony Aglio and Jim Westhoff from DelDOT met at the Memorial Garden to place a sign identifying an area as a Bike Memorial.  In addition, we placed a brick along the sidewalk “In Memory of Bob Wheeler – June 28, 2012.”

I shared a few thoughts at the dedication of the memorial.

“Bob was a giant when it came to bicycling and the White Clay Bicycle Club. He was a founding member of WCBC in the 1970’s, and contributed to the development of some of the major rides.  More recently, Bob helped us learn how to use the GPS, taught us how to make cue sheets using his tool “Googly Cue”, searched out shady roads to ride on hot days and bike paths tucked away in secluded corners, and he shared cue sheets on his website.  He fixed our bikes, sometimes in his home shop but often on the road, adjusting brakes, replacing gear cables, changing tires. At the time of his death, Bob was 81 years old, but still riding strong. [full story ...]

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

LAB Traffic Skills 101 Course: Dover

On Saturday, July 13th, Paul Hess, along with Ceci & John McCormick will teach a Traffic Skills 101 Course for bicyclists at the DelDOT Administration Building in Dover.

This one day class is designed to increase your confidence while cycling on the road. Classroom instruction and skill drills will be followed by a group ride to practice what you've learned.

To register or ask questions, email the McCormicks at: or call 302-528-1773 or 302-668-8749.

Bicycle-Friendly Infrastructure, Education, and Stupid People

Stumbled across this excellent quote from the WashCycle:

"Sharrows imply that cyclists are not allowed on other roads"

Do they? I used to hear this same argument about bike lanes. And drivers also think that a bike path means we should not be in the road. I suppose cycletracks could imply the same thing, no?

That people are stupid is not an argument against them.

Not to overcharge this, but people used to argue that dressing a certain way implies that a woman is "asking for it" but we know that she is not.

This same argument has also been used to undermine Share The Road signs, which we know have issues concerning standard lane width and true sharing (in the sense that bikes and cars cannot co-exist within a 11-12' lane considering the 3' passing law). But clear majorities would agree that, overall, there is a net positive in STR for on-road awareness.

It has also been argued that some drivers interpret STR as not applying to them - just to the bicyclist.

Excellent quote continued:

We can't make decisions on what the ignorant are going to imply from those decisions. We have to make the decisions that are best and then try to educate people.

Words of wisdom!

Here is the latest Delaware Driver Manual (pdf), available both on-line and in print. Check out the sections on bicycling, which offer tips for both drivers and cyclists to promote understanding and help all of us to safely share the roads. And because it is used in the schools, it is promoting a more enlightened generation of motorists and cyclists. Most info related to bicycles can be found starting on page 93 under “Other Highway Users”. The manual was updated as a result of Delaware’s recent Vulnerable Road Users Law, which offers enhanced legal protections for bicyclists, as well as other non-motorized users of the public right of way.

Will this alone increase respect for bicyclists as legitimate road users? Not likely. But it is a major step in the right direction. We also need to reform the driver license renewal process to include re-education, increase many fold the liabilities for striking a non-motorized road user, and enforce distracted driving penalties commensurate with DUI. Only then would I feel safer sharing the road with Delaware drivers, some of whom spend more time looking at their i-pad, i-phone, i-whatever, than through the windshield.

That said, a huge tip of the helmet to Amy Wilburn and the Delaware Bicycle Council, and to Anthony Aglio, the State Bicycle Coordinator, for pushing through the above reforms in what amounted to a wonderfully cooperative effort with DMV. Delaware cannot, and should not be ranked highly as a Bicycle Friendly State without taking a holistic approach to bicycle safety, as found in other state's advocacy organizations. This includes education, enforcement, and the encouragement of roads - not just Trails and Pathways - as a means of multi-modal transportation. We salute those of you out there working tirelessly to make this happen.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Report: Cellphones cause far more crashes than recorded

From the Washington Post -

Cellphone use is a factor in far more fatal crashes than anyone realized, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Safety Council.

The council found that even when drivers said they were using their cellphones at the time of a crash that admission was not recorded in accident reports that have been compiled for use in the national debate on distracted driving.

“We believe the number of crashes involving cellphone use is much greater than what is being reported,” said Janet Froetscher, the council’s president. “Many factors, from drivers not admitting cellphone use, to a lack of consistency in crash reports being used to collect data at the scene, make it very challenging to determine an accurate number.”

Researchers reviewed 180 fatal crashes over a three-year period where there was evidence that the driver was using a cellphone. In one of those years, 2011, only 52 percent of the crashes were recorded in the national data base as cellphone-related.  [full article ...]

NY Times: The End of the Car Culture

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S ambitious goals to curb the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions, unveiled last week, will get a fortuitous assist from an incipient shift in American behavior: recent studies suggest that Americans are buying fewer cars, driving less and getting fewer licenses as each year goes by.

That has left researchers pondering a fundamental question: Has America passed peak driving?

The United States, with its broad expanses and suburban ideals, had long been one of the world’s prime car cultures. It is the birthplace of the Model T; the home of Detroit; the place where Wilson Pickett immortalized “Mustang Sally” and the Beach Boys, “Little Deuce Coupe.”

But America’s love affair with its vehicles seems to be cooling. When adjusted for population growth, the number of miles driven in the United States peaked in 2005 and dropped steadily thereafter, according to an analysis by Doug Short of Advisor Perspectives, an investment research company.  As of April 2013, the number of miles driven per person was nearly 9 percent below the peak and equal to where the country was in January 1995. Part of the explanation certainly lies in the recession, because cash-strapped Americans could not afford new cars, and the unemployed weren’t going to work anyway. But by many measures the decrease in driving preceded the downturn and appears to be persisting now that recovery is under way. The next few years will be telling.  [full article ...]