Thursday, November 21, 2013

No Room For Bicycle Commuting at Bloom Energy

By Angela Connolly

Clean, renewable energy. Sustainability. Enabling cleaner, greener commerce. These are the first words that greet visitors to the Bloom Energy website. Bloom Energy, headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA., is a provider of breakthrough solid oxide fuel cell technology generating clean, highly-efficient onsite power from multiple fuel sources. Founded in 2001 with a mission to make clean, reliable energy affordable for everyone in the world, Bloom Energy Servers are currently producing power for several Fortune 500 companies. The Bloom Energy Manufacturing Center will become the anchor tenant of the new University of Delaware Science, Technology and Advanced Research Campus, and many citizens, both from the community and local government, were anxious to welcome them. At their groundbreaking in April, 2012, University of Delaware President Patrick Harker welcomed Bloom, saying "We're thrilled to welcome Bloom Energy to UD's Science, Technology and Advanced Research Campus. From the beginning, we've envisioned this campus as a place where the most creative minds in academia and industry come together to solve the world's most urgent problems. This vision is being actualized today."

An abandoned bike path along Rt.896 takes you close. But
not close enough.

Harker went on to say "We look forward to engaging with Bloom in innovative research, academic and community partnerships - partnerships that benefit the state and its people and revolutionize America's clean energy future."

With such high expectations, you would think that the Newark facility would have been designed to welcome bicyclists and pedestrians safely and efficiently. After all, people who use their bicycles for transportation, and those who get to their destinations on foot, or who use public transportation, are the very models of sustainable, responsible living. Unfortunately, a recent visit to the Bloom Energy campus in Newark proved to us that Bloom Energy did not consider including people who bicycle to the campus, or walk there, in their campus infrastructure. And to us, that is unacceptable.

Delaware Bikes visited the site twice recently, riding there from nearby Ogletown. Needless to say, what we found was a huge disappointment. Immediately, we identified 3 major issues:
  • Access from Christina Parkway requires the crossing of a multi-lane arterial road with no actuated crosswalk facility.
  • Though the site road has medium shoulders further in, there are no bike lane markings, share the road signs, or other features that would encourage bicycle commuting to the campus.
  • No bicycle parking anywhere on the property.
Not a very inviting prospect during rush hour traffic.
Several e-mails to the contact information for Bloom Energy via their website were ignored. Although several local University sources that we contacted were quick to reply and tried to help, unfortunately they had no answers for us regarding the omission of bicycle facilities on the Bloom campus.

We believe that a clean energy future such as UD President Harker envisions starts here at home, in our community, with responsibly planned transportation infrastructure. This enables those who choose cycling and walking to do so safely and easily. That this was overlooked is a shameful omission on the part of Bloom Energy's facility planners. It should have been automatic for them to include bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure in their planning. By not doing so, they have contradicted their own good intentions, and cast doubt upon their beliefs about sustainability, and living greener. Encouraging employees to bike to work, and creating safe and inviting facilities for them to do so, would have been a better step in the right direction.

Although we were fooled by it from a distance, no - this wasn't a bike rack.
A picnic table, and facilities for smokers - but no rack for bicyclists to park against.
Poster's note: Though very disappointing given UD's talk about sustainability (greenwashing) and Bloom's stated mission, this is not unexpected. How many companies in Delaware actually encourage bicycle commuting?

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