Sunday, January 26, 2014

Who is advocating for on-road safety in Delaware?

By demand of our readers, this is the first in a series of articles that will analyze the state of on-road bicycle advocacy in Delaware. Few can argue the progress made with off the road (segregated) facilities, most notably the Trails and Pathways initiative. Our state's primary advocacy organization - Bike Delaware - has played a major role with Walkable, Bikeable Delaware. They surveyed candidates, lobbied the General Assembly, and rallied key support where necessary - helping bring home millions of dollars in dedicated funding. It was a remarkable effort, and truly deserves kudos and praise not just from bicyclists, but all pathway users. But is such an exclusive focus on segregated facilities undermining on-road advocacy? Is at least some support coming from non or anti-cycling legislators, who think it's an opportunity to rid the streets of those pesky, traffic impeding bicyclists? There is evidence pointing in that direction, including an increasing disregard for DOT policies, design standards, and other guidance hard won by advocates in the past.

Over the next several weeks, we will examine how this might impact - or is already impacting infrastructure, education, enforcement, and other aspects of on-road bicycle advocacy. We'll be drawing excerpts from several different topics, some gleaned from the Delaware Bicycle Council-Bike Delaware Special Meeting on November 6, 2013, among other sources. The first will concern support for bike lanes in general, which began HERE at approximately :52 min. You can either listen in by dragging the play cursor to that time, or read the transcript below (recommended). The representatives involved in this discussion are as follows:

AA: Anthony Aglio, Delaware Bicycle Coordinator (DelDOT), AW: Amy Wilburn, Chair, Delaware Bicycle Council, CI: Carol Ireland, Secretary, Bike Delaware, DK: Drew Knox, President, Bike Delaware


AA:  Does Bike Delaware Support Bike Lanes, and on-road bicycling?

AW:  That's been a question I think, a few of us have wanted to ask and .... 

AA:  It would truly make my job easier!

CI:  I would say the generic statement is absolutely yes.

AA:  Well, we have been to meetings where representatives of your organization have been calling bike lanes "meat grinders" to groups outside that we're working with, and that is detrimental then, to what you are saying.

CI:  Well, I've been in conversations with people where there are very different perspectives on whether they're good or not, and who they are good for, but the fact that we support bicycling at all levels, whether it's on trails or on roads, I think some of it is dependent upon the situation.

AA:  Well I would agree ...

CI:  And there, I guess I would also say that there may be times when we should perhaps deal with some of the discrepancies and the issues we have amongst ourselves, within our own groups before we go out and make public statements.

AA:  I assume that maybe that was done already. If I'm wrong to assume that, then you're correcting me, but ....

CI:  I'm not sure in all cases that it's been vetted in as a Bike Delaware policy. There have been a lot of different situations where we may or may not have the opportunity to weigh in.

AW:  It has been a little bit tough because we have gotten some mixed messages and, I guess that leads to the question that I really want to ask you guys, and have been wanting to ask ...

DK:  We've never taken a stand against that in any of our publications.

AA:  Well, you have representatives at meetings ...

DK:  I understand, you have already said that. But, our official line is what we publish. We have some mixed feelings about this, feelings range from, you know, you should be integrated and be just a regular part of traffic, you should be getting as many people biking as possible, and to do that you have to have bike lanes. But ...

CI:  But with bike lanes, you've gotta have sidepaths, which are completely separate ...

DK:  Thank you. So that's the range from left to right, and we haven't advocated for any one of those over another. We haven't. Go to our website, show me where we have. Frank authored it for 3 years, 4 years.

AW:  Well, Frank ... perhaps Frank would like to speak to this ...

DK:  Let’s, let's not get buried in argument about what the policy is. I'm telling you, we have not taken a stand on this one way or the other, and that's because we don't get down into the weeds that deep.

AA:  Well, meetings that representatives attend, maybe that should be your answer ...

AW:  There has to be a consistent voice.

DK:  That's fine, I agree, we need a consistent voice.

So if Bike Delaware is not looking out for the needs of all cyclists, including those who ride on our roads, then who is? Without the backing of the state's advocacy organization, obtaining on-road facilities continues to be a struggle - but progress is being made.

The following are a few of the DelDOT projects involving bike lanes that are being or have been initiated and/or promoted by other individuals and organizations. There has been little to no support from Bike Delaware as an organization, although in some cases, an individual member or members may have contributed.
  • Bike lanes included in pave and rehab projects
  • Compiled bike community’s list of concerns that was submitted to Sec. Bhatt (DelDOT will be making improvements in the spring, including installing bike lanes on Limestone Road)
  • Bike lanes included as part of new road construction
  • Bike lanes included as part of new business construction (per NCC code)
  • Bike lanes on the St. George’s Bridge
  • Bike facilities on Route 1 and other areas around the resorts
  • Monitoring the condition of bike lanes
  • Signal detection in bike lanes
Bike lanes, though controversial at times, are a key component to bicycle safety in Delaware, given the frequency of shouldered roads (including dedicated turn lanes and high traffic speed differentials). Intersection treatments are especially important, and find overwhelming support among transportation and recreational cyclists alike. Few dispute that the roads will continue as our primary means of travel by bike, far into the future. Therefore, we encourage Bike Delaware to actively promote increased safety with on-road infrastructure, or state their position otherwise.

A properly designed bike lane, in this case through a right turn-only lane, puts the bicyclist in the safest position relative to through and turning traffic. Hash marks indicate that bicyclists and cars are free to change lanes as necessary.

An improperly designed bike lane puts bicyclists in a less than optimal position relative to cars, in this case, to the right of right-turning traffic. It was this design - instead of the pocket lane above - that Bike Delaware advocated for at the Route 52/82 intersection north of Greenville. It will increase the likelihood of right hook collisions, unless cyclists move out and take the lane as turning vehicles try and overtake them. The safest approach with this lane configuration - straight/right combined - requires reducing the speed limit through the intersection, and adding sharrows and/or other shared lane treatments.

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