Sunday, June 29, 2014

Examining Street Life Before the Automobile

Screen shot 2013-12-10 at 12.09From -- Exactly when I first stumbled upon I do not recall. It may have been due to StumbleUpon, actually. Once realizing the treasure I’d found, it also became apparent the vast hours of time that would be needed to properly peruse these thousands of extremely high resolution images documenting urban American life over the last 150 years or so.

Some of my favorites are of the bustling street scenes prior to the invasion of the automobile. As rapid urbanization was pushing the very beginning of the era of the skyscraper, new also was the evolving invention of photography. Yet it was during this experimental phase that pursuit of the sharpest, lushest images seemed to peak. Shorpy is dominated by photos shot on 8″x10″ plate glass negatives. They can literally be enlarged to the size of your average interior wall before they start to blur. Taken by numerous photographers, the majority of the images on the site were shot by the Detroit Publishing Company.

When scrutinizing these street scenes, a few things jump out right away. Of course there are no traffic signals, there’s clearly no need for them. Streetcars, bicycles, and horse drawn carriages are everywhere. Where there is high traffic, those on foot still enjoy sidewalks upwards of forty feet wide along store fronts nestled into human-scaled buildings rarely more than 5 stories high. But it’s also telling that there are no crosswalks for pedestrians. And why would there be? During this era – as it had been for thousands of years – you could safely cross wherever your heart desired and not have to watch for giant metal machines racing toward you. What’s more, the street here is not purely the thoroughfare – it is the essential common gathering place for demonstrations, for buying and selling food, for children to play in, for celebration, for lingering and people watching. [Full article ...]


Poster's Note: I was fascinated to read this article. It gave me a whole new perspective on street design. I was particularly struck by the wide sidewalks visible in some of the pictures. These beautiful pictures portray a precious way of life - they reflect an infrastructure designed around pedestrians, cyclists, and users of public transportation. The streets look friendlier, and much safer. The folks in these photos could not have envisioned, and would most likely be horrified, at the car centric society in which we live today.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Got grass? Try Bicycle Lawnmowing

For everything in life, the bicycle provides a solution . . .

Visit Tree Hugger for a complete gallery of lawn mower bicycles.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A visit to the York County Heritage Trail and Historic Railroad

On Saturday, May 31, a few of our committee members went for a ride on the York Heritage Rail Trail, that runs between New Freedom and the City of York, PA. To our wonderful surprise, we encountered the William H. Simpson #17, a faithful replica of the Civil War steam locomotive that carried Abraham Lincoln to deliver his now famous Gettysburg Address. These same tracks carried Lincoln's funeral train two years later. You can now ride on the newly built 1860s replica steam locomotive with newly built coaches that just arrived at the end of September 2013.

 Regardless of whether you see the train, this rail trail is one of the most popular in the U.S. 20 additional miles can be added by starting in Maryland on the Torrey Brown Rail Trail, as far south as Cockeysville. Trail surface is crushed limestone, so hybrid or mountain bikes are recommended.

The below video was recorded by Frank Warnock, riding alongside the train at about 13 mph. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

One reason bicycle modeshare remains dismal

Want Your Job to Scare You? Try Studying Distracted Driving

By Sarah Goodyear -- Peter Tuckel, a sociology professor at Hunter College at the City University of New York, studies the habits of motorists. It is not a reassuring pastime.

“I’m terrified when I walk,” says Tuckel, who lives in a bucolic Connecticut suburb. “I’m wary when I see cars because I’m always thinking, the person is on a cell phone and not thinking of my presence as a pedestrian.”

Tuckel hasn’t done a formal investigation of distracted driving in his town specifically, but he knows the national figures. Next time you’re going about your business on a typical day in the United States, whether on foot, on a bike, or in a car, you can think about them too: at any random moment during daylight hours across the country, according to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, about 660,000 American drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices while behind the wheel.

It is kind of terrifying, isn’t it?  [Full article ...]

Poster's note: If this behavior is at least as dangerous as driving drunk, why isn't it penalized as such? Why are legislators so afraid to look after our safety?

Monday, June 16, 2014

NBP denies golden opportunity to advocate for bicycle safety

In response to a recent blog post calling into question Newark's proposed parking garage, Ricky Nietubicz, Planner/DNP Administrator City of Newark Planning & Development graciously replied:

"As you can imagine, balancing the transportation and parking needs of our business community, downtown residents, visitors and those simply passing through, presents interesting infrastructure challenges, and complexities that have evolved over decades. As the Newark Bike Project is both a downtown business (which we are very proud to claim you as part of our business community!) and a community group with deep ties to the bicycling community, we would welcome an opportunity to sit down and share ideas on what opportunities we may have to continue improving our bicycle infrastructure (and, hopefully, increase our “bike friendly community” level) as well as safety and downtown access for users of all transportation modes. Moreover, we would welcome any opportunity to work together to increase the number of residents and visitors taking the opportunity to bike, rather than drive, downtown. If at all possible, we would welcome the opportunity to begin a dialogue and gather valuable input from your organization – are there any days or times the week of June 23rd that we could sit down and share some thoughts? Thank you."

This was an unprecedented and wonderful invitation - one that long time advocates had hoped for - to be heard, to have input on cycling conditions in Newark. And an opportunity that the Newark Bike Project, who purports to care about getting people cycling, should have jumped on.

After clarifying that I was unable to speak on behalf of NBP because I am not a current board member, and including NBP in CC, a newly elected board member wrote:

"Yes, Newark Bike Project advocates bike enablement (people having access to bikes and bike repair knowledge), but we currently do not engage in political advocacy regarding transportation policy. We simply don't even discuss or have opinions on such topics as a group, as they are too complex and warrant a level of discourse and education that NBP does not facilitate."

When asked for her advice on the subject, Amy Wilburn, Chair of the Delaware Bicycle Council commented:

"I think they should get involved.  They don’t need to do proactive advocacy, but they should darned well weigh in when asked for input. Even if only as individual members with the caveat that the organization doesn’t have an official stance. Although, in a case where they are asked for input, it would be a good thing to bring this to a discussion and vote and to have an official organizational position. It’s got to be a bit of a big picture, if you’re going to encourage folks to bike."

Why are folks so afraid of bicycle advocacy? Especially when invited so politely to a discussion by such an influential person such as Mr. Nietubicz? It would seem a sacred responsibility - not only to get people on bikes, but also to ensure that the roads that they ride are safe. And to work for, and fully co-operate with, people who share those goals.

We are not sure what to make of NBP's position, except that it's unique for a bicycle co-op to prioritize non-bike specific activities such as hip-hop nights, food co-ops, devotional gatherings, etc, over advocacy for safer conditions for the very folks they encourage and sell bikes to. Among the top attendees at the National Bike Summit was bicycle co-op representatives, including the Reno Bike Project, and MoBo Bicycle Co-op, whose missions include:

"Advocating for cycling rights and cycling growth in the Truckee Meadows by working with public officials and other organizations that are key players in transportation planning."

"MoBo facilitates healthy and sustainable transportation through bicycle programs, events, and advocacy in our immediate community and beyond."

It is our sincere hope that, although this offer was first extended to the NBP, that Mr. Nietubicz will still be open to having this discussion with members of Delaware Bikes. As experienced and dedicated bicycling advocates, we will welcome the opportunity to discuss ideas that will make Newark more bike friendly.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Responding to Action Alerts can make a difference

1 year ago, we posted the following question to our readers:

It begs to question, however, why they made extra sure to mark [the Pomeroy Trail's] beginning and end at Creek Road. Creek Road - mainly a state park and fishing access road - is every bit as popular as a bicycle and pedestrian facility, and if anything, should have "Bike Route", and/or "Share the Road" signage and be marked as such.

We asked our readers to contact DelDOT if they agreed with this opinion, and they did. Kudos to Anthony Aglio, Bicycling Coordinator for hearing our voice, and acting in the best interest of bicyclists and pedestrians!

June 2013: "Bike Route ENDS" sign posted below the Stop Sign (click to enlarge).
June 2014: "Bike Route ENDS" sign was removed, exact date unknown.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Rumble Strip repairs are underway in Sussex County

By Mark Luszcz, DelDOT's Chief Traffic Engineer -- As requested at the Bicycle Council meeting last week, attached is a map of locations that need to be repaired due to residual shoulders/bike lanes being less than 4 feet wide. Approximately 2 miles out of 70 installed need to be repaired.

The test section of the patching repair on SR 24 near Robinsonville Road was installed yesterday.  A photo is attached.  For those of you in Sussex, any comments on the patched section would be appreciated.

Several sections in New Castle County also need repair, as seen here on Route 72 in Bear.
Poster's note: We truly appreciate Mark's investigation and quick response in getting this problem addressed. We are looking forward to revised Rumble Strip guidelines, that place them at the shoulder line instead of offset by 1' or more. For a full history of this problem, visit our section on Rumble Strips.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why Roads Are Here To Stay (Part 2)

The Route 72 sidepath, difficult to see in this photo due to cars parked over it, was long ago abandoned by DelDOT. It provides one of a very few centrally located, safe crossings of I95. Because the road has no shoulder, the majority will still favor the path over the lane of high speed traffic - even if it means weaving through parked cars.

We conclude this series with Part 2, why on-road bicycle advocacy is critical in any Bicycle-Friendly City or State (Part 1 HERE).

Minus a webbing of abandoned railroad ROWs (right of ways), or an amicable relationship with active railroad companies to provide Rail with Trail opportunities, little exists in Delaware for real pathway continuity. The Newark to Wilmington Pathway, touted by Bike Delaware as a "Bicycle Highway" will be anything but fast and direct. DelDOT will try and cobble together existing MUPs, utility ROWs, and other open spaces in order to link the two cities. As cited in the feasibility study, segments are likely to see more use for local trips - less for commuting between the two cities. The popular choice among intermediate to advanced bicyclists will continue to be direct on-road connections, and these too deserve representation by advocates.

Project Timelines
The timeline for completion of bike path facilities is often measured in decades, even when an existing ROW is available. With an abandoned rail bed almost fully in tact, the Pomeroy Trail in Newark took over 10 years to complete. One can only guess what kind of timeline is expected on the Wilmington to Newark Pathway, where environmental impacts and private property constraints will weigh heavily. These issues - taking years to sort - can even arise where established ROW already exists.

Value for the Dollar
According to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, the cost of a 5' on-street bicycle lane can range from approximately $5,000 to $535,000 per mile, with an average cost around $130,000. The costs can vary greatly due to differences in project specifications and the scale and length of the treatment. On the other hand, bike paths cost vastly more to build and maintain. In an October 2013 blog post, we revealed 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.

On-Road Safety Compromised
A near total emphasis on segregated bicycle facilities can impede the work of advocates who are seeking to improve on-road safety. A 2013 PSA that bicyclists are granted equal rights as drivers was withdrawn when Bike Delaware's Executive Director contacted DelDOT in opposition. It should be noted that Bike Delaware's signature project - funding for Trails and Pathways - finds support among legislators who are weary of bicyclist's using public roads and highways. That our State's primary advocacy organization (according to LAB) is discounting roads as viable and safe for bicycling (including minor arterials which most often serve as the only alternative) is certain to feed this bias.

Environmental Impact
Adding miles of 10' wide asphalt adds more impermeable surface, and more run-off, which only contributes to worse flooding and erosion. On the other hand, both standard and protected bike lanes take advantage of existing infrastructure. Most arterial and secondary roads in Delaware can be greatly improved for biking, given overly generous lane and shoulder widths.

In Summary
Segregated bicycle infrastructure is a major component in any bicycle-friendly environment, and worthy of our enthusiastic support. But it shouldn't be the only focus. The most bicycle-friendly places here and abroad take a holistic approach, by including on-road bicycle facilities as part of the overall network. Anything less will impede the bicycle as a truly viable transportation alternative.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Millions wasted on new parking garage in Newark?

A huge stacked parking crater sits at the corner of S. Main and Beverly Road in Newark. More to come, apparently.
Newark Post -- Last week, the city secured the final piece of land necessary to move forward and consider plans to build a parking garage behind The Galleria on Main Street, and while some motorists and business owners support the project, others are worried a garage would alter the look of downtown.

“[The lot] gets filled up so fast,” said University of Delaware senior Emily Schmidt. “I know I’ve had several times my friends and I have tried to park here and there’s no spots. “I don’t think it’d block anyone’s views because there’s not much to see here anyways,” she added.

Some Kildare’s employees and Brew Ha Ha! staff, however, say they feel otherwise. “That would block all the views on our back patio,” said Kildare’s hostess Sierra Pinkett. “No one wants to stare at a parking garage. “It’s going to be a big gaudy building,” she added. “That’s why us and Brew Ha Ha! have back patios, because of the views.” [Continue reading ...]

Millions for increased car parking, but no dedicated funding for Bicycle Plan implementation. Studies show that City Council is making a big mistake.

Bloomberg: American Cities Are Haunted by Too Many Parking Spaces -- American car culture may be declining, but much of our urban infrastructure remains steadfastly centered around the automobile. Planning choices made in the heyday of car ownership may prove incompatible with a rising generation of consumers who seem remarkably disinterested in driving.

“In the ’50s and ’60s, cities did things like subsidize garage parking, and they condemned buildings so the lots could be used for parking,” says Norman Garrick, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Connecticut. Many, he adds, still require a minimal number of parking spots to be added for each new development. But it turns out that all the parking doesn’t pay off.

A pair of forthcoming studies by Garrick and several of his UConn colleagues examine the economic and sociological impacts of parking trends in six U.S. cities from 1960 to 2000. They conclude that some car-centric cities forfeit more than a thousand dollars per parking space per year in potential municipal revenues by using land for parking rather than more lucrative alternatives. The researchers also found that minimum parking requirements inhibit development and exacerbate traffic by placing incentives on car use rather than on walking and cycling. [Full article ...]

CityLab: Cars and Robust Cities Are Fundamentally Incompatible -- In Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example, officials adopted parking limits in the zoning code – parking limits that are lower than the minimum parking requirements in some cities today. Of the six cities we looked at, parking supplies in three cities just about leveled off after 1980. In the other three, parking supplies nearly doubled for a second time.

If the function of parking in these places was to enable growth and development, the data suggests they were abysmal failures. The number of people and jobs dropped by as much as 15 percent and the median family incomes fell by 20 to 30 percent in some places. Today, these places still struggle to compete in their regions. [Full article ...]

Monday, June 2, 2014

Presenting the Newark to Wilmington Pathway Feasibility Study

Above: Multiple alignment possibilities exist for a Newark to Wilmington off-road pathway system, including northern, central, and southern routes.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014, at 3:00 p.m. WILMAPCO, 850 Library Avenue, Newark

At the request of the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), Whitman, Requardt & Associates, LLP (WR&A) prepared a report to evaluate potential transportation and recreational trail connections between the cities of Newark and Wilmington.

Tomorrow DelDOT will be presenting the results of this study. You can also view the project page HERE.

One of the goals of this initiative are to “re‐establish Delaware in the Top Ten of Bicycling Friendly States” and to “build a world class interconnected, non-motorized trail and pathway network.” This initiative further emphasizes the importance of completing “missing links,” or filling in the gaps of Delaware’s trail network.

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