Sunday, August 31, 2014

"Retreat" housing fails Main Street, UD commuters

This article recently appeared in the Newark Post --

After several months of construction, hundreds of residents can finally call The Retreat home sweet home now that they officially moved their belongings in on Monday.

The complex, owned by Georgia-based Landmark Properties, which manages several student housing communities around the country, opened at Suburban Plaza off Elkton Road and flanks both sides of the shopping center with its 169 newly constructed units that include 39 two-story cottages and 130 lodge-style apartments for a total of 597 beds.

According to Retreat representatives, over 60 percent of the units are currently leased, with the one and two-bedroom units completely booked. [Full article ...]

Mark Morehead appears to be the only member of City Council who gets it. Yes, Suburban Plaza is immediately adjacent and (hopefully) most will walk or bike the hundred or so yards to shop and dine. But for commuting to Newark's downtown and University of Delaware campus, the "Retreat" is a casualty waiting to happen. No attempt was made to address the needs of bicycle commuters in planning and construction. Residents who still choose (or must) bike into town will need to pedal up a dangerous sidewalk on Elkton Road (technically illegal) to Casho Mill and cross to the frontage road on the opposite side. Those wishing to use the Christina Parkway bike path facility (or wishing to legally ride the shoulder on Elkton Road in the NE direction) will be crossing a very dangerous intersection with no crosswalks until Spring of 2015. And even then, only one is planned across Elkton Road on the NE side, which will tempt potential pathway users to cross on the non-crosswalk (SW) side rather than wait through 2 or 3 signal phase changes. Such poor planning sends a clear message to students and residents - 400+ of them - that they should take their cars to the downtown and campus, where parking and congestion is already intolerable.

It is an epic fail that Newark did not require the developer to provide safe bicycling connections to the Elkton Road bike lanes and the Christina Parkway bike path. This should have been developer funded with an implementation timeline to coincide with the completion of the project. Shame on the Newark Post, for not even mentioning bicycling as a viable means of transportation throughout the entire article above!

Even the bicycle racks shown here are out of compliance with Newark's parking code. "Wave" or "Ribbon" racks provide little frame support to locked bicycles, causing them to fall on to each other - sometimes in a pile. They were also phased out by the University of Delaware, and replaced with the more stable "Inverted U" design. So what are they doing here?

This is what students have to look forward to when leaving "The Retreat" on the road. A lone bike lane hugs the far right curb, to the right of the right turn-only lane - a huge no no in any bike lane design. There isn't even a break, or dashes in the white line to suggest that bicyclists can move out and take the appropriate lane. Also note the bicyclist in the distance, riding through the intersection on Elkton Road. The corridor is a high volume bicycle commuter route, and we are advocating that correctly designed bike lanes also be included with the next resurfacing (pave & rehab) project due in about a year.

In the map above, bicyclists wishing to exit "The Retreat" to the north and west of this intersection will find themselves dealing with an array of pedestrian facilities and a curb-hugging bike lane that does nothing to help them navigate through the intersection.. The 3 sides of crosswalk are not scheduled until Spring 2015 - well after Retreat residents are moved in. Legend: Orange: Sidewalks, which are technically illegal (and dangerous) to ride on . Green: Existing parallel bike path facilities. Red: non-crosswalk side and direct connection to Christina Parkway bike path.

The long abandoned Christina Parkway parallel bike path is an advertisement for abandoning Bike Delaware's bike path fetish, given zero funding for even basic cleanup and maintenance. Yet some folks can still be seen walking and biking on this facility. And this can be expected to increase substantially, with the completion of "The Retreat" and ongoing development of the STAR Campus - both of which are excellent connections to this path.

View Larger Map

Above:  Elkton Road, on the approach to the intersection of Christina Parkway from the SW. The curb cut marking the start of the bike path is seen on the right, well before the intersection. One block further back is the entrance to the Newark Charter School, all but ruling it out for kids riding their bikes to school. Bike lanes are desperately needed on Elkton Road now, especially through here, given the long timeline of the project extending to the Maryland line. Bike lane symbols used to exist on Elkton Road many years ago, but were largely left out during the last surface repaving.

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