Monday, March 30, 2015

The Last Post (for now)

1st State BIKES was started by the need for on-road safety and advocacy in Delaware, and to support the Delaware Bicycle Council. In doing so, it filled an obvious void left by Bike Delaware, the State's League of American Bicyclists supported bicycling advocacy organization. In nearly two years, 400 articles were written or cross-posted, that run the gamut of bicycle advocacy as described in the LAB's 5 Es. These included Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation, mostly as they pertain to riding on our public roads. Missing from LAB's equation, however, is a 6th "E" that was somehow forgotten: Equality. As described by the American Bicyclist Education Association, it stands for the following:
Equal Level of Service is a critical part
of bicycle advocacy.
  • Uniformity: Ensuring uniform laws throughout a state to protect against access, movement, and equipment ordinances that discriminate against cyclists.
  • Access: Affirming the legal rights of bicyclists to use all highways, and all parts and features of those highways, particularly the roadway itself (i.e. the part designated for driving of vehicles, excluding shoulders, sidewalks, etc.), except possibly for controlled access freeways for which sound and reasonable alternatives are available.
  • Movement: Affirming that the default behavior for motorists, lane control on laned roadways, is also the default behavior for bicyclists. This means no bicyclist (class) specific movement rules that prohibit lane control or restrict turning movements or the use of turn lanes. Also unacceptable are any laws that prevent cyclists from making the same movements as other drivers or subject them to more restrictive lane usage rules than other drivers. This equal legal roadway movement status does not prevent or inhibit bicyclists from using special facilities, which serve as options for bicycle travel.
  • Equipment: Ensuring that minimum bike propulsion, fit, braking and lighting requirements are adequate for effective operation and precluding restrictions unrelated to safety or effective operation.
Due to our high percentage of arterial roads, however, equality is not always safe, easy, or desirable. Geographically, only a small percentage of Delaware is truly urbanized or early 20th century suburban where bicycle driving (aka "vehicular cycling") can be effective. For those wishing to ride away from the road for transportation, very few rail trail or other right of way (row) possibilities exist. As a result, shoulder and bike lane riding with high speed traffic is very common here compared to many other States. It is for this reason that we have advocated for well designed infrastructure treatments that define a bicyclist's safest position on the roadway, especially leading up to and through intersections. We also worked with DelDOT to improve our warning signs for bicyclists, and offered to help with the targeted removal of generic (symbol only) signs over time. Known in the manuals as the W11-1, this sign is no longer applicable in most locations, since Bike Delaware campaigned to eliminate "Share the Road" from DelDOT's manuals based on a technicality. Another notable success was bicycle-friendly rumble strips - not only in Delaware, but in Maryland as well (though in recent applications, some important specs have been ignored, hence the need for continued advocacy).

Jennifer Wallace stresses the importance of non-profit accountability
during the 2015 Delaware Environmental Summit in Dover. Transparency
is a foreign concept to some bicycling organizations in Delaware,
including co-ops.
With the LAB refusing to help our cause, having stated as much in writing, we have little choice but to accept the fact that separated infrastructure (sidepaths and off-alignment trails) is the first choice among Delaware's bicyclists. As a result, riding for transportation and recreation in the built environment - at least for those that appreciate leaving from home - will remain a huge uphill battle. Bicyclists are a virtual no-show for even the simplest of action items that could positively impact bicycle-friendliness in the 1st State. They seldom show up at DelDOT public workshops, or sign petitions regardless of how well publicized. Progress will be difficult, as long as Delaware's bicycling community - including its cooperatives and mountain bicyclists - refuse to unite in a single front that works together for its own common good.

There needs to be one large tent that all of us can work under, as seen in other bicycle-friendly States. The approach needs to be holistic, and all-inclusive. Unfortunately, even Delaware's most committed road bicyclists are content to follow the lead of an organization with a very small tent - akin to a Chinese cocktail umbrella - that lobbies exclusively for separated facilities. In doing so, they are undermining the efforts of those that do advocate for on-road safety and infrastructure. Further, the State's recreational clubs continue with monetary support of said organization, despite the lack of an annual report, and the lowest level of transparency and accountability for a non-profit. No one even questions the acceptance of charitable donations collected on behalf of the Phillip Bishop tragedy, and why at least some of it wasn't allocated for PSA campaigns like this one.

Here is a sampling of the issues, where said organization (Bike Delaware) has damaged the cause of road bicycling:
  • Absent on anything to do with the Vulnerable Road Users Law. Never supported the Delaware Bicycle Council on matters of legislation, i.e. Refused to "babysit" the 3' passing law by attending its hearing, and only agreed with it in principle.
  • Hijacked the LAB's Bicycle Friendly State's year to year rankings, providing instead what appeared a linear climb to the top for Delaware. Has everyone believing that our Top 5 ranking is based almost exclusively on pathway funding, when in fact it was also due to State legislation and policy changes/additions that address bicycle safety (the work of others).
  • Undermined a bus PSA banner that read "Same Roads, Same Rules, Same Rights", to where DelDOT replaced it with "Safety Begins With Sharing".
  • In a negative letter giving borderline support, the E.D. almost undermined AASHTO standard bike lanes on Rt.13 in Dover, which have since improved the safety of hundreds of commuters including migrant workers along the corridor.
  • Did not support a joint survey with RideShare Delaware, aimed at the users of the Rt.13 bike lanes, to find out whether or not they felt safer as a result.
  • Publicly stated that bike pocket lanes are "human meat grinders".
  • Despite initial support, and DelDOT's requesting it, the E.D. steadfastly maintained that SB-120 (a law to provide legal protections for bicyclists using a dedicated right turn-only lane as a continuation of a bike lane) wasn't necessary.
  • Pushed for the removal of our widespread (on most major roads) Share the Road signs, but did not support the efforts of others to redesign and replace them with something better (i.e. Bicycles "In Lane").
  • Has never once supported the application of Complete Streets during a Pave & Rehab project. Unfortunately, most often, these are the only chance we have at improvements.
  • Did not support an on-line petition for the enforcement of bicycle parking ordinances in New Castle County, given how often they are waived.
  • Did not support an on-line petition for the creation of an on-road Wilmington to Newark marked route, one that DelDOT would watch for enhanced safety improvements.
  • Never rallies attention to DelDOT public workshops unless it's for a separated facility or pathways project. It was the work of other advocates that drew attention to and won bicycle accommodations through Delaware's first "Diverging Diamond" Rt.1 overpass on Rt.72, coming next year.
  • Does little to memorialize bicycling fatalities, unless it benefits their agenda or bottom line. Did nothing to rally bicyclists to attend the Eloy Sandoval and Phillip Bishop vehicular manslaughter hearings, despite the proven advantages of doing so. For the latter, a Bike Delaware board member did attend and actually said that "it could've been any one of us" when referring to the defendant's horrific crime.
As of April 1, 2015 1st State Bikes is discontinued. We urge those of you that are following us until now (if you support road bicycling safety) to rethink your membership with the League of American Bicyclists, and instead support the American Bicyclists Education Association. This is an organization that, much to the chagrin of the LAB, is trying to address the needs of today's bicyclists in the built environment (an environment that won't be changing much for most Americans, for many generations to come) in the form of education, enforcement, and correctly designed infrastructure. This blog, as you see it now, will remain on-line indefinitely as an archive for those who might stumble upon it for the first time, and wish to read about our former projects and/or progress.

Pedestrian Channelizing Islands, aka "Pork Chops", are an ongoing problem in Delaware. In 2009, DelDOT committed in writing to maintain 5 feet of offset for bike lanes through intersections and side streets. This requirement is also in their Bicycle Policy. In the May 2013 picture above, a bicyclist is unnecessarily forced out into the lane of high speed traffic to continue in a bike lane. Without continued oversight, guidelines such as these will continue to be ignored or forgotten.
The future? Delaware bicyclists show overwhelming support for facilities that remove them from public roads, and thus, sacrifices their legal rights as vehicles. As very few actually use these facilities, they fall into serious disrepair, and are left to abandonment by DelDOT or adjacent landowners who are supposedly responsible for their maintenance.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pick your favorite candidates for "Bicycles In Lane" signs

Given our recent project to optimize and consolidate bicycle safety signage in Delaware, DelDOT will be accepting bicyclist's input to help them locate some of the first "Bicycles In Lane" signs. While not the celebrated "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" sign recently won in Maryland, it is an acceptable compromise nonetheless. It is a warning sign that now carries a brief, yet powerful educational message to drivers that bicyclists are legally entitled to ride in the lane of traffic.

The map below contains the input of a very few road safety advocates. You will need to zoom in for a closer look. If you know of a good candidate road, and it is not on the map with green highlight, just submit a comment below with your suggestion(s), or send it via email.

According to the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the bicycle warning sign by itself is used to indicate "bicycles ahead", i.e. crossing or entering the roadway. With the removal of "Share the Road" as a sub-sign, or "plaque", most of these signs are no longer effective when it comes to bicyclists using the roadway. Therefore, in order to move forward with DelDOT, and achieve effective and correctly placed signage, a more comprehensive and holistic approach is needed. This includes the removal or replacement of many - if not most of the existing signs, mainly, the W11-1 warning sign.

After folks are given a chance at input, we will then construct a roll out plan with DelDOT. Such a plan will start by paring down the above candidates to those most in need. In other words, the best roads to go after in terms of traffic volume, bicycle counts, incident likelihood, etc. From there, the remaining candidates - and continued requests - may be documented, and addressed over time.

We sincerely thank DelDOT for their willingness to engage in this project. It is a good compromise for both parties, that will not only increase safety, but will also help remove unnecessary sign clutter.

Sadly, bicyclist interest has been weak. For more info, visit the complete timeline on this project.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Who better appreciates DelDOT ... drivers or bicyclists?

Traffic . . . they don't care about us. Ya know, they want the pot holes fixed, yet, they want you out of their way. So . . . you have to deal with it.

Hopefully, DelDOT's crews understand that most of us in the bicycling advocacy community do appreciate their efforts to make our roads safer. Bicyclists even passed a bill that identifies roadside construction workers as vulnerable road users, adding additional penalties.

Here is just a sampling of the many instances where advocates heaped praise on DelDOT for their positive actions:

Technicians from DelDOT Traffic adjust a faulty detector at the intersection of Route 273/Brownleaf Road. The signal was not tripping for bicyclists, and was reported by Bike Delaware's then Vice President, Caroline Honse. (photo by Caroline Honse).

Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Roads were not [originally] built for cars"

How cyclists, not drivers, first fought to pave US roads

From VOX -- Nowadays, it's common to view city streets as largely a place for cars. Bikes, if anything, are seen as a very recent intrusion on them.

But the surprising truth is that back in the 1890s and early 1900s, it was mainly cyclists who first advocated for cities in the US and Europe to pave their streets and build new roads. Then as cars became practical, wealthy, privileged people adopted the car as their leisure toy of choice, and the bicycle's central place in what's now called the Good Roads Movement was largely forgotten.

"The people who were making and promoting bicycles were the same people who later made and promoted cars," says Carlton Reid, who uncovered this history in his fascinating, meticulously researched book Roads Were Not Built for Cars.

In fact, Reid argues, the car's eventual domination was not as inevitable as it might seem today - and the bicycle itself may have been necessary to pave the way for it. [Full article ...]

Friday, March 20, 2015

DelDOT, and the Legend of Purgatory Swamp

From the Pencader Heritage Association -- William Ditto Lewis, who served the University of Delaware as librarian and archivist for 31 years, described one of the main roads leading south from Newark as follows: “From time out of mind the southern continuation of this street [Chapel Street] had led into the Purgatory Swamp and had been known as the Purgatory Road.” [More ...]

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According to Wiki -- The word "Purgatory", derived through Anglo-Norman and Old French from the Latin word purgatorium, has come to refer to a wide range of historical and modern conceptions of postmortem suffering short of everlasting damnation, and is used, in a non-specific sense, to mean any place or condition of suffering or torment, especially one that is temporary.

Users of the Route 72 corridor (aka "Purgatory Swamp Road") are hoping that, indeed, the dangerous conditions are short lived. This legendary road has become the scene of much risk and suffering as folks on bikes try to negotiate numerous potholes, old patches, crumbling rumble strips and debris among the fury of high speed traffic. And appeals to DelDOT's on-line reporting system so far this year have gone unanswered.

Because Route 72 is centrally located in Delaware, and offers one of a very few truly safe crossings of I95 further north on Chapel Street, it is very popular with bicyclists and pedestrians. Some commute to work, others ride for recreational purposes. Usually, they are heading south to Route 40, Delaware City or the C&D Canal. Whatever the reason, pavement conditions along Route 72 are atrocious, and have been for years.

Sandy Schriever manages a smile in the Spring of 2014, just south of Reybold Road. Sandy commutes several times a week on Route 72 between Newark and Glasgow. In the above photo, the shoulders were recently swept by DelDOT, though long rifts of gravel debris remained. The situation today is much, much worse; crews recently applied loose tar and chip patches that only further added to the chaos.

In July of 2014, the author loaded his bike on a fishing boat, and was able to circumvent a portion of Route 72 thanks to "Indian Ed" Yoder, a chief with the Newarquois Indian Tribe. Ed is a real Native American, and spends full time hours overseeing Sunset Lake and the Newark Anglers Association. Read all about it HERE.

We are praying that DelDOT will see us out of Route 72 Purgatory - soon. Conditions like these are evidence that DelDOT is in financial distress. Unless new sources of income are found, they may become insolvent and conditions like these will become the new normal. This clearly doesn't have to happen. It is shameful that, after years of gas prices in the mid to upper $3 range - now in the low-mid $2 range - they refuse to raise the gas tax by even a nickel to cover such desperate repairs. Our legislators should be deeply ashamed of themselves for putting such a small pittance before safety.

A look in January, form just south of DuPont's Glasgow Site.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"Bicycle-Friendly" South Main Street in Newark

Tuesday, March 17 was about as ordinary as one could expect riding into Newark via S. Main Street (formerly Elkton Road). But even with bike lanes, that still isn't enough for some motorists who simply detest those not driving being on 'their' road.

Not only is it sad beyond belief that bicyclists must endure this kind of harassment, it is also sad that the City and DelDOT planners saw fit to include 12' travel lanes in a 30 mph zone, in an up and coming "village-like" part of town. The result, as seen in the video above, is narrow bike lanes straddling long stretches of curb. Savvy bicyclists will ride near the white line, or even in the lane to avoid debris and keep a safe distance from curbs and pedestrians, as cars wiz by at induced speeds far exceeding the speed limit in most cases. For a very compelling argument on why 12' travel lanes are disastrous for safety, visit HERE.

A center turn lane further north - on the approach to Delaware Ave - is 16' wide. It comes at the expense of wider bike lanes, which is completely uncalled for in a 25 mph zone. One excuse offered by Wilmapco was that transit routes require 12' lanes, due to the possibility of sideswipe collisions with buses. No evidence has been found to substantiate this claim. In fact, it is not uncommon to find 10'-11' lanes in other U.S. cities that provide bus service.

Where wide center turn lanes are concerned, today's DelDOT engineers are beginning to realize this absurdity, as evidenced by the upcoming Route 72 widening project. Having them reduced to 11', and thus adding a couple extra feet of bike lane was a major victory. This would not have happened without the intervention of a few dedicated road bicycling advocates, and a project engineer that was willing to consider non-motorized safety.

Unfortunately, today's offender will probably strike again; next time against someone a lot more skittish and not wearing hearing protection. Someone that might be startled, swerve, and possibly fall into the lane next to them (or on the curb). The Tag number is 965952. I will forward a link to this blog post to the Newark Police, in the hopes that they will follow up and ticket this motorist. But I'm not holding my breath, given such widespread lack of enforcement for even the most basic traffic violations, never mind where a bicyclist or pedestrian is concerned.

Most drivers are too stupid to realize the speed that an infuriated bicyclist can travel, especially in an urban environment. The motorist's tag number was easily captured further up the road, along Delaware Avenue.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Active: How Many Americans Are Cycling?

From Active -- Public health institutions, trade associations, and advocacy organizations regularly report on recreational cycling or transportation but People for Bikes (PfB) looked at cycling participation in America across all age groups and more reasons for riding than is traditionally included. The top-line results: Almost 104 million Americans rode a bicycle at least once in 2014 and that 45 million of them used a bike for transportation over that same time period. There are roughly 318 million people in the US, according to current US Census estimates.

The study, in the form of an online survey, took place in November and December of 2014 and is impressive in size: over 16,000 adult respondents, who reported on their own cycling behavior and that of almost 9,000 children in their households. The respondents were selected as a representation of general population. The study has a +/- .7 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence interval.

Past the headliner of total Americans who ride, there are some other findings, both encouraging and troubling. [Full article ...]

Monday, March 9, 2015

Official Rules, Informal Rules, and the Rules of Society

You’re with a group of non- bicycling friends, at work, or at a public advocacy workshop, and suddenly find yourself on the defensive. It doesn’t matter if you idolize John Forrester and call yourself a bicycle driver. All bicyclists impede traffic, and run red lights and stop signs, and by default, you're one of "them".

Caught off guard, you struggle for an answer, and attempt to clear yourself of wrongdoing. But the attempt is futile, because it's not about breaking traffic laws. You are singled out because bicyclists violate the laws of society. Complaining about scofflaw bicyclists sounds better than just saying they don't want you on the road in the first place. They think you belong on the sidewalk, a bike path, or in a local park, regardless of Title 21, Chapter 41.

Motorists complaining about bicyclists breaking the law is hypocritical at best. Put simply, all modes follow “informal rules”. No one actually decides what these informal rules are, hence, why the written law is the official rule. For bicyclists, it could be that stop signs are treated as yields. It's not on the books, but neither is driving 5-10 mph over the speed limit, speeding up on yellow, tailgating, using i-Phones, or any number of violations that virtually every driver engages in with known deadly consequences. And surprise: Just with speeding alone, most motorists break the law for much greater periods of time than most bicyclists.

The fact is, everyone bends or breaks the law at the intersection of convenience, payoff, and low probability of harm to oneself or others. Where rolling stops are concerned, it's not that bicyclists don't have respect for driving laws. It's because bicycling is a mode of transportation that lends itself well to rolling stops. It’s a slow-moving vehicle with a huge field of view and the ability to stop on short notice. And it should be noted that most drivers don’t fully stop at stop signs either if the intersection has good sight lines and is visibly clear in advance.

If motorist's complaints about bicyclist's disregard for vehicle laws were genuine, then the longer term solution would be to revise said laws with considerations for bicycling – under certain parameters (i.e. near stops permitted). Then, commit to education and enforcement.

Automobile advocacy groups have been doing this since the dawn of the motor age when it comes to behaviors that aren’t perceived as threatening to other road users. More recently, these included right turns on red and increasing the maximum speed limit from 55 mph to 65. Many more took place in the earlier 20th Century. This ultimately led to cars wresting our streets and towns from pedestrians, bicyclists, carriages, and streetcars. Driving is now a 'right' and 30,000+ fatalities per year is considered an acceptable price to pay to maintain it.

But since lawbreaking is hardly the reason for despising bicyclists (if it was, drivers would be equally disdainful of fellow drivers - even more so), safe infrastructure, education and enforcement becomes all the more important. The City of Newark is commonly viewed as Delaware's mecca of scofflaw bicycling, largely because of its student population and high modeshare. Wilmapco put together an excellent Bicycle Plan, which addresses a wide range of infrastructure needs. That alone will have a meaningful long term impact. The University of Delaware could also make a big difference - in the shorter term - if they cared about the issue from an education standpoint. Unfortunately, they have done virtually nothing for the cause, even though many of their students are foreign and clueless about even the most basic traffic rules. Some come from foreign countries where riding against traffic or on the left side of the road is the standard, or standards are non-existent. We are not aware of anything that the U of D is doing to that addresses these issues with orientation of new students. Meanwhile, not only are other universities (i.e. University of Maryland) busy publicizing bicycle safety, they also offer bicycle safety classes for credits.

There is little question that, as advocates, we have our work cut out for us when it comes to education and enforcement. Infrastructure is a big piece of the compliance puzzle. In Portland OR - probably the most bicycle-friendly city in America - studies have shown that 94% of bicycle commuters comply with traffic laws. Most of it has to do with respect and feeling welcome in the design of the transportation system.

See also:

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Save Open Space: Cycle For Cecil on Saturday April 25th

Join us on Saturday, April 25th 2015 at Fair Hill for Cycle for Cecil. There are a variety of distances offered: 15 miles, 35 miles and 65 miles. It is a great way to see the natural beauty of Cecil County! Sign up on-line with HERE.

This is a beautiful ride through the beautiful countryside of Cecil County Maryland. Cecil County is located in the north east corner of Maryland, on the Delaware border. The ride will take you through some of the vast open space that Cecil County Land Trust has worked to protect. The ride has multiple stops for drinks, snacks, and restrooms. The roads are very well marked, and the views are amazing!

The Cecil Land Trust is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization  that preserves farmland, woodlands, natural habitat and historic rural communities in Cecil County. One of our goals is to provide assistance to those interested in land conservation. You can help our cause by coming on this ride!

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Monday, March 2, 2015

NJBWC's Cyndi Steiner on Biking and Walking Communities

Jill Horner interviews Cyndi Steiner, Executive Director of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition, about Biking and Walking Communities. NJBWC was created to address on-road safety issues, mainly a safe passing law. Currently, they are going for 4 feet, which is already the law in Pennsylvania.

NJ remains the only State in the NE without a safe passing law. Thanks to the efforts of the Delaware Bicycle Council, Governor Markell signed SB-38 in July of 2011, giving Delaware bicyclists 3 feet.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Who really has the back of road bicyclists in Delaware?

1st State BIKES is disappointed to see this recent claim attributed to Senator Dave Sokola:

The following is the list of Sokola-sponsored bills related to bicycle safety in Delaware, and who was actually responsible.
  • SB-269, Vulnerable Road Users Law. On August 12, 2010, Delaware’s Governor Markell signed SB 269 into law. The bill, a project of the Delaware Bicycle Council, enhances the penalty for drivers convicted of careless or inattentive driving who cause serious physical injury to cyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users. Other than a blog post reporting its passage, there was no formal support from Bike Delaware.
  • SB-38, 3 Foot Passing Law. On July 25, 2011, Governor Markell signed SB 38, Delaware’s 3 Foot Passing bill. A project of the Delaware Bicycle Council, Delaware became the nineteenth state to have a passing law to protect cyclists. The law not only provides additional legal protection, it provides an important educational opportunity. Bike Delaware's Executive Director made it clear that Bike Delaware would "support" the bill, but not "babysit" (be present) when the bill came up for vote in the General Assembly.
  • SB-120, an amendment to Title 21 that legalizes the use of right turn-only lanes as shoulders for bicyclists. This bill was required by DelDOT in order to proceed with experimental right turn-only lane/shoulder treatments, which at the time was a Bike Delaware project. Bike Delaware's Executive Director James Wilson publicly declared that the bill was unnecessary and refused to assist in its passage until the 11th hour, when he helped usher it onto the House floor at the insistence of the Delaware Bicycle Council Chair. He has also referred to bike lanes as "human meat grinders" and never actually advocated for converting shoulders.
  • HB-235, cycling as Delaware's official sport. Does this even effect "rules of the road?"
That said, Bike Delaware did have the back of a road bicyclist who was following the rules of the road as stated in Title 21, 4196. They helped him prevail after being ticketed for putting safety first while biking in a sub-standard width lane.

Also visit our 4 part series: Who is advocating for on-road safety in Delaware?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Induced Demand: Building new roads just makes people drive more

VOX -- For people who are constantly stuck in traffic jams, it seems like there should be an obvious solution - just widen the roads.

This makes intuitive sense. Building new lanes (or new highways entirely) adds capacity to road systems. And traffic, at its root, is a volume problem - there are too many cars trying to use not enough road.

But there's a fundamental problem with this idea. Decades of traffic data across the United States shows that adding new road capacity doesn't actually improve congestion. The latest example of this is the widening of Los Angeles' I-405 freeway, which was completed in May after five years of construction and a cost of over $1 billion. "The data shows that traffic is moving slightly slower now on 405 than before the widening," says Matthew Turner, a Brown University economist.

The main reason, Turner has found, is simple - adding road capacity spurs people to drive more miles, either by taking more trips by car or taking longer trips than they otherwise would have. He and University of Pennsylvania economist Gilles Duranton call this the "fundamental rule" of road congestion: adding road capacity just increases the total number of miles traveled by all vehicles.

This is because, for the most part, drivers aren't charged for using roads. So it's not surprising that a valuable resource, given away for free, leads people to use more of it. Economists see this phenomenon in a lot of places, and call it induced demand. [More ...]

Poster's note: Another great article on the subject here in "Wired" Magazine. We will always advocate for DelDOT to accept this reality. Instead of adding lane capacity, direct funding toward maintenance, rehabilitation, and the implementation of Complete Streets within our existing infrastructure. Anything more just induces demand and encourages suburban sprawl.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Diverging Diamond Interchange coming to SR 72 bridge over Route 1

On Wednesday, February 25, 1st State BIKES advocates attended DelDOT's public workshop for a "Diverging Diamond Interchange" on SR 72 (Wrangle Hill Road) where it crosses over Route 1. According to DelDOT, the goal of the workshop was to present improvements that address immediate automobile congestion and safety concerns.

The SR72/Route 1 interchange as it appears today, via satellite
There is no question that this innovative interchange design will provide improved traffic flow, congestion relief, and safety - for motorists. A most notable innovation is the channeling of all non-motorized traffic to a shared use pathway in the center median. How this channeling is achieved was the main focus of our comments. The design shown above and in the video below uses shared use pathways throughout the entire interchange, and that is what they were showcasing at the workshop. That, however, is unacceptable for most intermediate and advanced folks on bikes. Similar pathways that exist now in Delaware relegate bicyclists to pedestrians at intersections, side streets and driveways, with narrowing and acute zigzagging through channelizing islands. It is critical that those lobbying for active transportation at the State level, and those working for us as DOT planners and engineers realize that bicycles are vehicles. They require equal level of service when it comes to ease and continuity in the public right of way. Progress is being made, but getting Complete Streets implemented to its fullest and safest can still be an uphill battle.

It was not clear how many other bicyclists showed up at the workshop. When we arrived at 6:30 pm, it appeared that attendance was light. No other bicyclists were there with us at that time. Hopefully our presence and comments were enough to sway the project engineers to consider a design that also involves the use of bike lanes that lead up to the median pathway facility before feeding into it (and then away from it again). The engineers were very receptive and showed a true willingness to include our suggestions, and for that we are grateful.

If you would like to comment on this project, email DelDOT Public Relations. You can also CC the project engineer at:

Mike Castle Trail Phase 2 construction to start in a few weeks

Press Release -- February 26, 2015

Final phase of Michael N. Castle Trail to begin in early March at the C&D Canal

St. Georges -- Delaware's Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) today announced that the final phase of the Michael N. Castle Trail Project at the C&D Canal will begin in early March. The final phase, consisting of open-end construction services, is scheduled to be completed within 75 calendar days and will extend from the Maryland border to Guthrie Run.

This $190,856.10 phase of the total contract of $3,092,329.40 was awarded to GrassBusters Landscaping Inc., of Newark, who submitted the lowest of seven bids. Once completed, the trail will extend the full 16 miles from Delaware City to Chesapeake City, Maryland.

The scenic stretch along the canal bank will serve as a multi-use pathway, designed to accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, anglers and equestrians; offering recreational activities including hiking, running and cycling on the trail.

Managed by DNREC's Division of Fish & Wildlife as part of the C&D Canal Conservation Area, and part of the First State Trails and Pathways Initiative initiated by Governor Jack Markell, the project is a partnership led by DelDOT and DNREC with regional and local organization and government partners.  [Check out the official press release ...]

Above: Phase 1 of the Mike Castle Trail, built in 2013. Phase 2 completes the path between Delaware City and Chesapeake City Maryland.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

$30M in TIP funding for Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects

Bike Delaware claims that their strategic funding campaign - Walkable Bikeable Delaware - has helped win $30 million in new and discretionary state and federal funding for bicycling and walking over the next 4 years. Some of our readers have been asking for details on how this money will be spent, so we contacted Wilmapco for an accounting. The table below quantifies bicycle and pedestrian spending for each fiscal year in the 2016-2019 TIP, as well as FY 2015, in New Castle County:

Click on table above to enlarge. Kent and Sussex found here.
Two items that appear vague are Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements and Recreational Trails. Below is how these are defined according to Wilmapco:

DE / Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements: These are additional bicycle and pedestrian improvements that can be incorporated into projects listed as "multi-modal" in the TIP. Examples include adding sidewalks or connecting trails and pathways.

An example of a "multi-modal" TIP project is shown above, which includes pedestrian improvements on the S. Union Street railroad bridge. A bicyclist was killed a few years ago trying to ride on the existing elevated sidewalk, but improvements appear to be pedestrian-only.

Recreational Trails: These are Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds that DelDOT passes on to Delaware State Parks. These can be used for both building and maintaining off-road facilities, including pieces of the Newark-Wilmington Trail that fall within state park boundaries.

What percent of the overall budget will be spent on these projects? DelDOT's total allowance for 2014 was $486M, however, this number is expected to fall to under $400M in 2015 if the legislature fails to agree on new sources of revenue. Assuming we stay at or near this amount, however, it comes to roughly 1.5% of the total transportation budget that is dedicated to bike/ped. 

Is this funding fair and equal in terms of percent dead? Not even close. According to this source, there were 30 pedestrian & bicyclist fatalities in 2014 and 28 in 2013. There were 125 total traffic fatalities in 2014, therefore, people walking and bicycling accounted for 24%. In the 10 year period from 2003 to 2012, pedestrian & bicycle deaths accounted for 18% of the total, so we have seen a sharp increase in the last 2 years.

Is this set to change anytime soon? Apparently not, especially if DelDOT continues to pursue boondoggles like the Route 301 expansion project, which will cost roughly $600M. According to Angie Schmitt of Streetsblog, "Americans drive fewer miles today than in 2005, but since that time the nation has built 317,000 lane-miles of new roads - or about 40,000 miles per year. Maybe that helps explain why America’s infrastructure is falling apart" [Full article ...] 

In summary, we acknowledge Bike Delaware's steady strategic funding campaign that helped put aside funds for several bicycle and pedestrian projects. However, as impressive as $30M sounds, it's only a start and will have minimal, if any impact on safety among vulnerable roadway users. And that is why we need a balanced approach to bicycle (and pedestrian) advocacy; one that also includes retrofitting our existing infrastructure, updating and/or amending relevant laws, and stepping up education and enforcement. The roads will always be there in our travels, and must be addressed on equal terms.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

It's time for Delaware's 3rd HAWK signal. Here's where.

Correction: As of 2015, two HAWKs have been installed in Delaware; one in Newark, the other in Dover.

5 years ago, DelDOT installed the first HAWK pedestrian beacon in Delaware. HAWK stands for High-intensity Activated crossWalK. Students and faculty at the University of Delaware's Webb Farm now find it much safer and easier to cross Route 72, which is a typical suburban arterial highway that crosses N-S through Newark. This HAWK was installed as a joint partnership between the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences.

Unfortunately, the Route 72 location remains only the second State, 5 years running. Clearly, there are other locations that would benefit greatly from a HAWK. One of those is White Clay Creek State Park, where a striped crosswalk is the only facility available for the many park visitors that regularly cross between the Judge Morris Estate and Middle Run Valley.

As can be expected, Senator Karen Peterson - a best friend to walkers and bicyclists - has taken up the effort. Karen is putting safety first by asking DelDOT for Delaware's third HAWK signal beacon at this location.

Will they use (lack of) funding as an excuse? Bike Delaware has made it clear that $30 million has been set aside in the last few years for trails and pathways. Let's not forget that safely crossing arterial roads is a key component in any off-road facility.

Above: To the right is the entrance to White Clay Creek State Park. A striped crosswalk is the only marked infrastructure that connects the Judge Morris Estate to Middle Run Valley Park. Many park visitors make the crossing, which include hikers and mountain bicyclists.

The #1 reason for the HAWK is safety. Getting people across safely! If DelDOT needed pedestrian volume to justify a HAWK, they wouldn't have put this one (above) on Route 72 to cross students between farm fields, since most of the day no one uses it.

The HAWK is the ideal device for low to medium volume mid-block crosswalks, but high volume might justify the standard yellow-red-green traffic light with button activation. Above is the one on Delaware Ave in Newark at the Pomeroy Trail crossing, which works exceptionally well using "hot response" technology.

Check out DelDOT's brochure on the HAWK beacon.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Cross-county bicycle route(s) proposed for Cecil

1st State BIKES advocates have been discussing how to make Cecil County Maryland more bicycle friendly. Many view Cecil as being "orphaned" and in a world by itself when it comes to State bicycling improvements and Complete Streets. It shows in the lack of even minimal infrastructure. Yet, for both DE and MD bicyclists alike, it provides some of the best scenery in tri-state area. It is the first choice for several area bicycle clubs, as they head out for both weekend and weeknight rides from Newark.

Advocates began by asking Michael Jackson, Maryland DOT's Director of Bicycle and Pedestrian Access, for "Share the Road" signs along the 1/3 mile stretch of Route 896 in Maryland. His department not only obliged, but recommended the use of  "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" warning signs instead. The discussion then shifted to Barksdale Road, given its existing high volume of bicyclists - many that ride to and from Millburn Orchards. Barksdale Road in Newark already has some bike lanes and warning signs (MUTCD W11-1) which abruptly end at the Cecil County line where the road narrows to 2 lanes with no shoulder.

From there, the discussion shifted to the fact that Cecil County in general is long overdue for more widespread improvements, including the establishment of a few marked bicycle routes. As most are aware, DelDOT has been installing Share the Road signs (now W11-1 warning signs only) throughout New Castle County for many years - maybe even decades. Many were focused around the Bike Route 1 corridor. That resulted in many more connecting roads in New Castle County having at least 1 or more signs in each direction, and the majority of bicyclists will agree that they have made a difference and may have saved lives we will never know about.

Michael then put us in touch with Maryland advocates, who are eager to assist in this project. A meeting will be scheduled to discuss several route possibilities and appropriate signage. Stay tuned for more info as the project unfolds. You can also view the Cecil County Bicycle Plan, an amazing project that was thoughtfully organized by Wilmapco with very few bicyclists supporting them.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Don't Say 'Cyclists' - Say 'People on Bikes'

From CityLab -- What if you could help make a city’s streets safer simply by the way you talk about them?

That may sound fanciful, but some cycling advocates in Seattle - scratch that, some people who ride bikes in Seattle - say that’s exactly what’s been happening there over the past few years.

A recent post by PeopleForBikes blogger Michael Andersen notes that starting in 2011, a new group called Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has made a conscious effort to change the way they talked about biking, walking, and pretty much everything else to do with the way their city’s streets are used by human beings.  [Full article ...]

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

DelDOT will revise Route 72 project in the interest of bicycle safety

Based on the recommendations of advocates, DelDOT will increase bicycle safety with the upcoming Route 72 widening project. Represented in the effort was the White Clay Bicycle Club, the Delaware Bicycle Council, and 1st State BIKES.

In an email today, Joe Hofstee, Project Engineer, had this to say:

I wanted to let you know that the Department is recommending modifying the design of SR72 to provide an eight foot shoulder, two feet of which will be comprised of the gutter pan. In addition we are recommending the incorporation of the two foot wide painted buffer between the travel lane and bike lane. Before these changes are incorporated into the project we will be soliciting the public for feedback. We will be sending out a letter to the residents in the area and those who have attended public workshops for the project next week. The public will have until March 31, 2015 to provide feedback. In April the Department will make an official announcement on the proposed changes to the project.

It is also important that bicyclists attend an upcoming DelDOT Workshop that involves the Route 1 interchange at Route 72. Advocates want to see the new bike lanes (included with the above project) continued across Route 13 and Route 1 to connect up with Route 9 into Delaware City. This important piece, however, is only in the proposal phase. Details of that workshop as follows:

Subject: SR 1 Interim Improvements Location: Leasure Elementary School, Gymnasium
Date: February 25, 2015.  Time: 4:30 PM to 7:30 PM.  Project page HERE.

Check out our original post on this project HERE, which includes the recommendations made.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Vote for 1st State BIKES as North Delaware's 2015 Best!

How much do you enjoy reading 1st State BIKES? Do we have what it takes for North Delaware's Best? If you think so, VOTE for us! It's as east as selecting us from a list and entering an email address, as seen below!

We believe 1st State BIKES could easily win such a contest. Much to our disadvantage, however, blogs are not judged by a committee; it depends more on follower turnout. But imagine the statement we could make as bicyclists if an on-road advocacy blog was to win such a contest. Regardless, cast your vote today! Click the image below for a direct link.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Gatehouse Media partners with 1st State BIKES

1st State BIKES is proud to announce a new partnership with Gatehouse Media. Publications that include the Dover Post, Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times, Middletown Transcript, Hockessin Community News, Milford Beacon and the Sussex Countian are now carrying select news items and events cross-posted from our website. For example, visit the Dover Post on-line to see our blog feed displayed under their Latest Blogs/Community column on the right.

A big tip of the helmet goes to Carlene Cox, Content Team Manager with Gatehouse, and Sundra Hominik of the Dover Post for pulling it all together! Below is a clip from the January 18th edition:

NCC secure bicycle parking campaign canceled

After a month posted on line, and circulating among social media outlets that were expected to show interest, our campaign for New Castle County bicycle parking reform and enforcement is being canceled. The number of signatories jumped to 14 shortly after introduction, and hasn't increased since. To even begin tackling an issue that involves changing a law or policy, this lack of interest can only hurt the effort.

To compare, let's take a look at all recent petitions that were started by 1st State Bikes, or started by others and supported through our blog and social media connections:
  1. Extending trail hours beyond dawn to dusk (1,158)
  2. Newark-Wilmington on road bicycle route (237)
  3. Bicycles on Roadway warning signs (33)
  4. New Castle County bicycle parking enforcement (14)
Petition 1, we have not been told of any progress. 2 & 3 are moving forward. Support for 3 is also weak, but we are fortunate that DelDOT Traffic is a willing partner with advocates and recognizes the need regardless of the numbers.

Stay tuned for more advocacy projects in 2015 that will need your support, and participate with us in spreading the word. 1st State Bikes is an all volunteer committee with no formal membership and no budget to back our efforts. Without the support of the LAB and Bike Delaware for road bicycling advocacy, we can only rely on our followers to step up and make the difference. Donating a few minutes of your time for a zero-commitment, easy to sign petition really isn't asking much.